12th International HOV Systems Conference: Improving Mobility and Accessibility with Managed Lanes, Pricing, and BRT
BREAKOUT SESSION — ENFORCEMENT FOR MULTIPLE USER GROUPS
Bill Eisele, Texas Transportation Institute, Presiding
Automated Occupancy Monitoring Systems for HOV/HOT Monitoring and Enforcement
Stephen Schijns, McCormick Rankin Corp.
Stephen Schijns discussed the issues associated with enforcing vehicle-occupancy requirements on HOV and HOT lanes. He presented a concept for an in-vehicle-occupancy detection system and described how this approach could be implemented with HOV and HOT facilities. The presentation was based on a study managed by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and funded by ENTERPRISE, a pooled-fund ITS research program.
- The need to count the number of people in a vehicle can be thought of as a problem or an opportunity. As a problem, it is difficult to accurately and inexpensively monitor vehicle-occupancy levels. Available technology provides the opportunity to monitor occupancy levels, with numerous benefits. Currently, the only available technique is to visually observe the number of people in a vehicle.
- There are a number of limitations with current enforcement practices. Providing ongoing enforcement is costly. Visual observations can be inaccurate due to weather, tinted windows, and the time-of-day. Enforcement is often limited to certain locations. Wide shoulders or special enforcement areas are needed to provide safe conditions for officers. Automated enforcement to date has been limited and current methods are difficult with non-barrier separated lanes and all-electronic HOT lanes. Arterial street HOV lanes are even more difficult to enforce.
- Additional enforcement personnel can help, but this approach requires substantial ongoing budget support. In many areas, HOV violations remain a key public concern. Fully-automated enforcement plans are currently not possible. Current enforcement practices limit potential support for more HOV/HOT projects.
- Enforcement and transportation agencies need an effective, cost-efficient, reliable, and targeted technique for observing vehicle occupancy levels. Current practices do not meet these requirements.
- There has been research examining automated HOV-occupancy detection for more than a decade. Both Caltrans and TxDOT/DART explored the potential use of video. GDOT examined digital infrared technologies and Mn/DOT tested infrared and video. Infrared and video was also explored in Leeds, United Kingdom.
- The results of these research projects showed promise, but the operating environment limits potential applications. Problems inherent with the operating environment include darkness, visibility to see all seats in all vehicles, and single-point monitoring versus network-wide needs. Other issues include the costs associated with field installations, the need for complete accuracy, and the functionality with concurrent flow HOV lanes.
- The approach taken in this effort was to consider detecting occupancy from outside the vehicle as inherently flawed. Rather, the approach started with systems inside the vehicle, and builds outwards.
- Occupancy detection could follow the same technique as that used with safety belts. The safety belt warning sign on vehicle dashboards light up because seat occupancy is being detected, with the warning sign cancelled only by use of the seat belt. The automobile industry has been detecting seat occupancy through the use of safety belts since the 1960s.
- Components of the safety belt system typically used today include the mechanical systems in the seatbelt closure and weight sensors. The weight sensors might include a strain gauge in the seat mount, a pressure sensor in the seat, and a gel bladder under the seat. Other available technologies that could be used include magneto-restrictive strain sensors, photography and video, thermal and infrared imaging, and ultrasonic radar sensors.
- The U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Occupant Crash Protection Standard 208 requires the use of smart air bags, or those with occupancy-detection systems in the front seats of new vehicles sold in the U.S. Approximately 20 percent of 2004 model vehicles had this feature and it is estimated that 65 percent of 2005 model vehicles will be equipped with smart air bags. By 2006 all new vehicles must have smart air bags. Occupancy sensing is estimated as a $3.6 billion industry in 2001 to 2006.
- An in-vehicle occupancy detection system creates simple electronic data that can be linked to available transmission systems. Possible approaches might include transponder and receiver systems, satellite-based systems or GPS, and wireless ground-based systems. Information could then be gathered in monitoring systems and used as appropriate.
- In terms of the citation process, all HOV lane users would have to have an occupancy-monitoring system (OMS) if the need for police in the field is to be eliminated. HOV lane users would have to be restricted to vehicles equipped with an OMS. Vehicles in an HOV lane without an OMS would be cited for an OMS violation. Vehicles in an HOV lane with an OMS and fewer than required occupants would be cited for an HOV violation. Enforcement personnel could use OMS in the field to reliably spot violators. Enforcement personnel could either stop the vehicle and issue a citation or note the vehicle license plate number and issue a ticket by mail. In a fully-automated system, tickets would be issued by mail.
