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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

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

Greg Jones, Federal Highway Administration, Presiding

I-394 MnPASS Enhancements: A Vision for the Future

Ken Buckeye,
Minnesota Department of Transportation

Ken Buckeye discussed possible enhancements to the I-394 MnPASS project. He described the driving forces, goals, and objectives of Phase II of the MnPASS project. He highlighted the key elements of a recent planning study. Ken covered the following points in his presentation.

  • There are a number of factors influencing the consideration of enhancements to the MnPASS project. First, the I-394 MnPASS project is Minnesota’s only road pricing project. Second, it introduced several important innovations, which have proven successful. Third, measurable performance improvements have been realized from the MnPASS project. Fourth, residents in all of the communities in the corridor benefit from the MnPASS HOT lane. Fifth, corridor capacity enhancements will possibly not occur for 25 years. Finally, I-394 has the potential to be a model pricing corridor.

  • There are two major goals for Phase II of the I-394 MnPASS project. The first goal is to identify infrastructure enhancements to improve corridor performance. The second goal is to identify short-term and long-term transit, land-use, and operational strategies which optimize the level-of-service in the corridor for all users.

  • Specific objectives have been identified to accomplish these goals. MnPASS Phase II objectives include revisiting the original vision for the MnPASS program, examining additional methods to provide advantages for transit and HOVs, and examining facility enhancements, urban design, and land-use alternatives. Other objectives include engaging the corridor communities in planning, designing, and implementing project enhancements, and coordinating these enhancements with community comprehensive plan updates. A final objective is to transfer the experience on I-394 to other projects in the region.

  • The MnPASS Phase II Planning Study includes five major elements. These elements are infrastructure, transit, land-use and urban design, telecommuting, and outreach and education.

  • A number of elements were examined related to possible infrastructure improvements. A traffic operations analysis was conducted and alternatives were examined for the three-mile reversible section of the I-394 HOT lanes. The alternatives examined were a moveable barrier and a permanent barrier. The interchanges at Highway 100, I-94, and I-494 were also examined. A ConOps plan and an enforcement plan were developed. Finally, recommendations and implementation steps were identified.

  • The infrastructure recommendations focused on the ultimate condition scenario, which includes the moveable barrier alternative. The operation of the reversible section using a moveable barrier would include two lanes eastbound in the morning peak-period with the moveable barrier placed adjacent to the south J-barrier. In the afternoon peak-period, two lanes would be provided in the westbound direction and one lane would be provided in the eastbound direction.

  • The alternative includes reconstructing the existing eastbound general-purpose lanes at Highway 100 to add a thru lane and a new entrance to the reversible section. The HOV ramp from northbound Highway 100 would also be reconstructed. An operations analysis of the HOV/HOT ramp operation at Highway 100 was conducted and a third toll zone at I-94 was evaluated. The estimated cost of this alternative ranged from approximately $31.0 to $38.5 million.

  • Frequent morning and afternoon peak-period express bus service is currently operated in the corridor using the HOT lanes. Existing transit amenities include the MnPASS HOT lanes, bus use of shoulders, HOV ramp meter bypass lanes, and 1,600 parking spaces at park-and-ride lots in the corridor. Local, off-peak service is also provided in the corridor. The opportunities for transit improvements focused on enhancing service on a geographic basis, adding spaces to park-and-ride lots, enhancing mid-day service, and technology applications.

  • A station-to-station transit service concept was considered, but rejected due to its high cost and its impact on freeway operations. One transit operating concept focuses on use of the I-394 south frontage road. Transit recommendations focus on establishing direct and frequent limited stop all-day service. Elements include providing additional heated bus shelters, constructing a pedestrian bridge at Hopkins Crossroads, implementing signal priority at Louisiana Avenue, and constructing a grade separated transitway at Park Place and Xenia Avenues. A public/private partnership with the Ridgedale Shopping Center would enhance park-and-ride and transit center facilities. Neighborhood feeder bus service would also be implemented. The cost of the various transit elements was estimated and the lead agency was identified.

  • The current land use and urban design conditions in the corridor were examined. The corridor is characterized by a vehicle-dominated land use pattern. A lot of the developed land in the corridor is underutilized. Wetlands, soils, and storm water runoff are important issues to be considered. The study identified locations near transit routes and key crossroads as candidates for redevelopment. These plans should take advantage of the existing and proposed trail systems and connections. Enhanced off-peak transit service may create new development opportunities.

  • The Louisiana Avenue and Park Place/Xenia study area design included the cities of Louis Park and Golden Valley. The Ridgedale conceptual design involved the city of Minnetonka. A wide range of land use and urban design concepts were considered in these studies. The efforts were intended to identify possible and desirable alternatives for these communities and the corridor, while keeping with goals of the project. There was a particular desire to identify transit supportive land uses and to promote strong linkages with the existing and proposed trail systems and connections.

