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Report on the Value Pricing Pilot Program Through April 2012

Moving Forward: Advancing Congestion Pricing Over the Next 3 to 5 Years

Congestion Pricing in the U.S. is at a "tipping point" whereby the successes of many of the initial HOT lane conversion (and other partial pricing) projects have led directly to much more comprehensive pricing programs. Although the VPPP has already helped advance congestion pricing to date, the next 3 to 5 years will be a critical period for the FHWA to continue its work to promote and support these projects. These early adoption projects have also led to the inclusion of pricing programs and the use of pricing as a long-term strategy in some regional transportation plans, particularly in large metropolitan areas. The numerous studies that have supported these early projects have continuing value as regions take on tolled express lane networks, pricing of previously non-tolled facilities, areawide pricing, and distance-based pricing approaches to dealing with congestion. These studies, made possible by VPPP funding, have examined the issues of equity and public acceptability in support of several HOT lane conversion projects. Results of those studies are directly applicable to these more aggressive pricing programs.

The industry is on the verge of a major shift to comprehensive pricing programs, one metropolitan area at a time, which will have a significant impact on traffic congestion relief, economic growth, and sustainable transportation for our largest cities, along with the potential for generating much-needed revenues. The support of the FHWA is essential to that expansion of pricing programs, not only through grant funding, but also by providing expert staff support, technology transfer, technical assistance with evaluation and implementation, outreach to industry partners, and interstate tolling authority.

Crucial Issues in Advancing Congestion Pricing at the Regional Level

  • Building Public and Decisionmaker Acceptability
  • Linking Congestion Pricing to Regional Goals and Objectives
  • Achieving Interagency Collaboration
  • Analyzing Congestion Pricing as Part of the Planning Process
  • Addressing Implementation Challenges and Sustaining User Support

The FHWA has been evaluating the role of congestion pricing in supporting funding and regional goals and has been actively involved in a variety of outreach activities, including workshops, peer exchange activities, and the preparation of primers and white papers designed to advance the future of congestion pricing at the State, regional and local levels. In September 2011, FHWA sponsored a series of four workshops on the application of congestion pricing strategies to meet regional goals for MPO, State DOTs, transit agencies, and other interested participants. Workshop participants identified the following crucial issues in advancing congestion pricing at the regional level:

  • Building Public and Decisionmaker Acceptability: Although existing programs show that equity concerns have been largely addressed, these concerns do arise time and again in any new location where congestion pricing is proposed. To build acceptability, it is important to address concerns about equity and fairness, revenue use, credibility of the agencies involved in implementation, privacy, and user perceptions about being charged to use roads already paid for through fuel taxes. Ensuring an early, ongoing, and broad engagement process involving planners, decisionmakers, stakeholders, and the public, while communicating the role of congestion pricing in solving severe regional problems is crucial. Including congestion pricing in a bundle of complementary strategies acceptable to a range of stakeholders, showing data from existing projects and modeling studies, and implementing a short-term pilot program to prove the effectiveness of the strategy are other effective measures to build acceptability. Finding allies among decisionmakers and local leaders, and engaging experts and businesses also helps build broad-based support for a congestion pricing program.
  • Linking Congestion Pricing to Regional Goals and Objectives: The objectives of the congestion pricing program must be clearly linked to regional planning goals such as environmental sustainability and economic development and this understanding must be communicated to the public and to decisionmakers. This helps planners in developing pricing programs as part of a comprehensive approach to achieving regional goals. When pricing programs are implemented, ongoing monitoring and evaluation must ensure that the program is achieving previously identified goals, objectives and system performance targets.
  • Achieving Interagency Collaboration: It is important to reach an agreement between agencies and jurisdictions on how best to achieve regional goals and objectives, how to allocate the costs and revenues of a congestion pricing program, how to manage and operate the program, and how to work across cultural differences and silos between and within agencies. Early in the process, it is critical to establish regional partnerships that clearly identify regional roles and responsibilities, while drawing on the unique strengths of each agency. High level political leadership and support can also be important for achieving collaboration among agencies.
  • Analyzing Congestion Pricing Impacts as Part of the Planning Process: Analyzing the full regional or project-level traffic, economic, and social impacts of a congestion pricing program requires significant technical capability and data. Potential changes in travel behavior are often difficult to predict. However, the use of improved travel demand models and other tools has helped many regions analyze these impacts in a robust way at different stages of planning. In addition, the use of data based on observed impacts and pilot projects, collection of new data where needed, the use of cost-benefit analysis and revenue estimation tools, as well as an early focus on analyzing potential equity impacts have proved to be effective practices in several regions.
  • Addressing Implementation Challenges and Sustaining User Support: Legislative barriers, such as the lack of authority to implement tolling on previously free facilities and limits on the use of revenues, have been a key challenge in many regions. Obtaining funding for pricing projects and limited user experience with the pricing concept and technology have also been common implementation challenges. Establishing a supportive policy framework for implementing regional pricing programs, involving the private sector, establishing conditions for revenue use, and managing how prices may be adjusted in the future have proved effective. In addition, ensuring that the user experience is seamless, creating opportunities for the public to test and become familiar with the technology, and developing ways to enforce occupancy requirements without burdening users are important for sustaining user support.

