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Priced Managed Lane Guide

CHAPTER 7. Operations and Maintenance

Implementing a priced managed lane facility entails a long-term, annual commitment to operations and maintenance. This commitment to operations works hand in hand with a customer-centric focus, whereby the use of this facility is dependent upon the quality of service provided by the operator. While many aspects of priced managed lanes operations are no different than other aspects of general freeway operations, there are some unique components that are required to preserve lane service reliability and travel speed benefits, notably tolling, ITS, and communications infrastructure. These components are highly interdependent and must be maintained in working condition and operated to a high level of reliability. Disruptions and failures of equipment, procedures, operations, and functions can have a detrimental impact upon safety, system capacity, revenue, compliance and throughput, all of which may eliminate, negate, or compromise the benefits of the priced managed lanes.

Over time, the traffic and toll operations of priced managed lanes offer implementing agencies an opportunity to refine and enhance the core service provided by these facilities. Operations and maintenance stakeholders serve a critical role in the development process of any new toll system, at the same time provide revised and enhanced requirements to the planning process for more future toll systems.

7.1 Facility Operations

The success of priced managed lanes depends upon the ability to closely monitor and manage operations in order to maintain a high level of traffic service and travel-time reliability. Managed lane traffic and operations performance involving tolling depends on the variable pricing algorithms that regulate demand, as well as the ability to monitor system performance and detect and respond to changing conditions throughout the corridor. Operators must establish processes for monitoring traffic conditions, responding to traffic incidents and enforcing tolling and occupancy requirements. At least initially, there is a high likelihood that managers may have to closely monitor how the algorithm responds to changing conditions and override selected functions of the system until its performance is adequately tested. This can occur during the testing period as well as in the first weeks of operation. Over time, it may be necessary to revise adopted processes, to ensure that they are consistent with regional and statewide management policies. The specifics of these processes can be expected to vary from project to project.

7.1.1 Traffic Operations and Management

The operation of priced managed lanes involves a number of situations that require a management response:

  • Increased traffic volumes and densities in the adjacent general-purpose lanes and/or in the managed lanes beyond algorithm limits
  • Non-recurring events, such as minor incidents and crashes on the managed lanes, which can slow or shut down managed lane operations in a particular location due to design constraints
  • Non-recurring events on the general-purpose lanes, which will influence speeds and headways and may create shock demand for the managed lanes’ performance-limited capacity
  • Events of any kind on nearby corridors that likewise shift demand in unpredictable ways

Federal and some state laws require that priced managed lane projects have a clearly defined set of operational goals. These goals form the basis for a performance monitoring program. For each goal, the operating agency should also identify performance measures and related monitoring and data collection needs. Table 7-1 provides example goals and performance measures for priced managed lane operations.

Table 7-1: Goals and Performance Measures For Priced Managed Lane Operations
Goal Possible Performance Measures
Improve Mobility
  • Average speeds
  • Person or vehicular throughput
  • Average travel times
  • Rates of violation
Increase Reliability
  • Speed or travel-time variation
  • Transit “on time” performance
  • Incident clearance times
Improve Safety
  • Number of incidents by type
  • Incident response times
Decrease Environmental Impacts
  • Vehicle miles traveled
  • Fuel consumption
  • Quantities of exhaust pollutants
Preservation of Revenue
  • Gross and net revenue generation
  • Operations costs
  • Revenue leakage
  • Refunds for customer service
  • Refunds for diversion into managed lanes

Monitoring equipment includes systems to collect and process the necessary data to assess priced managed lane performance. At a minimum, roadway detection devices must be capable of frequently and reliably collecting speed, volume, and throughout the project. Operators and algorithms evaluate operating conditions on the facility based on speed and volume characteristics and determine whether the toll or other operating policies need to be modified to ensure optimal performance. For dynamically priced systems, the toll-setting algorithm uses real-time speed and volume data. Operators also look at speed and volume trends over a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to evaluate the performance of fixed by time-of-day pricing strategies.

There are a variety of technologies available to detect traffic conditions at specific points along the corridor. Data collection equipment should be chosen based on cost, accuracy, reliability, maintainability, and the ability to integrate technologies with existing equipment.

Traffic monitoring equipment serve a critical function of alerting managed lane operators to the presence of traffic disruptions. Non-recurring traffic disruptions—such as debris on the roadway or collisions—may warrant a change in toll rates on dynamically priced systems, incident information on variable message signs, and in certain cases, temporary lane closure.

Traffic cameras also serve a critical toll operations role, by confirming that appropriate toll rates and other informational messages are correctly functioning and displayed on variable message signs. Monitoring equipment may also alert operators to the existence of recurring traffic disruptions (i.e., significant slowing at access points), which may warrant a different type of management response.