  • The assessments of telecommuting focused on potential challenges and opportunities. Identified challenges include a weak economy and employer resistance. In addition, a significant increase in telecommuting is needed to reduce congestion. On the other hand, telecommuting can offer a wide range of benefits to employers, employees, and the environment. Telecommuting may help with employee retention and satisfaction and reduced overhead for employers. Telecommuting may also increase productivity and motivation. The opportunity also exists to build upon Minnesota’s UPA telecommuting strategies.

  • Mn/DOT will be leading the infrastructure improvements in the corridor. Metro Transit will be leading the transit improvements, some of which are underway. The corridor communities will be leading the land use and urban design elements, which are currently under advisement. Mn/DOT will be leading the telecommuting efforts through the Minnesota UPA project.

HOT Lanes Pilot Project in Washington State

Mark Bandy,
Washington State Department of Transportation

Mark Bandy discussed the HOT lane pilot project on SR 167 in the Puget Sound region. He described the background to the pilot project, design and implementation of the HOT elements, initial use of the HOT lanes, and preliminary responses from different user groups. Mark covered the following points in his presentation.

  • The WSDOT standard for HOV lane speed and reliability is that vehicles in the HOV lane should be able to maintain an average speed of 45 mph or higher, at least 90 percent of the time during the peak hour. This standard means that just six minutes per day of speeds below 45 mph will result in sub-standard performance. Recurring congestion at a number of locations on the HOV system in the region causes an HOV segment to fall below the WSDOT standard.

  • In 1999, the general-purpose freeway lanes on the heavily traveled segment of I-405 between Bellevue and Renton experienced more than five hours of congestion on an average afternoon and brief congestion in the morning. The HOV lanes met the WSDOT performance standard, however. The HOV travel time advantage ranged from approximately five minutes to about 10 minutes during the afternoon peak hours. By 2007, general-purpose freeway lane congestion had grown in duration and intensity, and the HOV lanes were failing to meet the performance standard during the afternoon peak. The HOV travel time advantage increased over much of the day, however and exceeded 12 minutes during parts of the afternoon peak period.

  • The SR 167 HOT pilot project converted existing HOV lanes to HOT lanes in a 10-mile corridor. The project includes a single HOT lane in each direction of travel. The HOV lanes allowed unlimited access, while the HOT lanes require users to enter and exit the lanes only at specific access points. The HOT lane is separated from the adjacent general-purpose freeway lane by double white lines. Variable message signs indicate the toll rate at each entry point. A HOT user pays a single toll to travel any distance on the 10-mile route. Free access continues to be provided to transit vehicles and 2+ carpools. The HOT lanes operate from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. and are open to all traffic at other times.

  • The HOT lanes on SR 167 opened on May 3, 2008. Advance publicity was used to explain the project and the new operating requirements to the public and travelers in the corridor. Examples of approaches included presentations to community and business groups, distributing brochures in public places, work place posters, and booth at fairs and festivals. A mobile Good To Go! tent was used to promote transponder purchases and opening accounts. Media personnel were also invited to tour the corridor and the project with Washington State Patrol officers. The opening day event attracted all major media outlets, with good television, radio, newspaper, and Internet coverage. To date, over 15,000 new Good To Go! accounts have been opened since the project was implemented.

  • Use of the SR 167 HOT lanes increased over the first two months of operation. The average daily number of toll transactions increased from 850 during the first week of operation to 1,140 during the ninth week. The number of peak hour toll customers increased from 120 during the first week to 160 in the ninth week. Overall, drivers paid an average of $1.50 to save 10 minutes of travel time during peak commutes.

  • HOT lanes users save an average of nine minutes in morning peak period and an average of five minutes during the afternoon peak period. On some days, users realize travel-time savings of as much as 34 minutes in the morning and 27 minutes in the afternoon. The HOT lanes have been free flowing.

  • Travel times for carpools and transit have been maintained with the HOT operations. Collisions on the facility have not increased. A total of 1,500 enforcement stops were made in the first three months of operation. The stops resulted in 263 citations for HOV violations and 150 citations for crossing the double white line. There continue to be complaints of travelers illegally crossing the double white line to enter or exit the lane. Incident response times have decreased from an average of 13 minutes to five minutes, doubling the numbers of drivers assisted on the roadway. Additional access point guide signs were installed after implementation. At least one of the access points will be adjusted this fall to enhance operations.

  • Travelers in the general-purpose freeway lanes are also benefitting from the HOT lanes. The average travel times in the northbound direction have been reduced, especially during the morning commute period.

  • Overall response from the general public has been positive, with some concerns noted. A total of 341 comments were received on the SR 167 HOV lanes during the first month of operation. The top three concerns noted in these comments were the change to limit access for transit vehicles and HOVs, the location and length of access points, and general disagreement with the use of HOT lanes to help manage congestion.

