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

BREAKOUT SESSION – MINNESOTA’S URBAN PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT – HOT, PRICED DYNAMIC SHOULDER LANES, TRANSIT, TELECOMMUTING, AND MORE
Connie Kozlak, Metropolitan Council, Presiding

Minnesota Urban Partnership Agreement, I-35W HOV to HOT Conversion and Priced Dynamic Shoulders

Nick Thompson,
Minnesota Department of Transportation

Nick Thompson discussed the HOT lanes and the PDSL components of the Minnesota UPA. He described the agencies and jurisdictions involved in the Minnesota UPA, the expansion of the existing HOV lanes to HOT lanes, the construction of new HOT lanes, and the PDSL. Nick covered the following points in his presentation.

  • Mn/DOT and the Metropolitan Council are the lead agencies on the Minnesota UPA. Metro Transit is part of the Metropolitan Council. Other participating agencies and jurisdictions include the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA), the City of Minneapolis, and Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin, and Ramsey counties. The Center for Transportation Studies and the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public affairs at the University of Minnesota are also partners in the UPA.

  • The Minnesota UPA consists of seven highway projects, 14 transit projects, and a major new telecommuting program. It represents a $183 million investment. The projects include a mix of new concepts to match the UPA focus and accelerating existing innovative projects, which had received consensus through the planning process.

  • A key highway component of the Minnesota UPA is the I-35W managed corridor. A 16-mile section of I-35W south of downtown Minneapolis will include expanding existing HOV lanes to HOT lanes, constructing new HOT lanes, and implementing a PDSL. Active traffic management and speed harmonization will also be used. Real-time traffic and transit information will be provided at strategic locations along the I-35W corridor. New auxiliary lanes are being added in two sections to address bottlenecks.

  • The HOT lanes area being implemented in different segments. Approximately 10 miles of existing HOV lanes will be expanded to HOT lanes. Four miles of new HOT lanes are being constructed in the Crosstown Commons section. The PDSL will be approximately two miles in length, providing a northbound connection from the HOT lane into downtown Minneapolis. A future two-mile extension of the HOT lanes to the south is also anticipated.

  • The concept of the PDSL is based on the use of dynamic shoulder lanes in the United Kingdom, including the project in operation on M42. Active traffic management, including speed harmonization and additional incident response, will be used with the PDSL.

  • The HOT lanes on I-35W will use the same general design, tolling technology, and operations as the I-394 MnPASS HOT lanes. The continuous access currently provided on the HOV lanes will be changed to limited access points. Similar to I-394, a double white line will be used to designate the areas where access is not allowed. It is anticipated that there may be more access points on the I-35W HOT lanes than on the I-394 HOT lanes, but the operations plan is still being finalized.

  • Similar to the I-394 MnPASS HOT lanes, dynamic pricing will be used on the I-35W HOT lanes and the PDSL. The toll will be based on the level of congestion in the HOT lanes and the PDSL. The toll rates will be updated every three minutes based on data collected by the Mn/DOT loop detectors and a customized set of rate tables.

  • The Minnesota State Patrol will be responsible for enforcing vehicle-occupancy levels, toll payments, and operating requirements. The mobile enforcement readers developed for the I-394 HOT lanes will be used on the I-35W HOT lanes and the PDSL.

  • State legislation was needed to implement some of the UPA projects. Legislation was approved allowing vehicles to operate on the shoulder and providing Mn/DOT with the authority to toll vehicles for use of the shoulder. This legislation provided Mn/DOT with the ability to implement and operate the PDSL. The legislature also provided the funding needed for the local match and the telecommuting project. Most of the Minnesota UPA projects will be implemented between September and December 2009. Due to the previously established construction schedule, the HOT lanes in the Crosstown Commons section will be completed in October 2010.

Minnesota Urban Partnership Agreement: The Transit “T”

Craig Lamothe,
Metro Council/Metro Transit

Craig Lamothe discussed the transit elements of the Minnesota UPA. He described the goal and objectives of the transit component, the various UPA transit projects, and the current status of activities. Craig covered the following points in his presentation.

  • The goal of the UPA transit elements is to provide an attractive alternative to paying to use the HOT lane on I-35W or driving alone in the general-purpose freeway lanes. The objectives to accomplish this goal are to improve the speed and the reliability of buses operating in the corridor, to enhance the appeal and convenience of transit, and to increase the capacity of transit.

