12th International HOV Systems Conference: Improving Mobility and Accessibility with Managed Lanes, Pricing, and BRT
BREAKOUT SESSION — PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS ABOUT HOV, HOT, BRT, AND MANAGED LANES
Jessie Yung, Federal Highway Administration, Presiding
A Comparison of Houston HOV Lane Users and Non-Users
Mark Burris, Texas A&M University
Mark Burris discussed the results of recent surveys of QuickRide program participants and HOV lane users in Houston. He described the development of the Houston HOV lane system and the implementation of the QuickRide program, which is a value pricing demonstration project. He also summarized the results of recent surveys of QuickRide participants, bus riders, and carpoolers.
- The HOV lanes on I-10 West opened in 1984. Initially, only buses and vanpools were allowed to use the lanes. The lanes were open to 4+ carpools and then to 3+ and 2+ carpools to use the available capacity. By 1988, the HOV lane was becoming congested at the 2+ occupancy levels. To address this congestion, the occupancy requirement was raised to 3+ from 6:45 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. The occupancy level was later increased to 3+ from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Congestion at the 2+ level also occurred on the US 290 HOV lane, and the occupancy requirement was increased to 3+ from 6:45 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.
- At the 3+ occupancy level, capacity exists in the lane. The QuickRide program allows two-person carpools to use the HOV lane during the 3+ period for a $2.00 toll. The QuickRide program was implemented on the I-10 West HOV lane in January 1998 and on the US 290 HOV lane in November 2000.
- Approximately 225 travelers a day use the QuickRide program on the I-10 West and US 290 HOV lanes. Information on traveler characteristics was obtained through a survey to provide a better idea of who takes advantage of the HOT program. This information can then be used to estimate the potential user of other Houston HOV lanes, the possible societal benefits, and the potential equity impacts. It also helps develop knowledge regarding this new travel choice. Most of the survey respondents indicated low levels of QuickRide use.
- Currently, travelers using the two freeways have a number of options. These options include driving alone in the general-purpose lanes at all times or being part of a two-person carpool in the general-purpose lanes at all times. Two-person carpools can use the HOV lanes during the 3+ time periods as part of the QuickRide program for a $2.00 fee or for free during other times. HOVs with at least three people and buses can use the HOV lanes at all operating times for free. Casual carpooling also occurs on some HOV lanes in Houston.
- Uses of the I-10 West HOV lane during the morning peak period from 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. includes 2+ carpools, QuickRide participants, 3+ carpools, buses, motorcycles, and SOV violators. There are three-to-four general-purpose lanes in each direction in the section of I-10 West with the HOV lanes. The travel speeds and trip-time reliability in the general-purpose lanes are highly variable.
- A number of different travel groups were included in the surveys. License plates were recorded for vehicles using the general-purpose lanes and the HOV lanes and surveys were sent to the owners. On-board surveys were used to obtain information from bus riders. Participants in the QuickRide program were mailed surveys. Finally, surveys were distributed to casual carpoolers as they waited at transit stations.
- The majority of all user groups reported making commute trips. Bus riders and casual carpoolers reported the highest levels of commute trips, accounting for some 96 percent to 98 percent, respectively. Recreation and school travel represented the other reported trip purposes.
- Carpooling with an adult family member was the most frequently reported carpool arrangement for HOVs in the HOV lanes and the general-purpose lanes, as well as QuickRide participants. Carpooling with an adult family member was reported by between 35 percent and 48 percent of the respondents. Between 20 percent and 40 percent of the respondents reporting carpooling with a co-worker. Children accounted for between 20 to 28 percent of carpool partners.
- Between 39 percent to 60 percent of respondents to all the surveys reported annual household incomes of $100,000 or more. While a greater percentage of high income users were QuickRide participants, income was not correlated with frequently of QuickRide use.
- The QuickRide program offers travelers another choice. Having a high income, being on a school-related trip, and being over 65 years old increased the likelihood of selecting QuickRide. Being a single adult or male decreased the likelihood selecting QuickRide.
I-5 North Coast Managed Lanes Community Outreach Program
Heather Werdick, San Diego Association of Governments
Heather Werdick described the community outreach program associated with the I-5 North Coast managed lanes project in San Diego. She summarized the project background, highlighted the major elements of the community outreach program, discussed the key findings, and noted future activities.
