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13th International HOV/HOT Systems Conference: Partnerships for Innovation - Conference Proceedings
September 7-9, 2008
Minneapolis, MN

Bill Finger, Presiding

Park-and-Ride, Transit, and ITS for HOV Lanes in California’s San Joaquin Valley

William R. Loudon,
DKS Associates

Bill Loudon discussed a recent feasibility assessment of HOV lanes in the San Joaquin Valley. The assessment was sponsored by the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG), with funding from Caltrans. Bill described the issues and concerns with transportation in the San Joaquin Valley, the major elements of the HOV lane feasibility assessment, the support facilities and services needed for successful implementation, and the study recommendations and conclusions. He recognized the contributions of Wil Ridder and Leslie Miller, SJCOG. Bill covered the following points in his presentation.

  • Issues in the San Joaquin Valley include significant congestion on the freeways and rapid growth in population, employment, and development. Travel in the area is characterized by long-distance commutes. Over 20 percent of commute trips are made to destinations outside the county. Emission reductions are required, as the county is a severe nonattainment area for Ozone. New freeway lanes are under development, so decisions related to HOV lanes are needed.

  • There is no history of HOV lanes in the area, which are viewed as a big city transportation strategy by many residents. Other concerns that have been raised associated with HOV lanes relate to the impact on trucks, which are important in the Valley, and the impact on shorter distance commute trips.

  • Most of the HOV lanes in the San Francisco/Bay Area are well used. Surveys taken over the years indicate that the HOV lanes do influence commuters to change from driving alone to carpooling. A total of 69 percent of carpoolers responding to a recent survey reported the HOV lane greatly influenced their decision to carpool, while another 11 percent reported that the HOV lanes somewhat influenced their decision to carpool.

  • The HOV lane feasibility assessment included a number of elements. First, HOV lane demand was assessed. Second, freeway corridors were screened to identify priorities. Third, potential benefits and impacts for high-priority corridors were evaluated. Fourth, necessary support facilities and services were identified. Finally, operational parameters were identified.

  • The evaluation criteria for HOV lanes included HOV lane use, travel time advantages for HOVs, and the need for a fourth travel lane. Other criteria focused on major commute corridors, the importance of transit in the corridor, and existing park-and-ride lots in the corridor. Two other criteria addressed major truck corridors and connections to other HOV lanes.

  • Needed improvements were identified for both 2015 and 2030. Widening some freeway sections to six lanes or eight lanes were identified as needed in 2015 and 2030.

  • The HOV plans in surrounding regions were reviewed, including the Bay Area and the Sacramento region. The FREQ model was used to forecast HOV volumes in the three-hour morning and afternoon peak periods. The two forecast years were 2015 and 2030. The FREQ model was calibrated to existing conditions. The effects of HOV lanes were assessed for 2015 and 2030. The 2030 forecast identified HOV lane volumes of 1,000 to 1,800 vehicles per lane per hour (vplph).

  • The potential 2030 travel benefits of HOV lanes on I-5 and I-205 were examined. The expected HOV lane usage was 1,000 to 1,800 vehicles per hour in the peak direction of travel. This volume resulted in a reduction of 4,200 person hours of travel of per day, or approximately 6 percent. Further, VMT was reduced by 240,000 miles per day.

  • Potential environmental benefits were examined. Possible benefits included a reduction in gasoline consumption of 17,000 gallons per day and a 14 percent reduction in hydrocarbon (HC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions.

  • The San Joaquin Regional Transit District (SJRTD) provides services in the area, including connecting to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, other destinations in the Bay Area, and Sacramento. The SJRTD and City of Stockton have initiated a BRT master planning effort. The SJCOG’s Commute Connection facilitates the formation of carpools and vanpools.

  • An inventory of park-and-ride lots was conducted. The utilization levels of the 16 major park-and-ride lots vary, with four lots over capacity and eight lots over 50 percent of capacity. A park-and-ride master plan was developed, which identified additional parking spaces and other improvements needed at the various lots.

