Consider the appropriateness of different lane management strategies.

The experience of managed lanes projects in California, Texas and New Jersey.

November, 2004
New Jerse Turnpike,New Jersey,United States; Houston,Texas,United States; Interstate 15,San Diego,California,United States; State Route 91, Orange County,California,United States

Background (Show)

Lesson Learned

State departments of transportation have employed a variety of lane management strategies in an effort to reduce congestion in urban areas. Two of the most common approaches include restricted use based on vehicle eligibility and control of access through limited ingress/egress express lanes and ramp metering. Examples include HOV lanes and exclusive use or special use lanes. More recently, value pricing has been introduced as an operational strategy to regulate demand. Value pricing includes charging motorists a toll for travel during the most congested times, or offering a discount for traveling in the off-peak. Examples include HOT lanes (these give HOV access to vehicles that do not meet occupancy requirements by assessing a toll on those vehicles) and variable toll lanes.

The analysis and selection of appropriate lane management strategies is critical to the success of the project. A variety of factors must be considered when determining lane management strategies, including: the objectives of the project, the opportunities available to the agency, and the characteristics and design elements of the facility. Based on the experiences in California, Texas and New Jersey, the following set of lessons learned for the selection of management strategies is presented.
  • Clearly articulate project objectives. Managed lanes projects should have specific objectives, based on the characteristics of the corridor and the desires of the community. At the outset, the objectives of the project must be clearly articulated, as they form the basis for selecting the most appropriate lane management strategy and they serve to guide implementation of the project. In addition, a project may have multiple objectives -- such as increasing person movement and revenue generation – that need to be reconciled.
    • The objective for the I-15 Express lanes was to make better use of available capacity in the existing HOV lane and to generate revenue in order to fund transit and HOV improvements. Using a dynamic pricing strategy, single occupancy vehicles (SOVs) were charged for access to the HOV lanes, with toll rates generally ranging from $.50 to $4.00, depending on the level of congestion (though they could be as high as $8 during severe congestion). This resulted in more efficient use of the HOV lane and generated revenue that was used to fund a new transit service. However, since encouraging HOV use was a priority for this project, SANDAG did not charge HOVs for their use of the facility. SANDAG had multiple objectives, and was willing to sacrifice a portion of its potential revenue stream in order to encourage HOV use.
    • Similar to the I-15 project, the QuickRide program in Houston sought to make use of excess capacity in the HOV lane. Originally, 1-10 was built as an HOV lane, and a 3+ restriction was instituted. This resulted in under-use of the facility, but easing the restriction to allow HOV2s in the HOV lane caused traffic congestion. To address these issues, a lane management strategy involving pricing was adopted; HOV2s could use the HOV lane when the 3+ restriction was in place (during peak periods), but they would be charged a toll.
    • For the New Jersey Turnpike project, the goal was to shift traffic demand out of the peak periods. Customers using E-Z Pass electronic toll collection traveling on the off-peak hours receive a 20 percent discount off the toll rate charged on the turnpike.
  • Take advantage of opportunities. In the case studies, the agencies were able to take advantage of existing opportunities to move their project forward and to select the most efficient lane management strategy.
    • For the SR91 project, federal and state funding was not available for the planned implementation of HOV lanes. The signing of a law that encouraged public-partnerships gave impetus to a new funding opportunity, whereby the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) partnered with California Private Transportation Company (CPTC) to plan, finance, build and maintain four express lanes within SR91. The company negotiated a 35-year lease with the state after which ownership reverted back to the state. Pricing, as an operational strategy, provided the revenue generation necessary to move the project forward.
    • For the QuickRide Program and the I-15 Express lanes project, the agencies took advantage of underutilized capacity on the HOV lanes and changed their operational strategies on the facility in order to maximize efficiency.
  • Consider corridor characteristics and design elements. Before implementation, the agency needs to have a detailed understanding of the corridor characteristics as well as the design elements of the facility, as these elements will impact the selection of lane management strategies.
    • The I-15 Express lanes and the QuickRide program were implemented on an existing facility (i.e. these projects included a conversion of HOV lanes to HOT lanes), so the design elements for both programs were already in place, and they were able to take advantage of existing technology in the corridor.
The selection of appropriate lane management strategies involves consideration of a number of key factors, including the objectives of the project, the opportunities available to the agency, and the corridor characteristics and design elements. A careful consideration of these factors will result in the selection of a lane management strategy that optimizes the use of available capacity on the facility, thus providing maximum mobility benefits to the users.

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Managed Lanes: A Cross-Cutting Study

Author: Collier, Tina and Ginger Goodin (Texas Transportation Institute)

Published By: Operations Office of Transportation Management - Federal Highway Administration

Source Date: November, 2004

Other Reference Number: FHWA-HOP-05-037

URL: http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freewaymgmt/publications/managed_lanes/crosscuttingstudy/final3_05.pdf

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Margaret Petrella
RITA/Volpe National Transportation Systems Center


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Lesson ID: 2007-00377