12th International HOV Systems Conference: Improving Mobility and Accessibility with Managed Lanes, Pricing, and BRT
BREAKOUT SESSION — HOVS AND HOT AND MANAGED LANES
Chuck Fuhs, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Presiding
Is Occupancy Important
Bill Stockton, Texas Transportation Institute
Bill Stockton discussed the importance of carpooling and considering vehicle-occupancy levels with HOT and managed lanes. He described some of the factors influencing the consideration of other user groups and illustrated the impacts of different user groups and occupancy level scenarios. He noted the contributions of Hannah Wilner of TTI with the presentation.
- A number of factors may be contributing to the consideration of value pricing rather than occupancy in managed lane and HOT lane proposals. These factors may include the need to generate revenues, the difficulty and the expense of enforcing occupancy requirements, and the feeling that most carpools would exist with or without the HOV lanes.
- While revenue may be generated, it is important to consider that the actual excess revenue may be modest from HOT projects, that the benefit-to-cost ratio may also be modest, and that funding from other sources may be jeopardized. Further, while enforcement can be difficult, HOT lanes are not necessarily any easier to enforce. While some two-thirds of carpools in many areas may be formed with family members who are not likely to drive alone, HOT lanes do not necessarily offer any additional benefits to this user group.
- The potential impact of eliminating two-person and three-person carpools from an HOV lane can be examined through a number of hypothetical examples. Potential impacts of different scenarios include increasing vehicle volumes in the general-purpose lanes and reducing speeds in the general-purpose lanes. The increase in vehicle volumes may result from both displaced 2+ and 3+ carpools moving to the general-purpose lanes and more SOVs in the general-purpose lanes due to the break-up of carpools.
- There are other factors to consider in the discussion of providing priority based on occupancy levels. HOV lanes help reverse the trend in declining available vehicle occupancy (AVO). HOV lanes may provide a perception of increased safety. While HOV lanes may be positive or neutral on congestion, they provide one additional travel option and actually move more people in congested corridors. Considering changes in occupancy levels deserves careful examination. The travel groups that will be impacted, the nature of the impact, and public policy objectives should be examined as part of considering any change.
The Potential for HOT Lanes in the New York Region
Jeffrey Zupan, Regional Plan Association
Jeffrey Zupan discussed the potential applications of HOT lanes in the New York metropolitan region. He described the characteristics of the region and the existing transportation system. He identified some of the possible corridors for HOT projects in the area.
- The New York metropolitan region covers 12,700 square miles in three states and includes 31 counties. Approximately 21 million people live in the region. There are some 10 million jobs in the area. Approximately six million trips a day are made by rapid transit, three million trips a day are made by bus, and one million trips a day are made by commuter rail. There are 1,950 miles of limited access highways, 900 rail stations, and 90 lane miles of preferential treatment in the region.
- There has been little highway expansion in the region over the past 50 years. Few, if any, new limited access highways are likely to be built in the future due to costs and to community opposition. Over the past 25 years, numerous new or expanded expressways have been rejected by voters throughout the region. Examples include the Lower Manhattan Expressway and Cross Brooklyn Expressway in the 1960s, the Richmond Parkway in the 1970s, the Rye-Oyster Bay Bridge in the 1970s, and the Westway in the 1980s. Recently, improvements to I-95 in Connecticut and Route 92 in New Jersey were put on hold.
- Recent developments in the New York region indicate that managing traffic through pricing may be an option. ETC is accepted and is in widespread use on toll facilities throughout the region. Approximately 45 percent of the toll revenues in the U.S. are collected in New York and New Jersey, and about 70 percent are now collected electronically. This percentage is even higher in the peak periods. The New York region is the center of, and is an important travel corridor from Maine to Virginia. Variable pricing was introduced on the Tappan Zee Bridge for trucks, for all vehicles at six Port Authority crossings, and on the New Jersey Turnpike. High-speed toll lanes being are installed by four of five toll agencies in the region.
- The E-ZPass ETC is used throughout the region. It was introduced on the Tappan Zee Bridge in 1993 and was implemented on the entire New York State Thruway system in 1994. It was extended to MTA facilities in 1995 and to the Port Authority in 1997. In 2000, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway implemented E-ZPass. It is now being used to pay for parking at a few locations and at a MacDonald's drive-thru window on Long Island.
- Variable time-of-day pricing is also being used in the New York region. Variable pricing was first introduced for trucks on the Tappan Zee Bridge in 1996. Variable time-of-day pricing was adopted on the New Jersey Turnpike in 2000 and at six Port Authority crossings in 2001. It is being considered on the Garden State Parkway and on MTA facilities.
- The E-ZPass system allows for high-speed travel through toll plazas. More plazas are being equipped with E-ZPass lanes. The MTA continues to use barriers with full stop arms at nine crossings.
- There are currently some 90 lane miles of HOV lanes in the New York region. There are a number of factors influencing the relatively limited application of HOV lanes in the region. The major factor is the extensive rail network in the region, which focuses on the core downtown area. Most access to Manhattan is now by rail, with 74 percent transit share. There has also been opposition to some HOV projects from drivers and in some cases environmental groups.
- There are seven preferential treatments in the region, accounting for the 90 lane miles of HOV lanes. The HOV lanes on the Long Island Expressway are 30 miles in length, accounting for 60 lane miles. The 10 miles or 20 lane miles on the New Jersey Turnpike represented the second longest HOV project in the region. The other five projects operate only in one direction and are all relatively short distances, although they carry high volumes of buses and other HOVs in some cases.