- Vehicle-based occupancy detection is currently available and the needed technology is in use. It is a relatively low-cost approach that is capable of being 100 percent reliable. For example, air bags must work right every time. Vehicle-based occupancy detection is capable of addressing all the challenges facing out-of-vehicle systems and is capable of functioning everywhere, continuously.
- Vehicle-based occupancy detection could be used with HOV and HOT lanes, managed lanes, and value pricing projects. It could also be used for system-wide HOV tracking, data collection, and vehicle emissions monitoring and testing. Other possible uses include HOV traffic signal priority, vehicle identification, vehicle and operating diagnostics, vehicle safety systems, emergency systems, and passenger security systems. Additional applications include transit monitoring and priority, HOV preferential parking, carpool incentives, insurance, and marketing.
- The vehicle-based occupancy detection approach was discussed with state transportation authorities, municipalities, enforcement agencies, automobile manufacturers, and other interested parties. Input was received on cost, privacy issues, possible technological problems and issues, and accuracy and reliability. Other topics discussed related to mandatory versus voluntary applications, timeframes for implementation, legal or legislative obstacles, and ticketing violators by mail. Other potential applications, benefits, and synergies were considered, along with partnership opportunities and commercial issues.
- Comments received suggested there may be a lack of public and political acceptance of automated enforcement. This concern may be triggered by privacy and civil liberty perceptions. The use of ticket-by-mail requires absolute proof and legal support. Questions were also raised about the capital costs, including competition for funding priority and motorist acceptance of additional in-vehicle costs. The practicality of implementing a vehicle-based occupancy detection system would require government and industry coordination and cooperation. The needs are immediate and this approach could take a long time. All HOV lane users need the system for it to be effective. Even with this type of system, police presence is still desirable. Conventional enforcement can be effective when supported by high fines and adequate funding.
- Even with these questions, there was positive response to the concept. There was general concurrence that it is technically feasible. The privacy issues might be resolved by applying them to a controlled environment of an HOV or HOT lane. An effective pilot project could set the scene for a large-scale rollout. Avoiding the use of photography could help reduce privacy issues. Cost could be viewed more positively if fine revenue is returned to the system. The expense of the system could be rationalized if additional benefits arise, such as automated and effective traffic counting. Many people felt the ticket-by-mail issues can be resolved.
- The in-vehicle costs of the system, which include the transponder and rear seat monitoring, are in the range of $200 to $400 per vehicle. The roadside equipment and costs would include the median antenna system, estimated at $100,000 per mile for a concurrent flow facility. The cost would be much less for a barrier-separated facility. The total cost for equipping all U.S. freeway HOV lanes would be in the range of $400 million. Other system costs would include the back office, computers, software, administration, customer service, mailing, and court expenses.
- It is important to remember that conventional HOV lane operation is also expensive. Enforcement costs range from $4,500 to $9,000 per freeway lane-mile per year or $12 million to $24 million per year across the U.S. Even with this level of enforcement, violation rates range from five percent to 10 percent, with arterial street HOV violations rates much higher. The capital cost for enforcement provisions, such as shoulders and observation areas also need to be considered.
- The current HOV enforcement revenue is estimated to be approximately $35 million to $70 million per year in the U.S. If 100 percent of violators were cited, the fines would amount to $2 billion to $4 billion per year. With automated enforcement, the fine revenue would be drastically reduced over time because all violators would be identified and fined. A one percent violation rate would result in annual revenue of approximately $375 million. The ultimate objective is to eliminate fine revenues. The benefits lie in more effective HOV and travel demand management programs.
- Implementing automated-occupancy monitoring is costly but could be paid back over time through a number of methods. These methods include users paying for the in-vehicle system, reduced HOV policing costs, reduced HOV lane construction costs, and increased ability to implement HOT lanes. The value of improved performance monitoring data and public and political support for expanded HOV and TDM programs would also yield benefits. A successful system will result in no violations and no fine revenue. Automated OMS unleashes many potential synergistic applications.
- A three-pronged action plan is suggested. The technical aspect would focus on developing a prototype and implementing a pilot project. The social-political element would focus on market research to better understand public and political views and to refine business plan and financing. The commercial aspect would include consulting with automobile industry on implementation.
Enforcement of Managed Lanes with HOV Preference
Ginger Goodin, Texas Transportation Institute
Ginger Goodin discussed enforcing managed lanes. She described some of the enforcement challenges with managed lanes and highlighted the experience with enforcing the QuickRide program on the I-10 West and US 290 HOV lanes in Houston. She also described alternative enforcement strategies, field tests of newly available technologies to enhance enforcement, and other possible operating strategies.
