CHAPTER 6. Direction for Future Practice
The success of HOT lanes in a growing number of states suggests that there is a strong market demand for high quality, dependable Express Lanes that function as a safety valve from highway congestion. However, the case studies, in addition to the experience of new HOT lane projects elsewhere, indicate that HOT lanes - while they demonstrate the feasibility of several important operational concepts - are assets that have diminished valuation compared to other toll alternatives.
While there may be a compelling financial case for requiring all vehicles to pay a toll regardless of occupancy, the opportunity to leverage private financing and PPP mechanisms must be weighed against program objectives developed specifically to mitigate public concerns such as equity, fairness and privacy. In many cases, there is a strong consensus to accept suboptimal rates of return in exchange for mitigations that demonstrate the state's commitment to meeting public concerns.
As more agencies assess the feasibility of converting existing HOV to HOT lanes, it is important that planners, designers and other practitioners avoid 'relearning' lessons others have struggled with in converting HOV lanes to HOT lanes. One of the biggest challenges facing HOT lane planning and operations is and will continue to be enforcement. Perhaps the major lesson learned from the case studies is that while manual enforcement is imperfect, it can be an effective method of deterring violations in HOT lanes with limited access. Even with multiple enforcement zones, it is virtually impossible for law enforcement to perform 100% occupancy checks of vehicles that self-identify as HOVs.
This is especially true of HOT lane that are non- barrier separated and have multiple access points. As HOT lane facilities expand in length and grow from a facility-based to network-based system, manual enforcement will at some point experience diminishing effectiveness as a violation deterrent strategy. The following section briefly identifies the Best Practices Top 20 highlighting those areas HOT lane practitioners should be cognizant of to avoid problems and challenges that may arise during each phase of project development and implementation.
The purpose of this section is to identify best practices in each of the major stages of project development, per the discussion in Chapter 2. The best practices identified here are informed by information gathered as part of the focused interviews and research conducted on HOT implementation projects completed over the past 15 years.
Although each of the case studies differed from one another and from a number of the implementations reviewed in the literature, there were several project development issues and challenges around which key lessons learned with similar themes were articulated. The lesson learned that resonated across several projects are presented here to alert and to assist practitioners to challenges likely to be encountered throughout the project development process.
Tolling and dynamic pricing are gaining greater recognition among the State DOT’s as a means of generating revenues for system improvements and for managing increasing traffic levels. Each HOV transition to HOT operations will, by necessity, be evaluated on the unique circumstances for each area. While each implementation will be a unique application dependent on road geometry, right of way availability, density and alternative corridors, it is important that consideration be given to the utilization of common, and to some degree, interoperable technologies for a HOT facility. Some trends and practices that are emerging throughout the nation as HOT lane implementations grow include
Legislatures are becoming more proactive in providing enabling legislation that will provide the states with the authority to collect tolls, to toll HOV facilities, to implement an effective violation enforcement policy, to provide authorization to collect administration and processing fees, and to provide for a PPP policy.
To minimize the impact to the traveling public, toll booths will not be used for HOT lane operations. As congestion increases and the average number of HOT lane facilities increases to beyond 2 lanes in each direction, the HOT implementations will begin to resemble ORT) implementations using a combination of electronic and video tolling.
As was mentioned numerous times, enforcement is critical to the successful operation of any HOV/managed lane facility. Visible and effective enforcement promotes fairness and maintains the integrity of the facility to help gain and maintain public acceptance of the project. Continued technology improvements will provide effective video capture and optical character recognition systems for license plate capture. However, these improvements alone will not be sufficient for an effective enforcement system. It will be necessary to implement a reliable and accurate mobile enforcement system that complements the improved video systems. Visible and effective enforcement promotes fairness and maintains the integrity of the facility to help gain and maintain public acceptance of the project.
Probably the most frequent type of violation infraction that enforcement officers encounter is occupancy violations, which requires them to see inside a vehicle and to be able to count the number of occupants. Current technology does not exist to determine accurately the number of occupants in a vehicle. However, perhaps within the next ten to fifteen years an on board unit capable of determining vehicle occupancy will be fully integrated in a vehicle and capable of communicating this information to the enforcement officer at the roadside using DSRC technology. Until this technology is available it is likely that DOT's and toll agencies will require all HOT users to establish either a transponder or a video toll account to assist in separating HOV authorized users from SOV users.
United States Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration
Last Modified: June 30, 2009