12th International HOV Systems Conference: Improving Mobility and Accessibility with Managed Lanes, Pricing, and BRT
BREAKOUT SESSION—MORE ON HOV, HOT, AND MANAGED LANES IN TEXAS
Delvin Dennis, Texas Department of Transportation, Presiding
Managed Lanes on I-10 West and Other Houston Projects
Sally Wegmann, Texas Department of Transportation, Houston District
Sally Wegmann described a number of HOV and managed lane projects underway in Houston. She summarized the current HOV system and the QuickRide Value Pricing project. She discussed the managed lanes on I-10 West, which are under construction.
- The Houston HOV system is recognized as a one of most extensive networks of HOV lanes in the country. The system includes 104 miles of barrier-separated lanes on six freeways. The HOV system has been developed over the past 25 years and includes HOV lanes, park-and-ride and park-and-pool lots, transit centers, and direct access ramps. Planning, designing, funding, operating, maintaining, and enforcing the HOV lanes represent the joint efforts of TxDOT and Houston METRO.
- The QuickRide Value Pricing program is in operation on the I-10 West HOV lane during the morning and evening peak hours and on the U.S. 290 HOV lane during the morning peak hour. The QuickRide program allows registered two-person carpools to use the HOV lanes during the 3+ peak hours for a $2.00 per trip fee. Participants must enroll in the QuickRide program, have an AVI transponder, and maintain a balance in their account.
- The QuickRide program on the I-10 West HOV lane was implemented in January 1998 and the U.S. 290 HOV lane was added to the program in November 2000. Additional enhancements to the value pricing program have been examined recently. The goals of these enhancements are to improve ridership, to increase revenues, and to improve enforcement.
- Enforcement of QuickRide the program involves a number of elements. These elements include manual verification of occupancy levels by METRO police officers, ensuring that vehicles have valid AVI transponders, and ensuring that the AVI transponders are read and the accounts are charged. The AVI system was in place on the HOV lanes as part of the real-time traffic speed map.
- A test was recently conducted on the I-10 West HOV lane to better ensure that valid AVI tags are being used. Equipment was added at one location to read AVI tags. A green light was illuminated for valid tags. A hand-held device, which officers could use to scan AVI tags, was also developed. This device will be tested on the US 290 HOV lane in the future. Other program enhancements on the US 290 HOV lane include wireless detectors to monitor lane volumes and speeds, dynamic message signs (DMS) to display the QuickRide fee, and updated program signs.
- The I-10 West managed lane project is under construction. A 23-mile section of the I-10 West Freeway from I-610 to the Fort Bend County line is being reconstructed. The current HOV lane operates in most of the section. The new cross-section from I-610 to SH 6 will include two managed lanes, four general-purpose lanes, and a three-lane frontage road in each direction. The cross-section from SH 6 to SH 99 will include one managed lane, four general-purpose freeway lanes, and a three-lane frontage road in each direction. The cross-section from SH 99 to the Fort Bend County line includes four general-purpose freeway lanes and a three-lane frontage road in each direction. To date, eight of nine project segments have been let. The total construction cost is approximately $1.44 billion and the estimated completion date is the spring of 2009.
- Development of the managed lane concept involved TxDOT, METRO, HCTRA, and FHWA. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) among TxDOT, METRO, and Harris County, acting for HCTRA outlines the roles and responsibilities of the three groups and the basic elements of the operating agreement. Under the operating agreement, 3+ carpools may travel toll-free during the morning and afternoon peak periods, METRO may operate up to 65 buses an hour toll-free, and METRO may operate METROLift and support vehicles toll-free. In addition, a LOS C will be maintained. A tri-party agreement between TxDOT, FHWA, and Harris County was also signed outlining responsibilities for design, construction, and operation of the managed lanes. HCTRA is providing a $250 million contribution and will operate the toll elements of the lanes. TxDOT and HCTRA are examining the potential of managed lanes on other freeways.
Update on HOV Lanes in the Dallas Area
Koorosh Olyai, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Scott Cooner, Texas Transportation Institute
Koorosh Olyai and Scott Cooner discussed the HOV lanes in the Dallas area. They described the current HOV lanes, use levels, and other performance indicators. They summarized the planned managed lanes projects in the Dallas area.