Addressing Emerging Trends: The FHWA Program Plan

Over the next 3 to 5 years, FHWA will support current initiatives as well as advance new thinking to evolve the state of the practice on congestion pricing along five tracks of activity:

  1. Knowledge and Technology Transfer (KTT): FHWA will take the lessons learned from the VPPP projects as well as evaluations of other congestion pricing projects (e.g., the UPA/CRD Programs) and put it into a format ( e.g., brochures, fact sheets, Webinars, and workshops) that other States and metropolitan areas can use to advance their plans and programs. The FHWA is in the process of updating the existing Tolling and Pricing Web site at https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/tolling_pricing/index_2012.htm in order to turn it into a “one-stop shop” for congestion pricing resources and information. The site will be reorganized around the various congestion pricing concepts and strategies, enabling those interested in learning more about congestion pricing to easily find needed information. The focal point of the site will be a Congestion Pricing knowledgebase, a fully searchable and browseable repository of congestion pricing-related resources. The knowledgebase will allow users to search by keyword or topic on thousands of congestion pricing documents from both U.S. and international projects. For example, if someone were looking for information on dynamic tolling in California, they will be able to search for documents that fit those criteria by selecting from drop down menus of browse categories. The knowledgebase was demonstrated at the 2012 TRB Annual meeting and received much positive feedback.
  2. Ongoing Project Monitoring: As required by the VPPP statute, FHWA will continue to monitor the VPPP projects for 10 years to help assure successful and effective projects as well as to identify the important results and impacts that are transferable to other States and metropolitan areas.
  3. Conduct Issues-Oriented Research: As issues facing State and local agencies in the implementation of congestion pricing program emerge through project monitoring, national conference discussions, and/or stakeholder input, FHWA will sponsor research that can guide agencies on how to best address these challenges. Examples of such issues-oriented research that will be conducted include equity, reaching public acceptance, technology applications, public transit, analysis methods, enforcement, safety, and design. The FHWA will hold an additional congestion pricing workshop, similar to the four workshops held in September 2011, to better understand congestion pricing issues and strategies for overcoming these issues in order to continue to advance congestion pricing.
  4. Facilitating a Dialogue: The FHWA will be working with State and local agencies, as well as national thought leaders and stakeholder groups, by facilitating discussions on current and innovative concepts and approaches to congestion pricing at national conferences (e.g., the TRB or ITS America), localized workshops, or specialty peer exchanges. In May 2012, FHWA will hold an Institutional Issues Peer Exchange to learn more about the institutional issues affecting congestion pricing implementation and how agencies are overcoming these issues. The outcome of the peer exchange will be used to develop a primer on institutional issues.
  5. Long-Term Research: Working with stakeholder groups, e.g., TRB, FHWA will continue to support and help sustain a long-term program of research on congestion pricing though national programs such as the NCHRP and the Transit Cooperative Research Program.

