Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

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

Janelle Anderson, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Presiding

I-5 HOV Lanes in the Portland/Vancouver Region: One Worked, One Didn’t, So What Happened?

Chuck Green,
Parsons Brinckerhoff

Chuck Green discussed the experience with the HOV lanes on I-5 in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area. He highlighted the implementation and operation of the northbound and southbound HOV lanes, why one was successful and one was not, and the lessons learned from the projects. He also described the traffic conditions after the southbound HOV lane was opened to general-purpose traffic during all operating hours. Chuck covered the following points in his presentation.

  • There are many similarities in the northbound and the southbound HOV lanes on I-5. The HOV lanes in the northbound direction opened 1998. The HOV lanes in the southbound direction opened in 2001. Both HOV lanes were opened as pilot projects. Both were less than four miles in length and by-passed major congestion points on the freeway. Both serve the Vancouver-to-Portland commute market. Finally, both represented a combination of added capacity and converted lanes.

  • The HOV lane northbound on I-5 is 3.5 miles in length. It extends from Going Street to Delta Park on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. The lane opened in 1998, operating in the northbound direction out of Portland in the afternoon peak period. There is a bottleneck at the end of the lane where the freeway crosses the Interstate Bridge. The HOV lane saves users approximately two minutes per mile over the general-purpose freeway lanes in the peak hour. Vehicles in the general-purpose freeway lanes are traveling at approximately 10-15 mph, compared to 45 mph for vehicles in the HOV lane. Approximately 800 HOV vehicles use the HOV lane during the peak hour accounting for some 2,300 persons per hour, compared to 1,600 persons per hour in each adjacent general-purpose freeway lane. The I-5 northbound HOV lanes have received consistent 70 percent or higher public support in four opinion surveys conducted since the facility opened. The compliance rate is between 88 and 92 percent.

  • The HOV lane southbound on I-5 was approximately four miles in length, operating from 99th Street to Mill Plain in Washington State. The southbound lane was opened in 2001. It operated in the southbound direction into Portland in the morning peak period. It provided travel-time savings of a little less than two minutes a mile over the general-purpose freeway lanes during the peak hour. Approximately 500 vehicles used the lane during the peak hour, moving some 1,400 persons. The general-purpose freeway lanes moved some 1,100 persons in each adjacent lane. The most recent opinion survey indicated approximately 53 percent public opposition to the southbound HOV lane. The compliance rate on the HOV lane was between 90 to 92 percent.

  • The Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area, which is separated by the Columbia River, has a population of approximately 1.5 million. The two communities are different in many ways, including perspectives on transportation. Portland is well known for integrating transportation and land use planning, its LRT and bus system, and growth management strategies. Vancouver is more vehicle-oriented. The I-15 corridor serves commuter trips, which are oriented toward Portland.

  • Both of the HOV lanes were initially opened for three hours. The southbound HOV lane was initially opened from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. The HOV lane was not well utilized from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., however. As a result, the operating hours were reduced to 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. during the pilot.

  • The northbound I-5 HOV lane acts as a funnel for commuters leaving Portland in the afternoon peak period. Even commuters living on the east side of I-5, who have to weave across three general-purpose freeway lanes to exit the freeway, realize a travel-time savings from using the HOV lane. These commuters did not realize the same benefits from the southbound HOV lane, as it ended close to the point they entered the freeway. Most of the Vancouver SeaTran buses providing service to Portland also entered the freeway toward the end of the HOV lane. The bus operators were aggressive enough to weave across the general-purpose freeway lanes to use the HOV lane, however. As a result, bus riders and SeaTran did realize benefits from the southbound HOV lane.

  • The northbound HOV lane is considered a success, and was made permanent by 2007. The southbound HOV lane was considered unsuccessful, however, due to perceptions of low usage, adding to congestion at the endpoint, and lack of public support. As a result, the southbound HOV lane pilot project was terminated in August 2005 and the HOV operating hours were discontinued. The lane is now open to all traffic on a 24/7 basis.

