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Executive Summary

High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes are common throughout the United States.  There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that efficient and effective management of existing HOV lanes is both achievable and sustainable through applications including managed lanes and electronic toll collection.  However, development and implementation of effective HOV strategy and policy has involved challenges that include planning and design issues, stakeholder concerns, and less than optimal performance.  There is a need to obtain a better understanding of the experience and factors that contribute to successful HOV lane performance.

HOV owners nationwide were contacted to discuss the performance of existing HOV lanes, if and why owners are considering policy changes, and what are the future expectations.  Based on respondents representing 10 states and over 70 HOV facilities, the primary objectives of HOV lanes are to maximize person throughput, manage congestion, and provide an option for travel time savings and reliability.  Over 80 percent of respondents actively monitor system performance.  Most respondents indicate that HOV lanes are currently meeting performance objectives.  For HOV lanes that are not performing adequately, the primary concerns are overcrowding, low speeds, lack of a continuous system, and enforcement issues.

The next study task involved assessing the impacts of pricing and other policy shifts on the operational performance of the nation’s HOV lanes.  A sketch planning tool was developed to evaluate the effects of policy on operational performance and measures of financial feasibility.  The tool involves conducting the following steps – 1) Assess existing HOV facility operations, 2) Define opportunities for HOV policy changes, 3) Evaluate potential impacts, and 4) Compare impacts relative to specified objectives.  The sketch planning tool provided a quantifiable, useful approach to measuring the impacts of HOV policy changes on facility performance.

Many HOV facility owners are interested in policy changes, often influenced by performance, political interest, and public opinion.  Changing commute and congestion levels dictate the need to consider such policy changes on an ongoing basis.  A policy options evaluation tool was developed to help HOV owners consider a range of potential policies, including changing occupancy requirements and managed lane pricing.  How the performance objectives are defined greatly influences the optimal policy changes that should be considered.  Every HOV lane is unique in its demand and operations, and the locally-specific context must be carefully taken into account.

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December 2008