- The HOV lanes in the Dallas area represent the coordinated effort of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and TxDOT. Each agency has different roles and responsibilities related to the facilities. Both agencies share planning and design activities. TxDOT is responsible for construction. DART is responsible for operation and enforcement, and both agencies support maintenance. TTI also assists with operations planning.
- HOV lanes are currently in operation on I-30, I-35W, I-635, and I-35E/US 67. According to the 2000 Census, Dallas had the highest percentage of work trip carpoolers in the country. Some 18 percent of workers in Dallas carpool. The HOV lanes are a key reason for this high level of carpooling.
- The HOV lanes are a key part of the overall transportation system in the Dallas area. Other elements of the system include the TxDOT/DART ITS Control Center, the motorist assistance program, the DART bus and LRT system, commuter rail, the freeway system, and the toll roads operated by the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA).
- The important role the HOV lanes play in the Dallas area can be seen through a number of measures. DART monitors key performance indicators including subsidy per passenger and mode share. The HOV lanes have the lowest subsidy per passenger, $0.15, of the modes operated by DART. By comparison, the subsidy per passenger for LRT is $3.24 and for buses is $3.91. The HOV lanes have a mode share of some 38 percent, which is second to only the bus system, which has a mode share of 41 percent.
- HOV lanes and managed lanes are an important part of the future transportation system in the Dallas area. TxDOT, DART, and NTTA are working together on a number of managed lane projects. In developing these projects, the proposed roles and responsibilities for TxDOT are right-of-way purchase and ownership, construction management, and maintenance. DART will be responsible for HOV design, congestion pricing, enforcement, and daily operations of the HOV element. NTTA will be responsible for toll collections and enforcement of the toll elements through cameras and other technologies.
- HOV lane system ridership was approximately 33.4 million in FY 03 and 34.9 million in FY 04. The average travel speeds in the HOV lanes and the general-purpose freeway lanes improved from before and after the opening of the HOV lanes. The average travel time savings for travelers using the four HOV lanes in FY 04 ranged from 12 minutes on the I-30 HOV lanes to almost 14 minutes on I-35E. Peak hour vehicle volumes ranged from 950 vehicles on the I-35E HOV lanes to 1,400 vehicles on both I-30 and I-35E/US 67 HOV lanes.
- Violation rates on the HOV lanes are in the range of 6 percent to 7 percent. Peak hour automobile-occupancy rates range from 2.2 to 2.9 on the four HOV lanes. The overall automobile-occupancy rates for freeway corridors with HOV lanes increased with the addition of the HOV lanes. The automobile-occupancy rate on I-30 increased from 1.33 to 1.37 and the rate on I-35 increased from 1.12 to 1.26.
- The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NTCOG) has estimated the air quality benefits of the HOV lanes. These estimates include a reduction in volatile organic compounds (VOC) of 51 pounds per day on I-30, 100 pounds per day on I-35E, and 237 pounds per day on I-635. The HOV lanes also have resulted in an estimated reduction in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) of 190 pounds per day.
- The objectives of the HOV lanes are to increase vehicle occupancy levels, to increase person-movement capacity, to provide a cost-effective transportation improvement, and to generate public support. Other objectives include improving air quality and reducing fuel consumption. A final objective is that HOV lanes should not adversely impact the freeway general-purpose lanes. These objectives have generally been met. The person-movement capacity of the freeways has been increased. The HOV lanes are cost-effective. Public support for the HOV lanes in I-30 has been quantified through surveys. NTCOG estimates indicate decreased fuel consumption. There has been no adverse impacts on freeway speeds.
- A recently completed research project indicates that crash rates on I-35E and I-635 increased after the HOV lanes began operation. The research project examined the injury crash characteristics from 1,150 crash reports during the period from 1997 to 2000 on I-35E and I-635. Only crashes occurring in HOV lane or the inside general purpose lane were included in the assessment. The results indicate that crash rates increased after HOV lanes opened on I-35E and I-635. Speed differentials and difficulties with merging due to congestion appear to be the major contributing factor to this increase. No increases in crashes were documented on the I-30 HOV lane, which uses a movable barrier. As a result of this research, a minimum cross-section which includes a four-foot buffer between the HOV lane and the general-purpose lane was recommended.
Houston METRO HOV Traffic Control Devices - Inventory Management System
Muhammad Tahir Masood, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County
Muhammad Tahir Masood discussed the Houston METRO HOV lane traffic control devices inventory management system. He provided an overview of the HOV system in Houston and the development and use of the traffic control devices inventory management system.