  • A number of lessons can be learned from the experience with the northbound and the southbound I-5 HOV lanes. The experience has set the tone for consideration of HOV lanes in the region. The results from the travel demand modeling conducted as part of the planning process for the southbound HOV lanes indicated lane use would be marginal, especially in the near-term. It was easy to implement the HOV lane, however, because it was part of a freeway widening project. Thus, the experience indicates the importance of carefully selecting the initial HOV lanes to be implemented in a region.

  • The project also points out the importance of marketing and public education with HOV lanes. WSDOT did not actively promote use of the southbound I-5 HOV lanes. Given the controversy associated with the project, no marketing or outreach efforts were undertaken.

  • The project points out the importance of understanding the HOV markets prior to opening an HOV lane, both the travel markets and the political markets. Due to the interest in alternative transportation in Portland, the northbound HOV lane has both public and political support. This same public and political support were lacking in Vancouver with the southbound HOV lane.

  • The projects highlight the need to provide consistent and visible enforcement. Visible and continued enforcement was lacking on both HOV lanes. Finally, there was organized opposition in the Vancouver area to the HOV lane. The experience indicates the need to be prepared to address opposition campaigns directly.

  • An evaluation was conducted six months after the southbound HOV lane was opened to general-purpose freeway traffic at all times. The same data collected during the HOV pilot project evaluations was collected and consistent evaluation methods were used. The facility was congested before and after the change. The results of this assessment indicated that 3,700 person trips had been carried in the HOV lane during the peak-hour compared to 3,500 persons with the general-purpose freeway lane operation. The average vehicle occupancy (AVO) during HOV operation was 1.27, compared to 1.22 with the general-purpose freeway lane operation. Bus ridership declined with the change, but a fare increase was implemented during the initial six months of general-purpose freeway lane operation. The fare increases may have influenced ridership levels. The average travel time for users of all lanes was 17 minutes during the HOV operation and 19 minutes with the general-purpose freeway lane designation. No significant diversions to parallel routes were documented under either the HOV lane or the general-purpose freeway lane operation.

  • The assistance of the following individuals was acknowledged – Bob Hart, Regional Transportation Council; Marty Jensvold, Oregon Department of Transportation; Chad Hancock, WSDOT; and Mark Garrity, Scott Noel, and Katy Lewis, Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Overview of Curb/Pylon Separation Systems in Dallas

Stephen Ranft,
Texas Transportation Institute

Stephen Ranft discussed the use of curb-pylon separation systems with the US 75 and I-635 East HOV lanes in the Dallas area. He described the HOV lanes in the area, the curb-pylon systems, and benefits and concerns with the HOV lanes. He recognized the contributions of Scott Cooner and Curtis Beatty from TTI in developing the presentation. Stephen covered the following points in his presentation.

  • The HOV system in Dallas currently consists of 67 centerline miles of HOV lanes. Elements in the system include a fixed-barrier reversible-flow HOV lane on I-35E south, which connects to the painted-buffer concurrent-flow HOV lanes on US 67. Both I-35E North and I-635 West have concurrent-flow HOV lanes in each direction of travel, which are separated from the general-purpose freeway lanes by a painted buffer. A new HOV lane on I-30 West is operating as a fixed barrier reversible-flow two-lane section to the west of Dallas. Currently, five miles of the HOV lanes are in operation. An additional seven miles are scheduled to open in December, providing a connection to downtown Dallas. This HOV lane will become a managed lane in the future. The I-30 East corridor includes a moveable barrier reversible-flow HOV lane. A new extension was recently opened, doubling the length of the HOV lane to 14 miles.