- The I-80 and I-287 HOV lanes in New Jersey were de-designated after significant public pressure. The proposed grade-separated I-287 HOV lanes in Westchester were rejected by the governor after protests by local communities and environmental groups. The long-range transportation plan includes 120 lane miles of freeway and 260 lane miles of arterial widening for proposed HOV lanes. It also includes the use of BRT on some lanes. The plan is currently in limbo with community and environmental groups objecting to the roadway widenings.
- Development patterns on Long Island also work against express bus lanes and HOV facilities. Residential densities needed for express buses are about 10,000 per square mile. Only limited areas in the southern and western parts of Nassau meet that criteria. Most of the express lanes proposed are not near these denser communities. New bus services are expensive, and the transit systems have difficulty maintaining some existing routes due to limited funding.
- There are both advantages and disadvantages to converting an existing general-purpose lane to a HOT lane. Advantages include familiarity with the E-ZPass system and potential high use. Opposition to widening existing facilities and funding limitations for capacity expansion may also make this alternative more attractive. Disadvantages include the reaction of drivers to the loss of a free travel lane and possible congestion in the general-purpose lanes and on roads with diverted traffic.
- There are also advantages and disadvantages to adding a HOT lane as new capacity. Advantages include familiarity with the E-ZPass system and potential high use. There is more support among drivers for adding a lane rather than converting an existing lane. Disadvantages include opposition to widening existing facilities, and funding limitations for new capacity. Some individuals and groups view adding a lane, even a HOT lane, as encouraging more sprawl development.
- One freeway corridor that appears to provide a good possibility for HOT lanes in the New York region is the I-287/Tappan Zee Bridge corridor. A study examining options for replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge is underway. Options being considered include a bus lane with HOVs and tolling. Densities may not support a rail option in the corridor. Toll charges are already used on the Tappan Zee Bridge and variable pricing is probably inevitable at some point in the future.
- Two other possible projects are the I-287 and I-80 corridors in New Jersey, where the HOV lanes were de-designated. The HOV lanes on I-80 were well utilized, with 1,000 to 1,400 HOVs in the peak hour and many New York-bound buses. There may be capacity for tolled SOVs on I-287. With only 330 to 650 HOVs during the peak hour, it may be a good candidate for 2+ HOVs with SOVs buying in.
- The southern corridor from the New Jersey Turnpike to the Long Island Expressway provides another possible candidate. Currently, there are six agencies, four toll policies, three preferential treatments, and two policies on toll payment methods in the corridor. A number of improvements are planned in the corridor. These improvements include the Goethals Bridge, extending the Staten Island Expressway bus lane, toll plaza reconstruction on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the possible replacement of Gowanus Expressway, and the possible replacement of the Kosciuszko Bridge.
- A final possible HOT lane project is the HOV lanes on the Long Island Expressway. There is available capacity on these lanes, which operate through the length of Nassau County and into Suffolk County. Opposition to tolling is widespread on Long Island, however.
BRT/HOT Lanes — Something Everyone Can Support
Gary Groat, Fluor Virginia
Gary Groat discussed proposals for BRT/HOT lanes on the Capital Beltway and I-95/I-395 in northern Virginia. He described the BRT/HOT concept, the potential design and operation of both projects, and the public response to date.
- The BRT/HOT lane concept provides free travel for multiple passenger vehicles, including vanpools, BRT, and carpools with three or more persons. SOVs and double-occupancy vehicles would pay a toll. Electronic toll collection would be used and there would be no toll booths. The facility would be actively managed to ensure maximum use. No trucks would be allowed.
- The Capital Beltway proposal includes 12 miles of BRT/HOT lanes west of the Springfield interchange to south of the Georgetown Pike. There would be seven entries/exits and five intermediate entry/exit points. Direct ramp-to-ramp access would be provided at two locations — the Dulles Access and I-66. The potential for future expansion also exists. The project would be a prototype for the region. The estimated project cost of $694 million would be financed through tolls. The proposed BRT/HOT facility cross-section would include a total of 12 lanes. There would be four general-purpose lanes and two HOT lanes in each direction.
- VDOT held public hearings on alternatives for expanding the Capital Beltway in May 2002 and conducted public workshops in June 2004. Alternatives presented included no action, widening the Capital Beltway, and other options. Four widening alternatives were included in the 2002 public hearings. These alternatives were 10 lanes with concurrent flow HOV, 10 lanes with express/local HOV, 12 lanes with barrier-separated HOV, and 12 modified lanes with HOT operation. The modified 12 lanes with HOT operation were favored by some 36 percent of the workshop participants.
- The I-95/I-395 BRT/HOT lane proposal would provide a 56-mile system between Washington, D.C. and Spotsylvania County to the south. A major BRT component is included. The current HOV lanes would be extended 25 miles to the south. The facility would include all electronic tolling and would be actively managed. A total of 24 new entry/exit points would be included, with some exclusively for transit. The I-95/I-395 BRT/HOT lane would interconnect with Capital Beltway HOT lanes. The estimated capital cost of $1 billion would be self-financed.
- The BRT/HOT concept will help meet future travel needs. This approach provides a multi-modal facility for transit and automobile use. It provides travelers more choices and moves more people in fewer vehicles. It also creates a regional system connecting all modes. The project covers the five Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford, and Spotsylvania.
- The transit facilities improvement portion includes eight new express bus stations, four new bus stops, and five new park-and-ride lots. It also includes an integrated transit communications system. A $500 million transit subsidy is recommended.
- The BRT/HOT lanes would benefit numerous groups. First, BRT/HOT lane users would benefit, including carpoolers, vanpoolers, casual carpoolers, and BRT/express bus riders. General-purpose lane users would also benefit. Employers, employees, and the economy in the region would benefit from an improved regional transportation system.