- Houston METRO is one of the largest public transportation agencies in the country. Currently, there are approximately 104 miles of primarily barrier-separated HOV lanes in operation in six freeway corridors in Houston. A concurrent flow HOV lane in the I-10 West corridor connects to the barrier-separated lane. The Houston HOV lanes carry approximately 116,000 person trips and 37,433 vehicles trips daily. The HOV lanes provide priority to buses, vanpools, and carpools.
- In 2003, METRO contracted with TransCore to collect data on 3,709 traffic control devices located along the six HOV lane corridors. This information was integrated into a database that is linked to a dynamic global information system (GIS)-based map of the Houston metropolitan area.
- The objective of the HOV lane devices inventory database is to create a tool that can be used by METRO staff to look up, review, query, and manage the traffic control devices along the six HOV lanes. Based on current industry practices, a GIS-based map was used to plot the location of each device. Device location was obtained in the form of latitude and longitude coordinates using global positioning system (GPS) equipment. Each device located on the map consists of a dynamic link to a datasheet of attributes for the device, as well as a digital picture.
- Both static and dynamic traffic control devices are included in the inventory. Static devices consist of plywood and aluminum signs, vehicle impact attenuators, farm gates, and pavement markings. Approximately 80 percent, or 3,050 out of the 3,709 devices, are static. Dynamic devices include changeable and DMS, rotating drum signs, lane control and traffic signals, and vertical barrier gates and swing gates. Dynamic devices account for about 20 percent of the total devices.
- The static or dynamic devices in the inventory are classified as either signs, gates, or signals. The data is further classified by device class, location, sheeting and mounting, size, and condition. A digital picture of each device is included in the database.
- The attribute data was input directly in the field into a Microsoft Access database which minimized data input time at the office. After all the data was input into the Microsoft Access database, ArcView was used to plot the devices on a GIS map of the Houston metropolitan area. To ensure an open architecture and industry-accepted standards, Microsoft Access was used for the database software and ArcView was used as the GIS application. The result is a powerful data management tool that is user friendly and utilizes open architecture.
- Latitude and longitude data was collected on each device. A backpack GPS Trimble Receiver was used to record the latitude and longitude coordinates. This receiver provided an accuracy of about 3-10 feet.
- When the first phase of the HOV lane devices inventory database was completed, additional steps were taken to expand the system and to ensure that all potential user groups within METRO were involved. Meetings were held with staff from different departments including HOV operations and information technology. The database was migrated to a METRO server for better accessibility by staff. A second phase provided an inventory of the remaining devices, such as trailblazer signs and controller cabinets. These devices were added to the database and the ArcGIS map.
- Some 3,478 devices were added to the database in the second phase. This total included 56 in-lane devices, 36 park-and-ride lot devices, 36 slip ramp devices, 3,346 trailblazer signs, and four t-ramp devices. The locations of the trailblazer signs are very dispersed as they provide directions on accessing METRO facilities and HOV Lanes.
- Information in the database can be displayed and used in different ways. Data can be listed in an attribute table and mapped. The digital photos can also be displayed. Users can zoom in on any location to obtain an aerial photo map.
- There are three forms used for the data entry. Users can edit or add inventory items to the database relatively easily. Selecting "view a report" from the main menu opens the report criteria dialog box, which gives the user flexibility in selecting the appropriate criteria for a report. The dialog box is equipped with drop-down selection lists for easier use.
- The HOV lane devices inventory database provides an important tool for many users within METRO. It provides a centralized database of the HOV lane devices. It allows tracking of device upgrades and replacements. It generates GIS-based maps of HOV lanes, park-and-ride lots, and transit centers with the locations of different devices. The database generates reports of existing HOV lane devices including location, condition, size, and other attributes.
- The inventory database has provided a number of benefits. The database provides time savings from unneeded site visits. Staff can now respond quickly to concerns or complaints from bus riders, HOV lane users, community staff, and policy makers. The database easily generates reports and queries. It provides a centralized database that is easily updated and revised. Data is available to all levels of METRO staff from operations to management. When a police officer or HOV staff calls a project manager or other staff in the office from the field, staff can pull up the inventory map and discuss the situation on the phone. The updated database will help METRO fix HOV devices quickly and will contribute to the safe and efficient operation of the HOV facilities in Houston.