  • The speed and reliability of buses operating in the corridor will be increased through the implementation of a number of elements. An increase in the average operating speed of buses through downtown Minneapolis will be realized by replacing a single bus lane with dual bus lanes on Marquette and Second Avenues. This project, known as MARQ2, will more than double the number of buses that will be able to travel through downtown Minneapolis in the peak periods. Replacing BOSs with HOT lanes and the PDSL will increase the maximum operating speed for buses on freeways from 35 mph to 50 mph. Reducing delay and daily uncertainty for northbound buses on Hwy 77 will be realized through the implementation of a “Transit Advantage” traffic signal. ITS technologies will be implemented in a lane guidance system for shoulder-running buses and a transit signal priority (TSP) system. The lane guidance system will be deployed on buses operating on Cedar Avenue and the TSP will be implemented on local streets paralleling I-35W to improve local bus travel times and reliability.

  • A number of projects will be implemented to enhance the appeal and the convenience of transit. The passenger waiting experience will be improved with new shelters and enclosed stations. New shelters will be located on Marquette and Second Avenues in downtown Minneapolis. Real-time information on bus arrivals, traffic congestion levels, and parking availability will be provided through multiple media. Real-time next bus arrival information will be provided at downtown stops and at park-and-ride lots. Variable message signs with real-time transit travel time, park-and-ride space availability, and vehicle travel time will be provided at key locations along the I-35W corridor. An economic incentive to make trips by transit during the most congested times is also being planned. It is anticipated that this element, which will reduce transit fares for trips taken during congested periods on I-35W South, will occur after the UPA demonstration period, as toll revenues need to be collected first to finance the fare discount.

  • Increasing transit capacity in the I-35W corridor is a key element of the Minnesota UPA. New park-and-ride lots will be constructed and spaces will be added to existing lots. Over 1,500 parking spaces will be added at new and existing park-and-ride lots along I-35W North and South of downtown and on Cedar Avenue. A total of 26 new buses will be purchased to provide new and expanded service in the corridor. Expanding the single bus lanes to dual bus lanes on Marquette and Second Avenues in downtown Minneapolis will more than double the number of buses that will be able to travel through the downtown area in the peak periods.

  • The total budget for the UPA transit projects is approximately $107 million, including the federal funds and the 20 percent local match. The MARQ2 project in downtown Minneapolis is the largest transit element, at approximately $32 million. The Metro Transit budget for park-and-ride facilities, the new buses, the new shelters, and the customer information system is approximately $54.8 million. The transit projects are scheduled to be completed by December 31, 2009.

  • The MARQ2 project includes reconstruction of Marquette and Second Avenues from building face to building face. Dual contraflow bus lanes will replace the single contraflow bus lane. Two general-purpose traffic lanes will be provided. The sidewalks will be widened from 12 feet to 18 feet on the transit side and to 14 feet on the non-transit side. On-street parking will be removed. New lighting and landscaping will be installed and other streetscape improvements will be made.

  • Researchers at the University of Minnesota are developing the lane guidance system for shoulder-running buses. The system includes lateral guidance assistance, collision avoidance, and automatic vehicle location (AVL) technology. These elements provide benefits to the bus operator. Lane assistance feedback is provided through a heads up windshield display, a vibrating seat, and an active steering wheel. Collision avoidance is provided through forward and side sensors and an integrated display. The touch control panel allows the driver to choose and modify feedback. Passenger benefits include improved safety and schedule adherence through better utilization of road shoulders. A fleet of 10 MVTA buses equipped with the lane guidance technology will be deployed for operation on Cedar Avenue and I-35W.

  • A total of 26 new buses will be purchased as part of the UPA. The new buses will include a mix of standard low floor buses, articulated low floor buses, and coaches. The buses will be used to provide service on new routes and expanded service on existing routes.

  • The Transit Advantage project will address an existing bottleneck at the Highway 77/Highway 62 intersection for northbound buses. A new bus-only, left-turn lane will be constructed and special traffic signals installed to provide a transit advantage for buses.

Minnesota Urban Partnership Agreement: Telecommuting

Adeel Lari,
Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

Adeel Lari discussed the telecommuting program elements of the Minnesota UPA. He described the telecommuting program objectives, the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) approach, potential benefits from telecommuting, and future activities. Adeel covered the following points in his presentation.

  • Telecommuting is one of the most cost effective and quickest methods to reduce traffic congestion. From available data, it appears that only approximately 3 percent of the Minneapolis workforce currently telecommutes.

  • The UPA telecommuting program objective is to secure agreements from major employers in the area to establish or expand telecommuting and flex scheduling programs. The Minnesota UPA telecommuting effort focuses on increasing the use of ROWE, which was developed and implemented by the Best Buy company. The Minnesota UPA telecommute program objectives are to reduce congestion and to increase telecommuting.

