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.1
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. Congress established the Congestion Pricing Pilot Program in 1991. It was subsequently renamed the Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) under Section 1216 (a) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century in 1998, and continued through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. While the program was continued there were no additional funds appropriated under the FAST Act for discretionary grants. The purpose of the VPPP is to demonstrate whether, and to what extent, roadway congestion may be reduced through the application of demand-based pricing strategies. The program seeks to measure the magnitude of the impact of such strategies on driver behavior, traffic volumes, transit ridership, air quality and availability of funds for transportation programs. After 2012, no additional funds were authorized for the discretionary grant component of the VPPP; however, the ability of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to enter into cooperative agreements for projects that require tolling authority for their implementation under this program has continued.
While the program no longer actively solicits projects, FHWA was able to award funding to five new projects in 2015 using remaining Fiscal Year 2012 VPPP funds and re-purposed VPPP funds from completed projects. The FHWA staff continues to provide significant technical assistance to all project partners for project development, execution and evaluation, including implementation and pre-implementation activities. The FHWA staff also oversees the development and distribution of quarterly reports detailing how the objectives of the VPPP are being accomplished.
Through a comprehensive Congestion Pricing Program that includes the VPPP, as well as follow-on initiatives such as the Congestion Reduction Demonstrations (CRD), Urban Partnership Agreements (UPA), and Express Lanes Demonstration programs, FHWA has now funded more than 135 congestion pricing projects and studies across 19 States and the District of Columbia. The projects supported by the VPPP demonstrate the technical feasibility of congestion pricing and, where implemented, have influenced user decisions to change their travel behavior. Projects and studies conducted as part of the VPPP have provided many valuable lessons. Furthermore, the UPA/CRD Programs included a very robust evaluation component, which allowed the U.S. Department of Transportation to assess impacts at a high level of detail. Many of the UPA/CRD findings were consistent with observed conditions and anecdotal evidence from many projects funded over the years by the Program. Several findings demonstrate the significant progress made in the past few years toward successful deployment of comprehensive congestion pricing strategies and programs, especially in congested urban areas:
Congestion pricing remains an important congestion management strategy in the toolbox for FHWA. The FHWA anticipates that, in the future, synergies among demand-based pricing approaches will enhance significantly the effectiveness of comprehensive and coordinated regional programs. Second generation pricing approaches will combine regionwide pricing strategies, such as vehicle miles traveled fees, cordon pricing, and regional pricing along with non-toll strategies. The FHWA will continue to use proven outreach strategies to educate and inform State and local agencies about demand-based pricing strategies, including tolling and non-tolling efforts, with the ultimate goals of 1) mainstreaming demand-based pricing into the mindset of transportation professionals as a viable option, and 2) expanding public acceptance of demand-based pricing.
1Congestion Pricing – A Primer: Overview, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, October 2008,http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop08039/cp_prim1_00.htm.
2Federal Highway Administration, Priced Managed Lane Guide, FHWA-HOP-13-007 (Washington, DC: FHWA, October 2012). Available at: http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop13007/index.htm. Accessed 12/21/15.