  • Possible ITS supportive strategies were identified and evaluated. The two recommended strategies were using ITS to support park-and-ride security and to provide real-time traveler information. The main components for a security surveillance system were identified. System elements included closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, emergency phone boxes, and a communication system. It was recommended that these elements be linked to a local transportation management center (TMC) or dispatch center.

  • A number of elements were identified for the real-time information system. These elements included park-and-ride lot occupancy data, real-time bus schedule data, and real-time bus and vehicle travel-time data. Numerous methods were outlined to disseminate information on the elements, including freeway dynamic message signs and next bus information signs at park-and-ride lots and transit stations.

  • The HOV implementation recommendations focused on five major elements. These elements included designating all new fourth lanes as HOV lanes, using a 2+ vehicle eligibility requirement, operating the HOV lanes only during the peak-periods, and allowing continuous entry and exit. Another recommendation was to develop and implement support facilities and services, including transit services, park-and-ride lots, and ITS.

  • In conclusion, the study results indicate that HOV lanes can be an effective freeway management tool in the San Joaquin Valley. The HOV lanes should be integrated with, and supported by, park-and-ride lots, transit services, and ITS strategies. The HOV lane operations should be tailored to the needs of travelers in the San Joaquin Valley to avoid adverse impacts and to generate public support.

Evolution of the Puget Sound Region HOV Direct Access Ramps

Liz Young,
Parsons Brinckerhoff

Liz Young discussed the development and current operation of the HOV direct access ramps in the Puget Sound Region. She described the development of the HOV system in the region, planning and implementing the HOV direct access ramps, use of the existing ramps, and the institutional and political opportunities and challenges. She recognized the assistance of Chris Wellander, Parsons Brinckerhoff, with the preparation of the presentation. Liz covered the following points in her presentation.

  • The Puget Sound Region has developed around challenging geography, which includes the Puget Sound, the Cascades Mountains, and Lake Washington. Growth patterns are linear and there is limited ability to expand the roadway network outward with ring roads. Continued growth in population and employment between 2000 and 2030 is forecast.

  • Numerous efforts have been taken since the 1960s to plan and develop a regional transit system. The Forward Thrust Regional Rail proposal was rejected by voters in 1968 and again in 1970. In the early 1970’s, Metro Transit approved an all bus system and initial freeway HOV projects. The last major general-purpose traffic infrastructure project, the I-90 Bridge expansion, which included a reversible HOV roadway, was completed in 1989. Voters rejected a proposal by the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (CPSRTA) for a regional rail system in 1995. Voters approved a proposal by CPSRTA for a regional multi-modal transit system in 1996.

  • The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Core HOV System Plan included a comprehensive network of HOV lanes. The Puget Sound HOV Pre-Design Study provided the foundation for the direct access ramps. Funding for the direct access ramps was included in Sound Transit’s Sound Move as part of the regional express bus service.

  • Implementation of the WSDOT Core HOV System Plan began in the early 1970’s with three transit-focused projects. Projects in the mid 1970’s to early 1980’s focused on HOV bypass lanes at freeway ramp meters. In the mid 1980’s HOV lanes on I-5 were implemented. In the early 1990’s, a 310-mile HOV system was identified, focusing on maximizing the efficiency of the existing infrastructure and maximizing the person-carrying capacity of the freeway system.