- With HOV facilities, enforcement focuses on verifying vehicle-occupancy levels and ensuring that basic traffic regulations are obeyed. With HOT lanes and managed lanes, enforcement must also verify toll payment and other exempt users.
- There are challenges with both occupancy verification and with transponder verification. Currently, occupancy checks must be performed by visual inspection, as there are no commercially available automated occupancy detection systems. While there have been limited tests of video recognition and infrared imaging to determine the number of occupants in a vehicle and discussion of possible in-vehicle technologies, none are currently available for use. Thus, manual verification of occupancy levels is required.
- Challenges also exist with transponder verification. Using a light-emitting diode (LED) indicator requires line of sight by the enforcement officer. Vehicles traveling at high speeds can create difficulties in matching a tag to a vehicle. Potential approaches to address these challenges include billing at enforcement zones and the use of a violation enforcement system (VES), which record license plate numbers.
- A number of supporting elements are needed for the successful enforcement of managed lanes. First, the operating agency must have the legal power and authority to enforce the occupancy requirements and toll collection. Second, dedicated enforcement is needed. Third, account management is needed. Finally, citations must be upheld in court.
- The I-10 West and US 290 HOV lanes are one-lane reversible facilities. A 3+ vehicle-occupancy requirement is used on both lanes during the peak periods. Two person HOVs can use the lanes during these time periods for a flat fee of $2.00 a trip as part of the QuickRide project. The QuickRide program on the I-10 West HOV lane was implemented in January 1998. The program was implemented on the US 290 HOV lane in December 2000. QuickRide participants must register for the program, obtain a transponder and a QuickRide hangtag, and maintain a pre-paid balance in their QuickRide account. The transponder must be placed on the front facing side of the rear view mirror, with the hang tag suspended from the mirror.
- Visual observation surveys indicate that the violation rate with the program is high. HOV 2 violators and solo drivers appear to account for 55 percent to 65 percent of the vehicle volumes during the 3+ restricted period. One of the compliance vulnerabilities on the I-10 West HOV lane is that the transponder reader is located well before the enforcement area, which does not allow officers to check the validity of transponders.
- There appears to be a number of reasons for the high non-compliance rate. It appears that approximately 50 percent are willfully violating the program payment requirements. Another 15 percent appear to have masked tags at the billing reader on location. Another 15 percent appear to have tags from HCTRA, which are not valid with the QuickRide program. Faulty tags appear to account for another 15 percent of the violators, while lost or non-visible hang tags account for five percent.
- A number of options were examined to address the enforcement issues. The three options included strengthening existing procedures, adding technology support, and implementing a new operating strategy. The effectiveness, estimated cost, and estimated revenues of these approaches were examined.
- The first option focused on strengthening existing enforcement procedures. Elements of this approach included increasing enforcement levels, standardizing policing procedures to improve the efficiency of operations, and posting signs with the $200 maximum fine. Letters would also be sent to repeat violators. This option was estimated to reduce violation rates to a range of 40 to 55 percent.
- A second option focused on the use of technology support to enhance enforcement. A limited pilot test was conducted on the I-10 West HOV lane. An additional AVI tag reader was placed at one location. A greet light was illuminated when valid AVI tags were read. A hand-held AVI reader was also developed and should be tested in the near future.
- An analysis of the citation issued with the QuickRide program was conducted. A total of 4,863 cases that went to court over a two-year period were examined. Approximately 65 percent of the cases were dismissed. Some 70 percent of those dismissed were due to the police officer not being present in court. Of the cases that were not dismissed, 98 percent of the defendants plead no contest or guilty. Of the two percent of the defendants who plead non guilty, 96 percent were found guilty.
- Based on the assessment of the first two options, a number of recommendations were made for enhancing enforcement. These recommendations included providing consistent on-site law enforcement officers and installing supporting technology, including hand-held tag readers. Outreach efforts to the court system to better ensure that cases are not dismissed was also recommended. Other recommendations included improving toll account management, particularly violator processing and tracking, and enhancing signing and increasing public education efforts. Re-examining the operating strategy, especially if SOVs are allowed to use the HOV lanes was also recommended.
- The new operating strategy option focuses on the use of a self-declaration lane. Under this option all vehicles using the managed lanes would be required to have a transponder. HOVs would self-declare and would use a lane to receive a toll exemption under a separate reader. Visual verification would be performed by police officers at a low-speed location associated with this lane. A VES would be used to check tag status so the officer would not have to perform that task.