The outcomes of these five program area tracks will include activities such as:

  • Expansion of the scope and scale of pricing and non-toll pricing applications to include consideration, evaluation, and implementation of a range of pricing approaches — pricing street networks (as in area-wide pricing), freight movement, parking on and off street, existing and new corridors including shoulders, and pricing of highway and freeway networks within regions.
  • More attention to and implementation of pricing aimed at multiple objectives important to regions and States, including traditional congestion relief, revenue generation, emissions reduction (e.g., emission fees), and increased efficiency of vehicle use, equity and safety (e.g., PAYDI).
  • Increased use of pricing in new locations within the U.S., enabling further testing and evaluation of promising but less tried strategies, and increasing the deployment of pricing strategies proven to be most effective.
  • Increased application of latest and best pricing, enforcement, operational, and information technologies and evaluations of their costs, reliability, direct and indirect effects, with comprehensive and widely disseminated lessons for further application.
  • Improvements in analytic and regional modeling tools to estimate the impacts of pricing strategies in planning and implementation studies, supported by documentation and dissemination of such tools aimed at further adoption and application.
  • The packaging of current VPPP grants with other program grants such as transit or the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, also known as TIGER grants, to encourage pricing in conjunction with other transportation strategies to promote sustainability, livability, and more effective and efficient use of transportation resources.

The above activities are expected to encourage improved understanding, evaluation and integration of a full array of toll and non-toll pricing strategies in State and local planning and decisionmaking processes. The information and resources needed to implement these activities are currently being provided by FHWA through a number of outreach efforts, meant to help advance emerging trends in congestion pricing.

Current and Planned Outreach Activities

An important ongoing role for the FHWA in the next few years will be to provide support to regions and States in planning and implementing pricing projects through funding and technical guidance that enable regions and States to select the most appropriate programs to meet their goals. The expansion of congestion pricing across the U.S. depends heavily on the extent to which FHWA can educate States, MPOs, the public, and decisionmakers about congestion pricing and equip them with resources, information, and materials to help them develop and implement congestion pricing projects. The FHWA must continue to build awareness among these target audiences that congestion pricing is a viable solution for congestion management.

The FHWA Congestion Pricing team has been involved in several successful outreach efforts around the country related to toll and non-toll pricing strategies. Participation has been strong and feedback from participants has been quite favorable.

Between 2008 and 2009, FHWA developed several primers as part of the Congestion Pricing Primer series. The aim of the primer series was not to promote congestion pricing or to provide an exhaustive discussion of the various technical and institutional issues one might encounter when implementing a particular project; rather, the intent was to provide an overview of the key elements of congestion pricing, to illustrate the multidisciplinary aspects and skill sets required to analyze and implement congestion pricing, and to provide an entry point for practitioners and others interested in engaging in the congestion pricing dialogue. Since then, FHWA has moved from educating practitioners about what is congestion pricing, to providing them with lessons learned, strategies for overcoming challenges, and successful practices found through existing projects.

In November 2010, FHWA conducted a stakeholder workshop, attended by members of various congestion pricing related TRB committees, to identify congestion pricing outreach and education needs. The majority of workshop participants indicated that updating the FHWA Tolling and Pricing Web site with relevant information and holding seminars, meetings, workshops, and Webinars would be most useful to sharing congestion pricing related information and knowledge.

Congestion Pricing Workshops

The FHWA held four 1-day peer-to-peer practitioner workshops on road pricing in September 2011 in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, DC. The objective of the workshops was to provide technical assistance to help transportation practitioners better understand approaches that integrate road pricing, land use, and multimodal investments to support regional goals, including livability. This includes information on what pricing approaches are most effective in different settings and in combination with different transportation investment strategies. Participants at the workshops included MPO planners, Federal and State DOT staff, as well as representatives from transit agencies, tolling authorities, and consultants.

"I want to express my appreciation for the webinar series on Congestion Pricing."

— Philip Winters,
Director, TDM Program, Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida

The focus of the workshops was the role of congestion pricing in supporting funding and regional goals and how to integrate pricing in metropolitan transportation plans. The workshops included sessions on lessons learned from experience with congestion pricing and metropolitan planning, and included presentations and panel discussions by practitioners from different regions of the country that have implemented, planned, or conducted studies for congestion pricing programs. Through these sessions, workshop participants shared their perspectives and presenters provided insights from their experiences. This information is now being used to develop a Primer on Effective Approaches for Advancing Congestion Pricing in a Metropolitan Region.