  • The US 75 HOV lanes include 14 miles of single concurrent flow lanes in each direction over three city jurisdictions. The ADT in this corridor ranges from 223,000 vehicles on southern end to 162,000 vehicles on northern end. The HOV lanes were opened in December 2007 at a cost of approximately $18 million. Access is provided on the northern end, at an intermediate full access slip ramp at Park Boulevard, and a wishbone flyover ramp on the southern end. The HOV lane uses a 24/7 operation. During weekday peak hours a one-lane reversible ramp provides a direct connection between the US 75 HOV lane and the I-635 West HOV lanes. The US 75 HOV lanes use the Filtrona curb and pylon system, which is intended to provide a psychological barrier to motorists.

  • The HOV lane on the southern section of US 75 was retrofitted into the existing right-of-way. There are four 11-foot general-purpose freeway lanes in each direction of travel. The HOV lane is approximately 16 feet from the inside barrier to the inside general-purpose freeway lane and includes a three foot buffer between the general-purpose freeway lane and HOV lane. This reduced cross section is one the reasons for the use of the pylon curb system. The cross section on the northern end has the same 16 feet for the HOV lane and three 11-foot general-purpose freeway lanes in each direction.

  • The design for the curb pylons uses the Filtrona system, which includes 44-inch long curb section. The height of the base is approximately 2.5 inches. The installed height of the pylons is 36 inches, with one pylon at the front of the curb section. A 100-inch gap was provided for drainage. The spacing between pylons is 12 feet. However, in the field, placement utilizes two pylons per curb with a spacing of about 37 inches between each post on a single curb. This system cost $260 for each curb and pylon section.

  • The I-635 East HOV facility includes 12 miles of single concurrent flow lanes in each direction. It covers three cities. The ADT in this corridor ranges from 207,000 vehicles on northern end to 188,000 vehicles on southern end. This facility opened in January 2008 at a cost of approximately $50 million. The project included widening bridges at several locations, resulting in a higher cost than the US 75 HOV lane. Access is located on the southern end with two intermediate partial access slip ramps at Northwest Highway and Skillman and a slip ramp near Greenville. There is also a T ramp to TI Boulevard, which is a major destination in the area. This freeway typically has higher directional distribution westbound in the morning and eastbound in the evening. As a result, intermediate accesses were designed to provide westbound entrances and eastbound egresses. The Dura-Curb curb and pylon system is used on the I-635 HOV facility. The HOV lanes operate on a 24/7 basis.

  • The I-635 HOV lane was a partial retrofit to the existing corridor with widening to the outside at the intermediate access locations. The higher project costs reflect the bridge widenings and needed traffic control. The general-purpose freeway lanes were reduced to 11 feet. The HOV lane cross section is approximately 18 feet from the median barrier to the inside general-purpose freeway lane. The HOV lanes are 11-feet wide and there is a five-foot buffer between the HOV lanes and general-purpose freeway lanes.

  • The Dura-Curb system is used with the HOV lanes on I-635. This system has a 58-inch long curb section. The height of the base is approximately three inches and the installed height of the pylons is 39 inches. A single pylon is located near the center of the curb section. A nine-foot drainage gap was provided. The pylons are located approximately 14 feet apart. This system costs $385 for each curb and pylon section.

  • The High Five interchange includes the first HOV-to-HOV system connection in Dallas. It utilizes a single reversible-flow lane to connect the US 75 HOV lane to the I-635 HOV lane during weekday peak periods. It operates southbound to westbound in the morning and reverses to eastbound to northbound in the evening.

  • The HOV lanes on US 75 provide a number of mobility benefits. Users of the HOV lanes realize a seven minute travel-time savings during the morning peak period and 11 minutes during the evening peak period. Vehicle volumes on the HOV lane have increased 56 percent since the opening month during the morning peak period, with approximately 2,400 vehicles in morning peak period and some 1,050 vehicles in the morning peak hour. Vehicles volumes have increased 44 percent in the evening peak period, with 2,100 vehicles in evening peak period and approximately 950 in the evening peak hour.