- The section of the I-5 corridor included in the study is 26 miles in length. The corridor runs from San Diego on the south to Oceanside on the north. A number of alternatives are being considered, including different combinations of general-purpose lanes, HOV lanes, and managed lanes.
- The I-5 North Coast study included a number of components. These components included a traffic operations plan and forecast report, evaluation of pricing strategies, a community outreach program, a concept plan, and the selection of a preferred pricing scenario.
- The community outreach activities included stakeholder interviews, focus groups, a telephone survey, and an intercept survey. A total of 24 stakeholder interviews were conducted. Individuals interviewed included elected officials, transportation service operators, community and user groups, environmental groups, and military and business representatives.
- The results from the stakeholder interviews indicated that all groups are desperate for mobility solutions. Stakeholders also indicated that value pricing was seen as fair, especially if the revenues are used for transit services or improvements in the corridor. Stakeholders preferred physical barrier separation to the lanes. Some stakeholders were unsure on the effectiveness of meeting project goals. Most stakeholders supported the need for ongoing outreach.
- Two focus groups were conducted in November 2004. The one group included seven participants and the other included nine participants. The participants were regular users of I-5. Additional focus groups will be held as the project moves forward.
- Focus group participants were open to the idea of improving I-5. Most participants voiced support for including general-purpose lanes as part of the improvements. Participants felt that improvements will not eliminate congestion and that congestion will probably get worse. They also expressed concern for the environment and for equity among user groups. Focus group participants favored painted lines or pylon separation for the managed lanes. They also preferred entrances spaced approximately three-to-five miles apart. Most preferred pay-as-you-go options. Participants also felt revenues should be used for more roads and alternative transportation services.
- A telephone survey was conducted to obtain more detailed information. A total of 804 surveys were completed. Some 70 percent of the respondents reported using I-5 at least five days a week. The average trip reported by respondents was less than 30 minutes. Approximately 62 percent of the respondents supported construction of 10 general-purpose lanes and four managed lanes alternative and 61 percent felt the project would reduce congestion. However, 23 percent felt the project would take too long.
- The telephone survey respondents indicated a preference for tolls rather than limiting access. Approximately 56 percent felt fixed tolling is fair and equitable. Survey respondents also prefer managed lanes to general-purpose lanes. Respondents also believed that managed lanes can help reduce congestion, although they were not optimistic of increased carpooling and sustaining traffic flow.
- The telephone survey results were consistent across demographic groups. Minorities were more likely to support managed lanes and fixed tolling, while low-income populations prefer general-purpose lanes or the use of access control.
- Intercept surveys were conducted at transit stations and park-and-ride lots. A total of 353 surveys were completed. Some 60 percent of the respondents supported construction of the 10 general-purpose lanes and four managed lanes option, with HOVs and vanpoolers most supportive.
- Intercept survey respondents felt that the use of reduced tolls for carpools and vanpools would encourage HOV use. Transit users supported using toll revenues for transit services, while HOVs and vanpools disagreed with this approach.
- The results from the different community outreach program elements highlight the need to build support for pricing at the local level. The results also support the need for corridor-level public outreach and market research. Public/private partnerships offer key investment opportunities in developing and implementing an outreach program. Information and research sharing among all groups is also important for a successful program.
- The next steps in the I-5 North Coast managed lanes project include conducting a final set of focus groups and developing the draft concept plan. A preferred pricing strategy will be identified and the draft EIR/EIS will be completed.
Public Perceptions on Tolling in Texas
Sukumar Kalmanje, University of Texas at Austin
Sukumar Kalmanje discussed public perception related to toll roads and congestion pricing in Texas. He described the results of recent research projects conducted for TxDOT and other sponsors which included telephone surveys, on-line surveys, and focus groups. He recognized the assistance of Kara Kockelman, Kaethe Podgorski, and Michelle Bina of the University of Texas at Austin on the research and this presentation.
- There is an increasing need for transportation improvements in Texas. At the same time, there is a lack of funding for needed improvements. The expanded use of tolling is being considered in many parts of the state to bridge this funding gap. Recent state legislation provides more funding opportunities to TxDOT and other agencies. At the same time, federal and state policies require public involvement in the transportation planning and project development process. Statewide surveys can provide representative views on preferred policies. Recent research conducted for TxDOT and the Southwest University Transportation Center (SWUTC) included telephone surveys, on-line surveys, and focus groups on tolling and congestion pricing.