Enforcement on the 91 Express Lanes and I-394 MnPASS
Jon Ramirez, Cofiroute USA
Jon Ramirez described enforcement practices on the 91 Express Lanes in Orange County, California. He also summarized the planned enforcement approach for the I-394 MnPASS program in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He discussed ETC and some of the potential issues with enforcing HOT lane projects.
- With ETC, customers establish pre-paid toll accounts and receive transponders for their vehicles. Overhead antennas read the transponders and deduct the appropriate toll from a customer's pre-paid account. Accounts are replenished at established thresholds. Photo enforcement is used for toll violations and visual enforcement is used for HOV violations.
- The SR 91 Express Lanes use congestion pricing based on the time-of-day. Image-based violation enforcement is used by the operator, supported by on-site California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers. Since the lanes sell excess capacity, it is paramount for the agency to actively enforce violations.
- There are currently approximately 170,000 91 Express Lanes transponders and over 600,000 FasTrak™ transponders region-wide. Some 25 percent of Express Lanes traffic comes from other FasTrak™ agency customers, and approximately 20 percent is 3+ carpool traffic.
- Enforcement on the SR 91 Express Lanes is accomplished through photographing license plates and optical character recognition (OCR). A software programs allow approximately 1,000 images per hour to be processed manually. The license plate numbers are compared to the existing customer databases. Some 80 percent of violators are customers. There is an on-line link to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. A notice of violation is sent to the vehicle owner. The letter allows initial violators to become customers. A non-response initiates an additional letter and fees. The lack of response to a second letter results in civil judgments. The view is to treat violators as customers who have not chosen to pay properly.
- Civil judgment on the SR 91 Express Lanes began to be processed in September 2003. Since that time, some 435 cases have been assigned to an attorney. The total value of the cases assigned is approximately $9 million. To date, 209 cases have been settled and some $512,466 or $2,452 per case, has been collected. A total of 83 cases were settled on payment plans. The balance due on these payment plans is approximately $829,564. A total of 15 cases were settled for over $20,000. The largest settlement was $60,000. The largest pending judgment is $387,000, which involves 457 citations over 3 years.
- The I-394 MnPASS project represents the expansion of the HOV lanes to HOT lanes. It is a public/private partnership between Mn/DOT and a team led by Wilbur Smith that included Cofiroute. The partnership team was in charge of all the studies and installing all the HOT lanes toll equipment. The project includes five toll zones and dynamic pricing. Segment based tolling will be used. Mn/DOT is responsible for incident and traffic management, road maintenance, and winter maintenance.
- The MnPASS project is scheduled to open in mid-May, 2005. This schedule is within 18 months of contract award. Approximately 1,500 accounts were established during the first week the service center was opened. Cofiroute is responsible for the customer service center, the road toll system maintenance and operations, and the back office systems maintenance and operations. Mn/DOT is pursuing a plan of developing a network of HOT lanes as added capacity in the region.
- The MnPASS project includes a number of enforcement elements. The enforcement transponders are specially programmed to beep when other transponders are read. The mobile transponder readers allow officers to read transponders in their vehicle to check transactions. Enforcement beacons or lights on the overhead gantries will flash with a valid read. Visual enforcement will also be used with the transponders, readers, and beacons. The Minnesota State Patrol will provide enforcement leadership, with assistance from the City of Minneapolis Police Department, the City of Golden Valley Police Department, and the Metropolitan Transit Police.
- There are a number of potential enforcement issues with HOV and HOT lanes. Identifying occupants in HOVs is not always easy. Automated versions of passenger detection do not appear viable at this time due to technical and privacy issues. Using an HOV segregated lane in a toll zone to check occupancy requirements appears to be the best current approach. Law enforcement personnel only have to check occupancy levels in vehicles in that lane. This approach is easier to determine compliance by motorists and tolls can be calculated in as part of the back office function.
- Experience from current projects indicates that management of the customer account information database is critical. It is also important to incentivize customers to follow best business practices. Collecting minimal data at the toll lane and processing it in back office is also beneficial. Collaboration with law enforcement is essential for effective enforcement. In terms of toll collections, using state-of-the-art camera systems and state-of-the-industry software for tracking and customer conversions are important. Providing opportunities for non-paying violators to become paying customers is also critical. Having realistic expectations is also important. Do not anticipate that collections will be a profit center. Rather, focus on recouping costs.
- New technologies may provide improved enforcement and collection capabilities. Improved photographic technology may enhance enforcement capabilities. The next generation of systems may assist in determining the number of vehicle occupants. It may also be possible to rely on automakers for next generation of vehicles to use air bag sensors that will determine occupancy levels.