  • Mobility benefits realized from the I-635 East HOV lanes include travel-time savings of seven minutes during the morning peak period and eight minutes during the evening peak period. Daily HOV lane volumes in the corridor have increased by approximately 21 percent, with an average of 13,800 vehicles currently using the HOV lanes on a daily basis. Approximately 1,300 vehicles use the HOV lane in the morning peak hour in the peak direction of travel. Approximately 1,200 vehicles use the HOV lane in the evening peak hour in the peak direction of travel.

  • Crash data provided by the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) supervisor logs covering the time period from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. for the first seven months of operation of the US 75 HOV lane were examined. A total of 79 crashes were reported, but only one crash blocked the lane for more than 90 minutes. Of the remaining crashes, 39 blocked the HOV lane for less than 30 minutes and 39 blocked the lane for between 30 to 90 minutes. Over the same seven month period, a total of 103 incidents were reported. Flat tires accounted for 41 percent of the reported incidents.

  • Crash data for the first six months of operation on the I-635 East HOV lanes were also examined. A total of 76 total crashes were reported, with two crashes blocking the HOV lanes for more than 90 minutes. Of the remaining crashes, 26 blocked the HOV lanes for less than 30 minutes and 48 blocked the lane for 30 to 90 minutes. A total of 88 incidents were reported on I-635 East over the same six month period. The majority of those incidents were flat tires or running out of gasoline.

  • Approaching the intermediate full access point on US 75, there is a painted gore extending some 200 feet after the pylons end. The access had to be located on a horizontal curve to provide sufficient weaving distances for existing upstream and downstream general purpose lane ramp locations. At the end of the gore, the slip ramp, which is denoted by skip striping, provides 2,500 feet of HOV lane access.

  • On the I-635 East HOV lane, partial access design is used at some locations. Vehicles exiting the HOV lanes are provided with their own general-purpose freeway lane. The curb pylon system overlaps at the egress points to discourage general-purpose lane traffic from attempting to enter the HOV lane.

  • One problem that has been encountered is the displacement of posts near the ingress gore areas. The curbs remain in place, but the pylons are lost when hit by vehicles. Future research will be examining methods to mitigate this occurrence by enhancing signing and pavement marking on the approach to the ingress, evaluating removing more of the posts in the approach gore, and other measures.

  • In most cases there are no inside shoulders on the US 75 corridor due to the limited cross section. As a result, enforcement along most of the US 75 HOV lane is performed using roving enforcement with patrol vehicles traveling in the HOV lanes and the general-purpose freeway lanes. There are also limited shoulders on the I-635 East HOV lane. Roving enforcement is used on this facility.

  • There are no truck lane restrictions currently on US 75 or I-635 East. The Dallas/Fort Worth area does utilize truck lane restrictions on I-20 and I-30. Both US 75 and I-635 meet the criteria for implementing truck lane restrictions, which include left exits for the general-purpose freeway lanes and a high percentage of trucks in the corridor. Implementing truck lane restrictions in these corridors would probably assist in ensuring that trucks do not operate in the general-purpose freeway lane adjacent to the HOV lane, thus reducing potential conflicts due to the speed differential in the lanes. It would also reduce the likelihood of trucks hitting the curb-pylon system, reducing maintenance costs.

  • Incident management was a concern for the agency responders located along the US 75 and I-635 East HOV lanes. Prior to opening the lanes, incident responders from cities in the corridor met with DART and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials to discuss their concerns with the pylon curb system. Fire personnel wanted to make sure that the pylons would not get caught in the drive shafts of their fire engines and would not melt if a fire engine parked over the pylons. Samples of the curb pylon were provided to incident response personnel, who conducted their own tests. No concerns with the curb pylon system were identified that would affect their incident response procedures.

  • DART is responsible for operating the HOV lanes in the Dallas region. DART maintains its own police and courtesy patrol units. DART coordinates with all the local city jurisdictions located along the HOV lane corridors to ensure proper incident management response. Working with local incident response personnel, DART provides for the safe and efficient removal of vehicles and restoring the facility to normal operation.