- A survey on credit-based congestion pricing was conducted using telephone, intercept, and on-line methods. A total of 480 responses were weighted for age, gender, and income. Approximately 47 percent of the respondents expressed support for pricing policies. These individuals tended to be longtime residents, younger persons, higher income groups, individuals with less work-schedule flexibility, and households with fewer vehicles. Approximately 25 percent of the respondents expressed support for credit-based value pricing, including those with prior pricing experience, those who perceived more congestion, and those with less work-schedule flexibility.
- A telephone survey was conducted of residents in seven areas in Texas. These areas were Austin, Lubbock, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and communities in the Rio Grande Valley. An on-line follow-up survey was also used in these areas. The analysis considered respondent demographics, respondent location, and the order of the questions included in the survey.
- A total of 2,100 telephone surveys were completed, with 300 in each study area. The survey took approximately 13 minutes to complete. The results from the telephone survey indicated that over 70 percent of the respondents agreed that existing roads should be fixed first, existing roads should be toll-free, and tolls should be reduced after construction. Over 70 percent also agreed that toll revenues should be used within the same region, that trucks should be charged higher tolls, and that the same toll rates should be used during rush-hours and non-rush hours with no variable pricing.
- The telephone survey results did vary by areas. Residents of large urban areas were more aware of toll projects and respondents in Austin were most supportive of new spending. Residents of smaller urban and rural areas were more supportive of exclusive toll tag use, but more concerned about toll tag privacy. Residents in the Rio Grande Valley region were the most opposed to raising the state gas tax and to public/private partnerships.
- The survey results also indicated that males, non-workers, and individuals with higher household incomes and higher education levels were more supportive of increasing transportation spending. Non-SOV commuters were also supportive of increasing transportation spending. Older individuals and new residents were more supportive of using tolls on new and existing roads, while retirees were less supportive.
- The telephone survey results also indicated that individuals with higher education levels and those aware of toll projects were more supportive of public/private partnerships. Retirees and males were less supportive of public/private partnerships. Older males, toll road commuters, and long distance commuters were more supportive of HOT lanes. Individuals who use toll roads often, but not for commuting, were less supportive of HOT lanes.
- A total of 324 complete responses were received through the mail out/mail back and online follow-up survey. This number included 183 mail out/mail back surveys and 141 online surveys based on 1,112 contacts. The results from these surveys indicated that among existing revenue sources, there was greatest support for increasing driver behavior fines. Among new revenue sources, there was greatest support for emissions fees, congestion pricing, and tolls. Over 70 percent agreed with the following statements: "higher tolls should be in place for heavier, more polluting vehicles and dedicated heavy-vehicle lanes should be added to highways."
- Frequent toll road users were more supportive of conversion of free lanes to tolled lanes, while new residents, those who saw slight traffic increases in their area in the past five years, long-distance commuters, and Austin residents were less supportive. Respondents who lived in more densely populated areas, Rio Grande Valley residents, full-time workers, students, and retirees were more supportive of alternative travel modes. Respondents with medium levels of education, longer-term residents, and males were less supportive of alternative travel modes.
- Focus groups were conducted in Lubbock, Houston, San Antonio, Brownsville, and Dallas. The number of participants in each focus group ranged from five to 10, with a total of 43 individuals participating in all five focus groups. The recruitment criteria included frequency of commute to work or school (preferably three-to-five times per week), proximity of residence to proposed toll-road locations (within five miles), and variability in age, education, employment status. The focus groups discussion guide included questions on local traffic conditions, perceptions of toll roads, and the best approaches to distribute information on toll projects. An informational video was shown to participants, along with test messages and information on toll projects.
- Results from the focus groups indicated that drivers are generally unaware of the severity of congestion and population growth, how transportation is funded, and the costs of highway construction and maintenance. The focus group results also indicated that opposition to toll roads may be linked to uninformed drivers and skepticism of state and local governments. The results indicated that drivers may be persuaded by toll users' positive experiences and that there is a need to better inform residents about toll road technology and policies.
- Frequent toll road users, toll road commuters, frequent rush-hour travelers, and those who have lived in their region for less than three years were more supportive of the TTC. Long-distance commuters were less supportive. Residents of the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio, as well as older persons and full-time workers indicated they tend to drive less during rush hours. Residents in larger households indicated they would change their travel mode.