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Report on the Value Pricing Pilot Program Through April 2016

The Urban Partnership Agreements and the Congestion Reduction Demonstration Programs

Background

In May 2006, the DOT announced the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network, also known as the "Congestion Initiative." The intent of the initiative was to demonstrate a variety of innovative but proven strategies that could provide relief to traffic gridlock if more widely practiced. The Urban Partnership Agreements and the Congestion Reduction Demonstration (UPA/CRD) programs encouraged more aggressive, broad-scale pricing approaches. In each program, multiple sites around the United States were awarded funding to implement congestion reduction strategies. For these two competitive programs, DOT awarded over three-quarters of a billion dollars in grants to six sites: Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Projects were deployed between 2008 and 2013.

The UPA/CRD programs focused on using four complementary and synergistic strategies to relieve urban congestion, known as the "4-Ts": tolling, transit, telecommuting, and technology. For example, one of the strategies deployed by the Minnesota I-35 W project combined congestion pricing and active travel demand management to implement priced dynamic shoulders.9 As a result of strategies that combined modes, the UPA/CRD program also represents the successful collaboration between offices of several DOT agencies, including the FHWA Offices of Operations and Innovative Program Delivery, Federal Transit Administration, and the Office of the Secretary Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO). The States also collaborated as highway, transit, regional, and local transportation entities worked together to implement the projects.

Table 2. 4-T Congestion Reduction Strategies Deployed at Six UPA/CRD Sites and Start Date for Congestion Pricing

Atlanta

Los Angeles

Miami

Minneapolis

San Francisco

Seattle

Project Location and Implementation Dates

Suburban NE Atlanta, I-85
Oct 2011

Los Angeles County I-110 in Nov. 2012; I-10 in Feb. 2013; Express Park in May 2012.

Miami-Ft Lauderdale, I-95
Dec. 2008 northbound. Jan. 2010 southbound.

Minneapolis I-35 W, suburbs to downtown Phase 1 in Sept. 2009; Phase 2 in Nov. 2010.

San Francisco, CBD Sept. 2011

Seattle SR-520, Floating Bridge,
Btwn I-5 and I-405,
Dec. 2011

Pricing Strategy

HOV to HOT lane conversion on I-85 (Express Lanes).

HOV to HOT lane conversion on I-10 and I-110 (Express Lanes). Also, demand-based parking pricing (LA Express ParkTM).

HOV to HOT lane conversion on I-95 (95
Express).

HOV to HOT lane conversion and addition of new HOT lanes on I-35 W (Mn- Pass). Also added priced dynamic shoulder lane.

Demand-based pricing of city- owned on-street and off-street parking spaces in 7 pilot areas (SFpark).

Variable tolling on
SR 520 Bridge.

Increased HOV require­ment from 2+ to 3+.

Maintained existing HOV requirements, 2+ on I-110 and 3+ during peak periods on I-10.

Increased vehicle occupancy require­ment from 2+ to 3+.

Maintained 2+ carpool occupancy requirement.

 

Registered van- pools and buses ride for free.

Carpools required to register and use toll tag.

Carpools required to register and use switchable transponder.

3+ carpools required to register and display special decal but no transponder.

Carpools do not need to register or use trans­ponder.

 

Registered van- pools and buses required to use transponder.

Transit

12 new commuter buses in the corridor.

59 new clean-fuel buses to 4 service providers.

23 new buses

27 new buses.

 

44 new buses.

3 new Xpress bus routes in the corridor.

More frequent bus rapid transit service and municipal feeder service.

3 new transit routes.

 

 

Addition of 90 one- way peak period bus trips.

4 new or expanded park-and-ride lots.

Expanded parking capacity at transit stations.

500 park-and-ride spaces added.

6 new or expanded park-and-ride lots.

 

Enhancements to two park-and-ride lots.

 

Transit signal priority on two streets in downtown LA.

Bus rapid transit in
HOT lanes.

Bus bypass lane at Highway 77/Highway 62 interchange.

 

 

 

Other enhancements, e.g., new transit operating and main- tenance facility.

 

Double contraflow lanes in downtown Minneapolis (MARQ2).

 

 

Telecommuting /TDM

Outreach to encourage formation of 3-person carpools.

Promotion to increase registered vanpools and employer-based ride­sharing.

Outreach to encourage 3-person carpool formation as well as other employer-based programs for ride­sharing, tele­­com­muting and flex-time.

eWorkPlace telework program.

Use of existing alter­nate com­mute out­reach to dis­trib­ute bro­chures on SFpark and 511 par­king infor­ma­tion.

Continued programs already in use by agen­cies and other em­ploy­ers that aim to reduce trips in the region.

Technology

Automated toll enforcement systems.

Dissemination of parking information on-line and on variable message signs.

Introduction of ramp metering at 22 locations.

Active traffic management.

Real-time infor­mation on parking price and avail­ability dissemi­nated by websites, telephone, and mobile apps.

Active traffic manage­ment system on SR 520 and I-90 corridors.

 

Transit signal priority on selected streets in downtown Los Angeles.

Transit signal priority on selected routes leading to
I-95.

Real-time transit and traffic signs.

 

New travel time signs near key interchanges for SR 520.

 

 

 

Driver assist system for shoulder running buses.

 

 

National Evaluation Summary

Contemporary Approaches in Congestion Pricing: Lessons Learned from the National Evaluation of Congestion Pricing Strategies at Six Sites is available at http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/55000/55600/55668/UPA_2015_Final_9-17-15.pdf.

