Report on the Value Pricing Pilot Program Through April 2016
Congestion pricing works by shifting some rush hour highway travel to other transportation modes or to off-peak periods. By removing a fraction (even as small as 5 percent) of the vehicles from a congested roadway, pricing enables the system to flow much more efficiently, allowing more vehicles to move through the same physical space.3
Although drivers unfamiliar with the concept initially have questions and concerns, drivers who are more experienced with congestion pricing usually support it because it offers them a reliable trip time. Transit and ridesharing advocates also appreciate the ability of congestion pricing projects to generate revenue and the financial incentives that make alternatives to driving more attractive. The U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT) report, Beyond Traffic 2045, cites congestion pricing as a potential policy option to "manage demand and to reduce regulatory burdens on travelers and industry." 4 The report also states that, "Expanding the use of tolling and congestion pricing could help to reduce congestion, while generating revenues that could be used to finance the construction of new roadways and bridges or maintain existing facilities."5
Through a comprehensive Congestion Pricing Program that includes the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) as well as follow-on initiatives such as the Congestion Reduction Demonstrations (CRD), Urban Partnership Agreements (UPA), and Express Lanes Demonstration programs, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has now funded more than 135 congestion pricing projects and studies across 19 States and the District of Columbia.
This represents direct project funding as well as extensive research on a variety of critical topics in congestion pricing. In the early development and application stages of the congestion pricing concept, multiple HOT lane projects encountered challenges and issues including equity, privacy, technology, and enforcement. Entities that are currently seeking to deploy congestion pricing strategies have benefitted not only from the research the DOT has conducted on these topics, but also from sharing results across agencies and among industry partners. The FHWA provides key support to States to help them implement strategies to manage congestion problems. More importantly, findings from deployed projects continue to demonstrate that the application of innovative congestion pricing strategies can effectively manage demand on congested urban facilities.
As a result of successful deployments, there is growing consensus that congestion pricing is becoming a viable approach to reducing traffic congestion. Figure 1 depicts the evolution of managed lanes to priced managed lanes from the 1960s through today. In the early years of congestion pricing (1990s-early 2000s) in the United States, transportation agency staff that wished to explore such strategies were often met with skepticism or indifference within their own ranks. Many innovative concepts were incubated in the planning arena and took several years to develop into projects. Pilot program funding and support from the VPPP has helped significantly in the evolution from bus and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to priced managed lanes, as shown in Figure 1. The VPPP has also helped significantly to accelerate concept development into implementation of actual congestion pricing projects. Often these projects were the first projects of their type in the region, catching the attention of decision makers and building desire for additional congestion pricing projects.
Figure 2 depicts graphically the exponential growth of HOT lanes in the United States between the opening of the first projects in 1995 and 2015. (This figure summarizes the deployment of HOT lanes only; however, all priced managed lane types, including express toll lanes, full facility tolling, and HOT lanes, have experienced a similar rapid growth pattern.)
This report provides an update on the various projects and studies that received funding through the VPPP and the UPA/CRD initiatives (described in detail in Chapter 3), especially those projects that were awarded since the last report in 2014. All projects described in this report received funding and assistance from the VPPP or the UPA/CRD initiatives. The level of assistance each project received under the VPPP is described in Appendix A. The report then discusses FHWA's recent outreach and technical assistance efforts to advance congestion pricing beyond the VPPP and UPA/CRD project locations. Finally, the report provides an overview of emerging trends in congestion pricing and FHWA's approach for helping to advance these trends and innovations across the country.
3Federal Highway Administration, Congestion Pricing – A Primer: Overview, FHWA-HOP-08-039 (Washington, DC: FHWA, October 2008). Available at: https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop08039/cp_prim1_00.htm. Accessed 2/24/16.