  • The WSDOT Puget Sound HOV Pre-Design Study focused on enhancing the effectiveness of the HOV system by improving access into, and out of freeway HOV lanes at key locations and enhancing the core HOV system to best serve transit. The study recommended 22 direct access facilities and 14 transit freeway stations, which were typically co-located. A number of freeway-to-freeway connections, HOV system extensions, and enforcement improvements were also recommended

  • In 1996, CPSRTA re-focused the plan defeated by voters the previous year into a multi-modal system plan. Elements in the plan included expanded bus service and utilization of the freeway HOV system, in addition to a central LRT line and a commuter rail line. Direct access ramps were integral to the successful operation of the regional express bus service. The plan incorporated a select number of system connections and improvements as identified in the WSDOT Puget Sound HOV study. Approximately 14 of the recommended direct access or flyer-stop projects from the Pre-Design study were included. A partnership was formed between Sound Transit and WSDOT, with Sound Transit becoming the funding agency and WSDOT the implementing agency responsible for design and construction of the recommended projects.

  • The HOV direct access facilities use a variety of design treatments, including full and directional access. Only buses and vehicles with two or more persons are eligible to use the ramps, which serve new and existing transit centers and new and expanded park-and-rides lots. Freeway stations and median park-and-ride lots are used in some cases. The direct access ramps are located in downtown and suburban areas. New arterial access over the freeways has also been provided in some cases.

  • Six HOV direct access projects have been completed as of August 2008. A seventh will open in September. Additional facilities, including a freeway station/in-line stop and a HOV direct access interchange are scheduled to be completed by 2011.

  • The downtown Bellevue direct access ramp provides a connection to the Bellevue Central Business District (CBD) Transit Center, which is the main transit hub on the east side of Lake Washington. The project also includes improvements to the adjacent intersections and local streets.

  • The Ash Way ramp provides access to and from the south and is the only facility that has a buses-only restriction. The ramp connects to a 700-stall park-and-ride lot. The Lynwood direct access ramp connects to a park-and-ride lot with 1,300 spaces. The Lynwood ramp provides full access from both directions.

  • The direct access ramps at Federal Way provide connections from the I-5 HOV lanes to a transit center and a parking garage with 1,200 spaces. As part of the project, WSDOT also extended the HOV lanes on I-5.

  • The Totem Lake direct access ramp includes a new east-west arterial crossing of I-405. A 500-space park-and-ride lot is located on one side of the freeway and a transit center is located on the other side. The facility also includes a freeway bus station and a pedestrian walkway from the park-and-ride lot. The Eastgate direct access ramp connects to a park-and-ride garage with 1,600 spaces. A freeway bus station is located at the top of the ramps.

  • The South Everett direct access ramp on I-5 includes the first park-and-ride lot in the region located in the median of a freeway. The park-and-ride lot has 400 spaces. Improvements to arterials in the area were also made as part of the project to provide access to the park-and-ride lot.

  • The initial WSDOT safety study showed no significant change in the total number or the types of crashes in areas with the new ramps. The Puget Sound HOV Pre-Design Study estimated that 1,500 to 8,700 vehicles and 40 to 250 buses would use all the ramps by 2030. Recent traffic counts indicate that approximately 2,500 to 8,800 2+ vehicles use the existing direct access ramps on a daily basis.

  • The combination of the HOV Pre-Design Study and voter disapproval of the original Sound Transit plan provided the opportunity for the regional HOV system. The projects represent the coordinated efforts of WSDOT and Sound Transit. These agencies have different missions and governing bodies, although the Secretary of Transportation is a member of the Sound Transit Board. There is specific state legislation governing each agency’s activities. The two agencies have different funding sources and use different planning, design, and scheduling processes. Another challenge was the fact that there was very little national experience with the development and use of direct access ramps.

  • Development and operation of the direct access ramps also faced political challenges. The original HOV system designation was 3+ carpools and transit with a 24/7 operation. In 1991, the vehicle-occupancy requirement was changed from 3+ to 2+. There continues to be ongoing pressure to open the HOV facilities to general-purpose traffic. In 2003, the operating hours of some HOV lanes were changed from 24/7 to 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The HOT pilot project opened on SR 167 earlier this year. Expanding other HOV lanes to include a HOT component or a managed lane designation is being evaluated. The remaining direct access ramps are being incorporated into corridor plans.

