From what I can tell, the recent refinements in the game have been designed to either reduce costs, or avoid wasting money to set up tasks that are not used. Yes, that does create a natural tension over the Detour, but I think we've seen signs that suggest that if it's a really good task, they're making such tasks a route marker task rather than one of two detour options. The detour options also seem to be more carefully balanced as to their benefits and liabilities, although there have been detour tasks that some teams found easy.
I don't think the express pass relates to travel as such; the show has tried to balance bunching on the one hand, and trying to prevent some teams from being able to get too far ahead or fall too far behind on the other. The one fault is the tasks that a particular teams finds impossible to complete-- we've had more teams quit in the last few seasons and not due to an injury. That's a concern to me (exhaustion really isn't an injury so that's a risk of the game that all of the teams could face if the make a lot a bad decisions in a very short period of time.)
I'm still hoping that at some point we'll be able to get back to a 13-episode season at least some of the time. TPTB seem to have hit on a filming schedule which allows them to compress filming to 3 weeks; and with 13 legs, we could have 12 teams for a complete first leg.