  • A safety study was conducted on the HOV lanes in the area in 2003. This study will be updated to examine possible maintenance and safety issues in the corridors with the curb-pylon system. The study will be initiated when a full year of data on the operation of the curb-pylon system is available. The other corridors that were previously evaluated in 2003 will also be examined.

The Evolution of Performance Measures as Indicators of HOV/Transit Direct Access Success – A Transit Perspective

James Edwards,
Sound Transit

James Edwards discussed the development and use of direct access ramps in the Seattle area. He acknowledged the contributions of Michelle Hudlicky, Sound Transit; Mark Bandy, WSDOT; and Jeanne Acutanza, Richard Storm, and Charlie Wence, CH2M HILL in developing the presentation. James covered the following points in his presentation.

  • Sound Transit was established by voters in a 1996 ballot measure. Sound Transit is a three-county regional transit system that includes LRT, commuter rail, and the regional express bus system. Sound Transit is responsible for both fixed facilities and services. The direct access component of the regional express bus system represents an investment to date of approximately $420 million in fixed facilities, which have been constructed on the WSDOT HOV system in the Seattle area.

  • The freeway HOV lane system in the Puget Sound region was initiated in 1970. Currently, 235 miles of a planned 310-mile HOV lane system are in operation. A 2+ vehicle-occupancy requirement is used on the HOV lanes. Until legislative action in 2003 and 2004, the HOV lanes operated on a 24/7 basis. The HOV lanes now operate from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and are open to general-purpose traffic at other times. Initially, some HOV lanes were located on the outside freeway lanes. In the early 1990s, WSDOT policy changed to using the inside freeway lane as the HOV lane. This change created the need for direct access ramps on heavily used HOV lanes. The ramps allow buses, carpools, and vanpools to directly access the HOV lanes at key points.

  • The WSDOT Puget Sound HOV Study, which was completed in 1997, identified 22 potential locations for direct access ramps. The plan also included in-line transit stops and freeway-to-freeway HOV connections. The study involved outreach to local cities and counties in the region to help examine possible locations for the direct access ramps. The study examined the opportunity for direct access within the freeway right-of-ways, as well as links to park-and-ride facilities. Equal emphasis was placed on transit and HOVs. The Sound Move Plan included 14 direct access locations. WSDOT has plans to construct additional direct access ramps.

  • The Puget Sound HOV Plan followed the growth management approach contained in the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Vision 2020. Elements of Vision 2020 included facilitating growth in the urban centers, the urban growth boundary, and in-filling. The direct access plan was initially proposed around urban centers, focusing on park-and-ride lots and transit centers.

  • The Sound Move Plan was based on the PSRC Vision 2040, which maintained the urban growth boundary and focused growth in the urban centers. It reflects a change in thinking related to the direct access ramps, however. The direct access facilities were viewed as a way communities could anchor growth and facilitate land use changes. Linking transit to local community growth was an important element of the plan.

  • Voters in the three counties approved the Sound Move Plan in 1996. The plan included funding for 14 direct access ramps. The emphasis in the plan was on creating a bus-based regional transit network serving regional transit needs. Carpools and vanpools also benefit from the direct access.

  • Implementation of the Sound Move direct access projects represented a collaborative effort with FTA, FHWA, and WSDOT. The direct access facilities are based on locating ramps on the inside lane of the freeway. Design criteria and standards were established to address the unique elements of this approach. The implementation process also involved collaboration with local communities and agencies. This collaboration ensured participation of a broader group of community stakeholders. The local communities were able to advance planned projects and land uses as part of the direct access facilities.

  • Performance measures were used to assist in determining general locations for the direct access facilities, to determine use and application, and to set priorities. Performance measures in the Puget Sound HOV Study focused on carpool and transit accessibility, travel-time savings and reliability, transit travel time, impacts on general-purpose lane operations, and land use and environment considerations. Sound Move performance measures focused on transit speed and reliability, serving regional transit needs, HOV travel time, operations and safety, and environmental considerations.