  • Use of the HOT lanes by toll-paying single-occupant vehicles is growing, but drivers are still getting used to the system. There is capacity in the HOT lanes for more toll-paying customers and use is expected to grow. The Good to Go! electronic tolling program allows for the same transponder technology to be used in all toll facilities in the state. The prepaid accounts allow for automatic deduction of tolls. The addition of 15,000 new customers opening Good To Go! accounts since the SR 167 HOT lanes were launched provides a total base of more than 100,000 customers and 270,000 transponders in the region.

  • As part of the HOT lanes pilot project, the Washington State Patrol is providing additional enforcement on SR 167. Partnering with the Washington State Patrol was key to the HOT lanes success. The partnering supported the heavy media blitz – which included messaging, media ride-alongs, and interviews – before and after opening of the HOT lanes. During the first months of operation, Washington State Patrol officers were very visible in the corridor, warning and ticketing drivers for illegally using the HOT lanes without a transponder and for crossing the double white stripes.

  • One issue that has emerged relates to vehicles with transponders using the lane as carpools. The windshield-mounted transponders cannot be turned off. A metal shield must be used to temporarily disable a transponder when carpooling. The use of the shield is difficult to communicate and confusing to some customers. Also, initially, carpoolers were upset by the new rules that limit access points. Any potential concerns that adding toll-paying, single-occupant vehicles would slow traffic in the HOV lanes have not been realized.

  • The WSDOT will report to the legislature and the Transportation Commission annually on a variety of performance measures. These measures include freeway efficiency and safety, effectiveness for transit, and person and vehicle movements by mode. Another measure addresses the ability to finance improvements and transportation services through tolls. The effects on all highway users will be analyzed by use data and surveys, which will provide additional insights into geographic, socioeconomic, and demographic characteristics of users. The results will be used in the development of additional HOT lanes projects in the state.

Update on the I-25 HOT Lanes in Denver

Jack Tone,
Parsons Brinckerhoff

Jack Tone discussed the HOT lanes on I-25 in Denver. He described the implementation and operation of the initial HOV lanes, the expansion to HOT lanes, and the current use of the HOT lanes. Jack covered the following points in his presentation.

  • The HOV lanes on I-25 in Denver opened to buses and carpools in October 1994. Originally called the “Downtown Express,” the project included a two-lane reversible roadway in the median of I-25. The lanes are 6.6 miles in length, extending from downtown Denver to US 36. The total cost of the HOV lanes was $228 million. The Regional Transportation District (RTD), FTA, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), FHWA, and the City and County of Denver (CCD) jointly funded the project.

  • The initial ADT in the HOV lanes was approximately 3,800 vehicles per weekday. By 1999, the use of the Downtown Express had grown to 7,400 ADT, including 300 RTD express buses. The Downtown Express included a major bus component, even before the term BRT was coined. Operating out of two downtown off-street bus terminals, RTD buses service a series of park-and-ride lots and garages along US 36 and I-25.

  • While traffic in the general-purpose freeway lanes continued to grow and peak period congestion increased, traffic in the HOV lanes showed little growth. By 2003, HOV use reached a plateau, with little traffic growth from year-to-year after that time. The adjacent general-purpose lanes were serving nearly 240,000 vehicles a day, while the two reversible HOV lanes were only used by about 10,000 vehicles per day. Most of the HOV lane use occurred during the morning and afternoon peak periods.

  • To better utilize the available infrastructure and to improve mobility, CDOT and the Colorado Tolling Enterprise (CTE) changed the operations of the I-25 HOV facility to HOT lanes on June 1, 2006. The CTE was established by CDOT to finance, build, operate, and maintain toll highways in the state. Single-occupant vehicles are allowed to use the HOV lanes for a fee. Existing HOV users, including carpools, vanpools, and buses, continue to use the facility free-of-charge. Only single-occupant vehicles pay a toll.

  • Called the “Express Lanes,” the I-25 HOT lanes are open 20 hours a day, and closed only to reverse the facility direction. The lanes operate southbound to Denver until 10 a.m. The lanes are closed to reverse the operation and reopen at Noon in the northbound direction. The I-25 HOT lanes serve transit, carpools, vanpools, motorcycles, and toll paying single-occupant vehicles between the northern suburbs and Denver. Travelers to other destinations, such as the Denver Technological Center, also use the HOT lanes to shorten their overall travel times.

  • For the first six months of 2008, an average of 100,000 toll-paying single-occupant vehicles used the lanes each month, with toll revenues averaging $200,000. Currently, more than 3,700 toll-paying vehicles are using the HOT lanes in the AM and PM peak periods. Average peak hour traffic is currently about 1,800 vehicles per hour, of which 1,000 to 1,100 are HOVs and 700 to 800 are toll-paying vehicles.