  • In general, a number of telecommuting options may be used by employers. Traditional telecommuting allows employees to work from home. Internet access it typically used to maintain contact with the office, along with telephones. Traditional telecommuting focuses on maintaining working hours, monitoring performance, and following employer policies.

  • ROWE takes a different approach. It represents a change in business culture, operation, and the mindset of management personnel. Under ROWE, there are no set schedules. Rather, employees make choices about where and when work is performed. ROWE focuses on results and results only. It establishes the ultimate state in work flexibility. ROWE allows every employee the freedom to do their best work the way they work best.

  • ROWE provides equal opportunity for all employees to participate, regardless of their job duty or job level. It provides an incentive to work where and when it is best for business and for personal pursuits. ROWE provides the opportunity for sustainable change.

  • The ROWE work environment is employee managed, with no supervisory permission needed. ROWE is based on the work to be accomplished and requires accountability. On the other hand, flexible work arrangements require permission from supervisors and are management controlled. It is based on hours and work, and requires policies and guidelines.

  • Telecommuting can provide benefits for the transportation system, corporations, and individuals. Examples of universal telecommuting benefits include reducing congestion, energy conservation, environment preservation, enhanced safety, and improved health.

  • Examples of corporate telecommuting benefits include cost savings, increased employee productivity and motivation, and retaining employees and skills. Cost savings may be realized through reduced office space needs and overhead expenses. A flexible and independent work environment leads to increased employee productivity, as well as elevated motivation and morale, and lower absenteeism rates. Telecommuting can help retain key employees, including the sandwich segment – baby boomers tasked with caring for both children and aging parents. Telecommuting can provide a career break, allowing employees to work part time. Employees with the option to telecommute may be less motivated to leave. Training costs can be reduced with higher retention rates. Telecommuting also provides flexibility in staffing, as hiring talented staff is not limited to a specific geographic area. Best Buy has experienced benefits from ROWE, including productivity increases and increases in retaining employees.

  • Individual benefits from telecommuting include savings in commuting costs and time savings from eliminating commute trips. Telecommuting provides quality-of-life benefits and a better balance between work and family. It can reduce stress associated with commuting and provides more time for health and wellness activities. Better health, plus less stress, equals an improved ability to focus on work.

  • Technology is no longer a barrier to telecommuting. The challenge for most corporations is a cultural barrier. Telecommuting requires management by objectives rather than by observation. Corporations need to shift to focus on results. A commitment to better monitoring and measuring results is needed. Telecommuting programs force reliable results measurement.

  • Other possible barriers to telecommuting include a perception that telecommuters are loafers and that telecommuting will hinder career advancement. These concerns can be overcome by creating a telecommuting program with support from management and employees.

  • Even with all the potential benefits, telecommuting is not for everyone. Employees with poor personal motivation are not good candidates for telecommuting. Young employees just entering the workforce may not be ready for telecommuting. Going to work is an important aspect of life and teaches social skills and corporate values. Also, not all work tasks are best performed or appropriate for a telecommute setting. Some types of work value team synergy and the interaction among team members.

  • Telecommute programs are expected to become a viable planning element to reduce congestion and pollution and to preserve and protect the environment. A weaker economy may also help drive support for increased telecommuting programs.

  • The telecommuting portion of the Minnesota UPA is funded by the state, with no federal participation. The Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota is responsible for developing and implementing the program. A Telecommute Steering Committee has been formed under the Minnesota UPA Steering Committee.

  • The focus of the Minnesota UPA telecommuting program is to promote the adoption of ROWE by employers in the region. The target is to change 500 current commuters on I-35W into telecommuters. The Humphrey Institute will be issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for consulting and marketing assistance to implement and evaluate the program.

  • The University of Minnesota is conducting a National Institute of Health (NIH)-funded, two-year study examining the health and well-being affects of ROWE. Preliminary research findings suggest the long-term potential to change work behavior, and in turn affect commuting behavior, by implementing ROWE. In comparison to employees in a control group, employees in a ROWE are less apt to commute.

  • A recent article in a Minneapolis newspaper supported telecommuting, noting that putting aside the private benefits and drawbacks, telecommuting is a clear winner from a public policy standpoint. Every worker at home is one fewer worker burdening the roads and public transportation systems. Designing public policies and infrastructure to increase the at-home workforce can have both public and private benefits.

November 2009
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