  • A current challenge is the November 2008 ballot initiative to change the HOV lane and ramp designation. The ballot initiative would restrict weekday HOV lane and ramp restrictions to three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening. It would remove the HOV lane and ramp designation on weekends. It would also restrict the ability to change the HOV lane designation from 2+ and would restrict the HOT lanes to the same hours and definition. If the initiative is approved by voters, it will severely limit the ability of WSDOT and Sound Transit to manage the HOV system.

National Update on BRT Projects

Alasdair Cain,
Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida

Alasdair Cain provided an overview of BRT projects in the U.S. He discussed the key elements of BRT, potential benefits, and the general cost of BRT, and other transit modes. He also highlighted the transit projects included in the UPAs. Alasdair covered the following points in his presentation.

  • BRT can be considered a system of systems. The seven key elements or characteristics of BRT are the running ways, stations, vehicles, the service and operations plan, fare collection, ITS, and marketing and branding.

  • There are a number of reports available to assist in planning, designing, implementing, and operating BRT. The Characteristics of Bus Rapid Transit for Decision-Making, published by the US DOT in 2004, represents one of these reports. This document describes the integration of the seven BRT elements, performance measures, and benefits. Performance measures include travel-time savings and reliability, system capacity, accessibility, safety and security, and identity and image. Benefits include ridership increases, capital cost effectiveness, operating cost efficiency, and environmental quality. Other potential benefits support land use decisions and the economy.

  • The National BRT Institute at the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) is updating the Characteristics of BRT for Decision Making report. It will remain a high-level document to support sketch planning and alternatives analysis. The update will include the most recent capital and operating cost data for BRT elements. Several topics are being expanded to increase the utility of the document to decision makers. These topics include marketing and branding, land use and economic development, and the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and accessibility. Other topics include service and network planning, financial and funding strategies, project scheduling and phasing, and organizational issues. A steering committee composed of transit agency representatives and other experts is helping to oversee the update.

  • There are upwards of 100 communities seeking federal funding for BRT systems. Currently, approximately 25 BRT systems are in various states of planning and operation. Operating BRT systems are located in Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Orlando, Miami, Honolulu, and Boston. BRT systems are in the planning stages in Minneapolis, Orem, Albany, Atlanta, Cleveland, Kansas City, Eugene, and Denver.

  • The goal of BRT evaluations is to judge the effectiveness, efficiency, and cost of a BRT system. It is important to collect and analyze before and after data for evaluations to measure ridership changes, return-on-investment, and other performance elements.

  • The type of running way used with a BRT system will have a major influence on the capital cost. The capital cost associated with different types of runnings range from approximately $1 million per mile for modest improvements to upwards of $25 million for busways operating on separate rights-of-way. On a comparative basis, the capital cost for subways are approximately $200 to $350 million per mile. Light rail is $30 to $100 million per mile. Busways are $5 to $50 million per mile. Median bus lanes are $5 to $30 million per mile, and rapid bus applications are approximately $0.5 to $1 million per mile.

  • It has been suggested that managed lanes can provide a virtual busway for use with BRT systems. BRT and managed lanes take advantage of existing infrastructure to provide high operating speeds and service reliability. BRT operating on managed lanes provides a modal alternative to the private automobile. It can also raise public support for an overall project. In addition, toll revenues may be used to fund transit services in the corridor.

  • The UPA projects include a number of transit elements. The Minnesota UPA project includes the purchase of new buses, the construction of new and expanded park-and-ride lots, and the implementation of new and expanded transit services in the I-35 corridor. It also includes expanding the single bus lane in downtown Minneapolis into dual bus lanes, expanding existing HOV lanes to HOT lanes, and developing new HOT lanes. Other elements include testing lane guidance technologies for shoulder-running buses, real-time transit information, signal priority, and other improvements. Transit elements in the South Florida UPA include new and expanded park-and-ride lots, express bus improvements, and real-time transit information in the I-95 corridor. The HOV lanes on I-95 are being expanded into HOT lanes. The Seattle-Lake Washington UPA includes the purchase of new buses and implementing new transit services, adding park-and-ride facilities, and other transit improvements.