Because they were innovative, had the ability to significantly influence travel behavior, and involved the application of a high degree of advanced technology, the DOT undertook a national evaluation of the six UPA/CRD project sites after all the projects were deployed. The ITS JPO funded the national evaluation and it was jointly managed with the FHWA. The National Evaluation Report was released in August 2015.

Below is a listing of some of the key findings and lessons learned from the national evaluation of the six sites. More information can be found in the National Evaluation Report (accessible via the link noted in the callout box).

Growth and Change in Usage

  • HOT lanes grew in terms of new accounts/transponders, tolled trips, and gross revenues at all four sites, which is indicative of a growing acceptance of tolling.
  • On the SR 520 Bridge, tolling succeeded in reducing traffic volumes by 34 percent in the first year, while transit ridership grew by 38 percent. Monthly toll transactions remained steady.
  • As part of the SFpark pilot, pricing was effective in gradually reducing the prevalence of blocks with high occupancy and increasing occupancies on under-utilized blocks. A similar trend in occupancy as a result of price changes was seen for LA Express Park.

Congestion

  • Congestion impacts were assessed with several measures— travel time, speed, and reliability. High-occupancy vehicle to high-occupancy toll (HOV-to-HOT) lane conversions, along with transit and other improvements, led to reductions in some congestion metrics and increased throughput in some, but not all, sites. Particular combinations of added capacity, HOV restrictions, and registration and toll tag requirements appear to affect the differences observed among the sites.
  • Tolling on SR 520 resulted in improved congestion on the bridge, but led to slightly more traffic on the alternate I-90 route.
  • SFpark variable pricing significantly reduced cruising for parking in the pilot areas compared to the control areas. Less cruising for parking would have reduced congestion, but congestion reduction was difficult to detect with the available data. Higher traffic volumes associated with an improving economy may have obscured the congestion impact as well.

Transit

  • In five of the six sites, express buses using tolled lanes had faster speeds and shorter travel times. Bus ridership on the UPA/CRD corridors increased by a greater percentage than ridership on other parts of the respective local systems.

Telecommuting/TDM

  • Typically only a modest amount of funding, if any, was allocated for telecommuting and travel demand management (TDM component of the 4T strategies) at the six sites. This was most notably reflected in the results of ridesharing impacts where there was a decline in HOV 2+ and 3+ carpools. Minneapolis successfully demonstrated telecommuting as a congestion management tool, and Los Angeles and Seattle dramatically increased vanpool operations related to their projects.

Environmental Impacts

  • Emissions changed as a direct, but not exclusive, effect of reduced VMT. Emissions declined at three of the five evaluated sites and increased at two sites. Lower emissions associated with congestion pricing could not offset higher emissions when VMT increased at the two sites where this occurred.

Benefit-Cost Analysis

  • The results were modest, or in some cases negative, perhaps reflecting the experimental nature of some of the investments. In addition, limitations in the data available to measure some benefits at certain sites may have influenced the findings.

Equity

  • The UPA/CRD projects did not generally have any negative equity impact and succeeded in expanding travel options through transit improvements and by expanding the range of parking price and convenience options available to drivers. Nevertheless, surveys at several sites indicate a persistent perception of unfairness in the tolling efforts.

Technology

  • Intelligent transportation technology permeated the congestion pricing and several of the other 4-T strategies. Interviews with agency personnel indicated that, by and large, the technologies added operational value and provided benefits to travelers. At the same time, technology sometimes presented technical challenges that had to be surmounted by the local partners.

The Deployment Experience

  • Stakeholders concluded that several key factors contributed to the success of the UPA/CRD projects, including staff competencies, working "outside" of their usual domains, building upon existing partnerships, working with new partners, and having shared goals and a common vision.
  • Through purposeful and extensive marketing and outreach conducted by the UPA/CRD partners, sites were generally quite successful in communicating plans about their projects over time and effectively managing customer relations.

Public Acceptance

  • Based on surveys and media coverage, the projects were seen as beneficial for the transportation system in the various region, and users of the new projects perceived direct benefits to themselves. One HOT lane site, Atlanta, was the exception in sustaining considerable negative reactions for many months, perhaps an indication of the numerous simultaneous changes—more than at other sites—that the public was being asked to absorb.

Operational Impacts

  • New technologies imposed new responsibilities on agency staff that required additional training, staff members, and new ways of thinking about operations.
  • The fairness and sustainability of congestion pricing strategies requires successful enforcement, and the UPA/CRD sites used various combinations of technology and manual enforcement processes to detect and process violations. Owing to differences in metrics among the sites, no general conclusions about enforcement trends were drawn.

Long-Term Effects of the UPA/CRD Projects

Since the demonstration period ended, each of the six sites has continued to build on its UPA/CRD experience in various ways:

  • Regional expansion of tolling is underway or planned in Atlanta, Miami, Minnesota, and Seattle, and further expansion is being studied in Los Angeles and other sites. The public appears to have accepted tolling based on the growth in toll accounts, transponders, and tolled trips at the sites.
  • Transit continues to make significant gains in ridership on routes initiated with UPA/CRD funds. Bus ridership on the UPA/CRD corridors increased by a greater percentage than ridership on other parts of the respective local systems.
  • San Francisco has deployed smart meters throughout the city, which will be the platform for expanding demand-responsive SFpark pricing citywide. LA Express Park is expanding, as well.

 

9 Priced dynamic shoulders on I-35 west allow transit and carpools to use the shoulder for free, and MnPASS customers can use the shoulder for a fee. The left shoulder is open to traffic, with overhead sign gantries indicating its operational status. When the general purpose lanes become congested, the shoulder is opened and the speed limit on the general purpose lanes is reduced

Office of Operations