Combination FasTrak, HOV express lanes on Interstate 15 causing some confusion

CHP: Placement of transponder important

SAN DIEGO - The Interstate 15 express lanes are designed to ease traffic, but they are causing confusion for some drivers.

In addition to being FasTrak lanes, they are also HOV lanes, which are free of charge.

When entering the I-15 FasTrak/HOV lanes with others in your car, do you know what to do with your transponder?

"I have no idea how that works," said Kevin Larson of San Marcos, who told 10News he would use the FasTrak express lanes if the cost was lower.

"The biggest thing for most people who I stop is the actual placement of the transponder," said California Highway Patrol public information officer Jake Sanchez.

Where you place the transponder is key if you don't want to be charged while carpooling. That is the only time FasTrak lanes are free.

SANDAG allows the transponder in two specific places -- on the lower left-hand corner of your windshield or behind the rearview mirror.  If you have more than one person in the car, you have to put it in the special Mylar carpool bag it came with and make sure it's sealed completely.

Officials say that is the only way to ensure your transponder isn't detected and you aren't charged.

"I did not know that, so I've probably been racking up a bill that didn't need to be racked up," said Mark North or Escondido.

If the CHP sees you in the FasTrak lanes with a transponder in the wrong place or no transponder at all, you could be in trouble.

"Technically, that is a violation and they can be cited for it," said Sanchez.

That is even if your transponder is somewhere in the car.

Along the 20-mile stretch from state Route 163 to state Route 78, there are 13 access points. The average weekday traffic is more than 30,000 vehicles.

SANDAG says traffic has seen significant improvement because more people are using these lanes. The cost is anywhere from 50 cents to $8, depending on how far you go and how congested it is.

About 26,000 transponders are currently being used, and carpooling has jumped 34 percent since 2010.

However, confusion has kept some drivers away. North's girlfriend had to convince him to use the lanes.

"I guess the ticket's pretty steep for doing it wrong so I just avoided it all together," North said.

Carpool violations carry a minimum $401 fine.

"No one needs to be charged unnecessarily," said Sanchez.

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