  • Experience indicates that transit can assist with addressing traffic congestion issues, but BRT alone cannot eliminate congestion. Studies have shown that BRT, busways, and other transit services can influence people to change from driving alone to riding the bus. For example, 34 percent of bus riders on the Pittsburgh West Busway, 40 percent of riders on the Miami South Busway, and 18 percent of the riders on the Oakland San Pablo Rapid previously drove alone. Surveys of riders on the Los Angeles Orange Line indicate that 18 percent previously used a private vehicle for similar trips and over one-third of current riders have private vehicle available for the trip.

  • A number of elements should be considered to help determine the suitability of HOV/HOT lanes for BRT. These elements include the HOV/HOT infrastructure, which may be designed primarily for private vehicle use, access issues, and the placement of stations and park-and-ride lots. The use of HOV/HOT lanes may not be appropriate for corridors exhibiting very high transit demand.

  • There may be possible impacts on transit in converting HOV lanes to HOT lanes. Possible issues include significantly increasing traffic volumes on HOT lanes, the potential to encourage transit riders to change to driving alone, and the impact of increasing minimum occupancy requirements from 2+ to 3+.

46th Street BRT Station: A Public Involvement Story

Jill Hentges,
Metro Transit

Jill Hentges discussed the public involvement process for the 46th Street BRT station in Minneapolis. She highlighted the importance of public involvement in transit and transportation projects and discussed the experience with the 46th Street BRT Station. She also engaged the audience in brainstorming ideas on facilitating public involvement. Jill covered the following points in her presentation.

  • Minnesota is well known for many things. Examples of Minnesota trivia include the Minneapolis’ skyway system, which connects 80 blocks or nearly eight miles of the downtown area. Minnesota has approximately 90,000 miles of shoreline, more than California, Florida and Hawaii combined. Minnesota recreational boats/person ratio is 1:6. Minnesota inventions include rollerblades; water skis; Tonka trucks; scotch and masking tape; Post-its; the wearable, external, battery-powered, pacemaker; the snowmobile; Wheaties; Bisquick; and Green Giant vegetables. In 1945, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was the best known woman in America. The second was Betty Crocker.

  • An important element of public involvement is that people can see their ideas in the outcome of a project. It is critical to be honest about public involvement. Do not engage the public in the process unless there is a true desire to listen to their views and consider their ideas on the project.

  • The 46th Street BRT station is located along I-35W to the south of downtown Minneapolis. It involves an online BRT station on I-35W at the 46th Street Bridge. A preliminary design for the station had been completed prior to the beginning of any public involvement. Although a public involvement process would have been initiated, the interests and concerns raised by the state senator, state representative, and city council members from the area accelerated the process.

  • The neighborhoods on both sides of I-35W include older residential housing and commercial developments. The neighborhoods are diverse, with median household incomes above those for the city of Minneapolis as a whole. There are active neighborhood organizations.

  • A Transit User Group (TUG) was established to facilitate neighborhood participation in the station design process. There are a total of 12 members on the TUG. The members represent the four neighborhoods and three neighborhood associations. Other representatives include two Minneapolis City Council members, an at-large member, and a Metro Transit staff member.

  • The first meeting of the TUG was in January 2007. Through meetings and workshops, the group provided input on the station design, the station name, and connections to the neighborhoods. Environmental concerns, safety, station operations, and transit service plans were also discussed. The group made a number of recommendations to Metro Transit related to these elements.

  • Metro Transit is considering the recommendations and is also considering reconvening the group, holding a public open house on the project, or doing both. A consultant and a Metro Transit engineer are assisting with examining ways to incorporate some of the recommendations into the project.

November 2009
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