Webinar Series on Overcoming the Challenges of Congestion Pricing

In March 2011, FHWA launched a monthly Webinar series entitled "Overcoming the Challenges of Congestion Pricing." These Webinars are aimed at State and local agencies that are currently in the process of implementing or would like to implement congestion pricing; decisionmakers/political leaders who want to better understand the benefits of congestion pricing; MPOs that may be interested in incorporating pricing into their planning activities; and others who just want to learn more about congestion pricing strategies. The Webinars were held on a monthly basis from March through December 2011 and are being held on a bimonthly basis in 2012; the first Webinar of 2012 was held in February. Topics covered have included:

  • Congestion Pricing Projects in the San Francisco Bay Area: I-680 Express Lanes and Bay Bridge Time-of-Day Pricing
  • Congestion Pricing Benefits, Challenges and Opportunities
  • Institutional Issues in Congestion Pricing
  • Congestion Pricing Equity Impacts
  • Technology to Enable and Complement Congestion Pricing
  • Dynamic Ridesharing and Congestion Pricing
  • Pay-As-You-Drive Insurance
  • Economics of Congestion Pricing and Impacts on Business
  • Integrating Transit with Congestion Pricing and Increasing Congestion Pricing Acceptance
  • Results of the Urban Partnership and Congestion Reduction Demonstration Programs
  • Best Practices in Parking Pricing
  • Public Acceptability of Congestion Pricing

Each Webinar typically includes three or four presenters who have firsthand experience with the topic and can share their challenges, successes, and lessons learned. Webinars have averaged over 150 participants and have been very well received.

The Hampton Roads MPO included on its blog a summary of findings from the December 2011 Webinar on Results of the UPA/CRD Programs, noting that, "Given that Hampton Roads has HOV lanes which may be candidates for being converted into HOT lanes, the "lessons learned" from the Webinar are summarized below."(18)

Parking Pricing Workshops

In September 2011, FHWA (in conjunction with its partner — National Association of City Transportation Officials) held a 2-day workshop in San Francisco entitled, "State of the Practice: Parking Management and Pricing in the United States." This workshop brought together over 70 city parking policy makers and managers from around the country to share lessons learned, best practices, and plans for the future. It provided the opportunity for these professionals to experience first-hand, the details of the groundbreaking SFpark project. There was a strong interest among participants to continue this as an annual event.

Experiences and information on a wide range of parking topics were exchanged, including:

  • Parking payment technologies;
  • Vehicle detection technologies;
  • Managing parking exceptions and special considerations
  • Disabled permits;
  • Parking pricing;
  • Data collection and system management strategies; and
  • General parking management issues facing small, medium and large cities.

Institutional Issues Peer Exchange

A peer exchange on congestion pricing institutional issues was held in May 2012. The peer exchange workshop examined a variety of institutional challenges and opportunities related to implementing congestion pricing programs, such as:

  • Leadership - project champions, roles and responsibilities
  • Legislative - Enabling legislation, political issues
  • Organization - Internal and External structures, interagency agreements
  • Planning process-setting objectives, agency coordination, environmental review, social equity
  • Public involvement - outreach strategies, gaining public support
  • Managing Costs and Revenues - cost sharing, allocation of revenues
  • Implementation - construction and roll-out, day-to-day operations (e.g., O&M, enforcement)

Participants in the peer exchange will include representatives from FHWA, State DOTs, MPOs, and other interested stakeholders. The one-day peer exchange will include short presentations and facilitated discussion. The presentations will highlight active congestion pricing projects and the institutional issues involved in planning and implementing the programs. After each group of presentations, the group will be led through a facilitated discussion to explore the issues in greater detail.

Publications and Information Products

The FHWA has developed numerous primers and research reports to help guide State and local agencies and decisionmakers in implementing congestion pricing strategies. These include the Congestion Pricing Primer series, which covers topics such as non-toll pricing, technologies that enable and complement congestion pricing, transit and congestion pricing, economics of congestion pricing, and income-based equity impacts of congestion pricing. The FHWA is currently in the process of developing a primer on Active Parking Pricing and Management to provide information about cutting edge parking management and pricing policies and systems, especially the systems that use ITS and other advanced technologies that are being deployed by cities and large institutions. A primer on Congestion Pricing Institutional Issues is also in development, based on the outcomes of the Institutional Issues Peer Exchange.

Benefits of Outreach Activities

Through each of these outreach and knowledge and technology transfer activities, FHWA is addressing emerging congestion pricing trends and equipping target audiences to implement congestion pricing strategies. Without the VPPP and other FHWA tolling and pricing programs these outreach efforts would not be possible. It is the outcomes, lessons learned, and success stories that are found from the VPPP that are often shared through these activities. These real world examples are what enables target audiences to trust the information provided by FHWA and understand that congestion pricing strategies can be successfully implemented in all different types of regions.

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