  • To manage demand on the facility and to ensure freeflow travel speeds, variable tolls are applied by time-of-day, with higher tolls during more congested time periods. Additionally, all tolls are collected electronically. The toll rates currently vary from $3.25 in the peak of the peak, to $0.50 during the late night and on weekends. Tolls are based on a graduated fixed schedule. Tolls are posted on a series of variable message signs along the freeway and signs on the downtown streets approaching the entrance ramp.

  • Tolls are collected on I-25 at a location near 58th Avenue with detectors mounted on an overhead gantry. HOV vehicles use the west lane and toll-paying vehicles use the east lane. A wide enforcement area was constructed at this location to permit visual observation and enforcement of vehicle occupancy. Photo technology is used to identify toll evasion violators without transponders in the toll lanes. This is the only segment of the HOT lanes where HOVs and toll-paying SOV’s are separated. Buses are permitted to use either lane.

  • By agreement between CDOT, RTD, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), FHWA, and FTA, a series of policies were adopted to guide the implementation of the HOT lanes. These policies address priority use of the lanes, electronic toll collection, and protection of the level-of-service. Buses are the highest priority for the I-25 HOT Lanes. Since construction of the HOV facility was partially funded by FTA, both RTD and FTA were concerned that bus operations not be adversely affected by the added HOT traffic. Other users, in order of priority, include vanpools and 3+ carpools, 2+ carpools, inherently low-emitting vehicles, and toll paying single-occupant vehicles.

  • All tolls are collected by ETC technology. The ETC is fully compatible with the E-470 Tollway and the Northwest Parkway, as required by Colorado Statutes. The I-25 HOT lanes must preserve freeflow speeds at all times. This policy corresponds with the hierarchy of use. If free flow speeds are degraded, tolls will have to be increased. Single-occupant vehicles may ultimately have to be excluded from the HOT lanes if freeflow speeds continue to degrade.

  • The consideration of expanding the I-25 HOV lanes to HOT lanes began in 1998 with an evaluation and feasibility study of HOT lane options for the I-25 facility. The study was partially funded by the FHWA Value Pricing Pilot Program. The initial study recommended the conversion of the I-25 HOV lanes to HOT lanes, citing considerable and consistent excess capacity in the HOV facility.

  • CDOT received $2.8 million from FHWA under the Value Pricing Pilot Program to implement the HOT Lanes project. Activities conducted as part of the implementation process included developing concept plans, testing operations scenarios, and developing a ConOps plan. Toll rates were evaluated to maintain travel speeds and revenue forecasts were developed. An extensive analysis of public attitudes regarding the proposed HOT project was conducted, including a series of focus groups. Participants in the focus groups expressed concerns about the need for better enforcement as well as concerns about the traffic impacts on pedestrian movements around the downtown access points. Environmental studies were also conducted, including a detailed air quality analysis. In 2004, FHWA approved a documented Categorical Exclusion for the implementation of the HOT lanes on I-25.

  • The initial design work for infrastructure improvements included overhead and variable message signs to display toll information, changes in the barriers separating the HOV lanes from the general-purpose lanes for an enforcement area, and the addition of the toll collection gantry. Other elements included adding overhead signs and traffic signal, signing, and striping improvements on the downtown city streets at the exit and entry points. The E-470 Public Highway Authority, which owns and operates the E-470 toll road, designed and installed the electronic toll equipment. Fiber optics links connect with the E-470 operations center, where the toll collection, violations monitoring, and back office operations are handled. The same transponders for E-470 are used on the I-25 Express Lanes. Nearly 400,000 transponders have now been issued to drivers in the region. An information video on the HOT lanes was produced and provided to all the local television stations. The video explained how the HOT lanes would operate and how drivers could obtain transponders. An extensive marketing program was conducted to introduce the HOT lanes.

  • The use of the HOT lanes by single-occupant vehicles has greatly exceeded the initial forecasts. HOV monthly traffic has remained stable, ranging between 180,000 and 240,000 while toll-paying traffic has increased from 30,000 in June 2006 to almost 100,000 in June 2008. Weekday daily traffic includes approximately 10,000 HOVs and 5,000 toll-paying vehicles. Since the conversion to HOT, RTD buses have operated on-time better than 99 percent of the time. The primary purpose of the Express Lanes is not to generate revenue, but to cover operations and maintenance expenses, and to better utilize the facility by giving motorists another option to avoid congestion. The RTD’s BRT operations are being preserved.

  • In February 2008, a primary water main ruptured causing a huge sinkhole in the northbound general-purpose freeway lanes on I-25, just south of the 58th Avenue interchange. To minimize delays to traffic, the HOT lanes were opened to all northbound traffic while the water main was replaced, the hole filled, and the pavement restored. The HOT lanes proved to be a valuable, flexible asset to manage traffic during the disruption.

November 2009
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