  • Use of the direct access ramps have produced a number of indications of success. Two key indicators are transit ridership and ramp use. The ridership trends on Route 511, which operates from the Ash Way park-and-ride lot south of Everett into downtown Seattle provides an example of the impact of the direct access facilities. Ridership levels from 1999, when weekday peak period service on the route was implemented until 2003 was fairly steady. In late 2003, all-day service was added, seven days a week. Ridership increased following this change. Ridership also increased when the Lynwood direct access facility was opened in March, 2005 and again with the opening of the Ash Way direct access facility in September 2005. A sustained annual ridership growth of 15 to 20 percent a year has occurred since 2005 on all Sound Transit express bus routes. A 27 percent increase was recorded in the first quarter of this year over the fourth quarter of last year. The increase in gasoline prices influenced this ridership growth.

  • The use of direct access ramps, measured by bus and carpool volumes, represents a second key indicator. The average weekday volumes have been increasing for all the ramps. Buses account for much of the increase, with carpool volumes reflecting slower growth.

  • Other indicators of success include functional linkages, integration with local transit, and integration with local land use. Integration with local land use is dependent on the approaches used by the local communities, including incorporating new transit investments and pedestrian connectivity into land use planning.

  • The experience with the five direct access ramps highlights some lessons where other areas can benefit. The five direct access ramps examined include Bellevue CBD, Eastgate, Ash Way, Totem Lake, and Federal Way. A number of points can be identified from the experience with planning, designing, implementing, and operating these direct access ramps. These points address the evolution of regional planning, prioritizing transit in alternative evaluations, and viewing transit benefit as part of a system – not ramp by ramp. The direct access ramps provided an excellent opportunity to work with communities and allowed communities to partner with Sound Transit and WSDOT.

  • The Bellevue CBD direct access ramps serve the well-developed urban center of downtown Bellevue. Bellevue is the second largest city in the state. There was an existing transit center and the area has mature TDM policies with employers in place. The new Bellevue Transit Center is the largest transit hub on the east side of the metropolitan area. Approximately 600 buses a day use the facility. The ramps provide full direct HOV access to the I-405 HOV lanes. The ramp was opened 2004.

  • The Eastgate direct access ramp connects to the Eastgate Transit Center and park-and-ride lot. It serves the I-90 employment corridor and Bellevue Community College. It also serves as a transfer point for north/south and east/west buses. The Eastgate direct access ramp was initiated as a transit-only ramp due to concern raised by the city that high carpool volumes would overload the 142nd overpass. The Eastgate direct access ramp was opened 2006. It also provides an in-line bus stop.

  • The Ash Way direct access ramp is a bus-only facility. It is the sole bus-only ramp in the system. It is located on I-5, approximately halfway between Everett and Seattle. It is very close to the I-405 interchange. As a result, FHWA and WSDOT were concerned about possible weaving from the direct access ramp to the outside ramps on I-405. To address these concerns, only buses are allowed to use the Ash Way direct access ramp. Limiting the ramp to buses, and the resulting low volumes of vehicles, has raised concerns among some groups about the level of investment to provide benefits to transit riders.

  • The Totem Lake/Kirkland direct access ramp is located on I-405 approximately 10 miles north of Bellevue. It includes a freeway station, with buses stopping on the ramp. It serves a large park-and-ride lot. A new transit center was constructed as part of the project in a public/private partnership with the Evergreen Hospital Association. Kirkland allowed higher density development because of the transit connection. The Totem Lake/Kirkland direct access ramp provides an example of Sound Transit’s investment in sponsoring a change in the land use the area.

  • The Federal Way direct access ramp on I-5 serves an existing park-and-ride lot. The city of Federal Way is using the project to relocate their city center in the area. The city center includes the city hall, police and fire departments, and a new performing arts center. This direct access ramp provides another example of Sound Transit’s investments supporting local development.

November 2009
Toll-Free "Help Line" 866-367-7487