The level of roadway detection and monitoring capability on priced managed lanes may need to be more extensive than that found on other general-purpose lanes and maintained at a high level of functional reliability. Functional requirements for the detection and monitoring system need to be defined and implemented as part of the ITS and tolling integration systems that support the operations of the priced managed lanes. The functionality and accuracy of monitoring equipment should be tested at regular intervals to ensure that reported data is reliable. This is particularly important for systems that incorporate dynamic pricing algorithms that rely on accurate traffic data to properly set the toll rates.

7.2 Toll Operations

Federal law generally prohibits the imposition of tolls by states on federally funded facilities. Under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) and further mainstreamed by MAP-21, Congress permits exceptions to this general prohibition. The current law permits states and other qualifying agencies to implement tolls on federal-aid highways, tunnels, and bridges that are not on the interstate system. Additionally, on all federal-aid highways including the interstate system, states may implement tolling as a component of either new lanes of capacity or converted HOV lanes, both referred to in this guide as priced managed lanes. This law provides the specifications for the operation of tolling on managed lanes. Federal provisions and guidance for tolling are likely to change over time. The FHWA MAP-21 webpage provides guidance and questions and answers on tolling and is the best repository of current information on tolling and federal practice at the time of this writing.

7.2.1 Toll Policy and Exemptions

In particular, states may allow certain vehicles access to the managed lanes without paying a toll: buses, vanpools, motorcycles, energy-efficient vehicles (Environmental Protection Agency-certified hybrids), and inherently low-emission vehicles (ILEVs). All other vehicles must either meet the occupancy requirement (as carpools) or pay a variably priced toll that meets federal requirements. In order to proceed with a HOT lane implementation, the sponsoring and operating agencies must agree to the following:

  • Establish a program for enrolling customers.
  • Automatically collect tolls from customers (through payments from accounts associated with electronic toll collection and/or license plate recognition).
  • Enforce violations.
  • Vary the toll rate to manage demand (both fixed variable and dynamic pricing systems are eligible).
  • Measure, monitor, and report achievement of performance standards.

In accordance with 23 U.S.C. 166(b)(4), states are required to monitor the impact of SOVs on the operation of priced managed lanes to ensure that the performance of the lanes is not degraded. A managed lane is considered degraded if it fails to operate at a speed of more than 45 mph 90 percent of the time over a consecutive 180-day period during morning and evening peak hour periods. If this occurs, the use by toll-paying vehicles other than HOVs would be restricted until such time as the managed lane is no longer degraded. Actions to improve the performance of the managed lane include enhancing enforcement, altering access by ILEVs and hybrids, increasing occupancy, establishing tolls (if not already done), and raising tolls on additional vehicle classes. The implementation of tolls on a managed lane requires the development and execution of a toll agreement between the state DOT and FHWA, which will contractually obligate the state to distribute revenues to eligible expenses. These provisions remain unchanged under MAP-21.

Two forms of pricing systems have been implemented and are consistent with the federal guidance: fixed variable pricing and dynamic pricing.

Fixed Variable Pricing

Using variable tolls that change at predetermined times of the day has proven to be an effective means of maintaining congestion-free travel in priced managed lanes. Tolls in the priced managed lane are changed on a published schedule, and no pricing algorithm is needed. As regular monitoring reveals that lanes are becoming congested, or are being underutilized, a new toll schedule is developed and published. Transponders are required and, as tolls are collected in the lane, a back-office operation is necessary for real-time toll collection.

The I-25 Express Lanes in Denver, various managed lanes in Houston, and the SR-91 Express Lanes in Orange County (California) each utilize a fixed schedule of toll rates that vary by time of day. In all cases, the fixed variable pricing system has been sufficient for managing congestion in the managed lanes.

Dynamic Pricing

Dynamic pricing is the most sophisticated and complex priced managed lane toll operations. It is also the system that is most capable of maximizing throughput while maintaining congestion-free conditions in the priced managed lane. Dynamic pricing uses real-time volume and speed information from the facility to vary the toll imposed in the managed lane in increments as small as five minutes. When congestion increases, the toll increases. As congestion lessens, tolls are reduced. The toll rate is used as a meter to control the flow of traffic on the managed lanes and maintain free-flow conditions. As tolls increase, the number of paying users decreases and vice versa. Pricing is normally set using a computerized system with a dynamic pricing algorithm. In initial months of implementation, though, the facility’s pricing can be manually controlled from the back office until confidence in the algorithm is assured.

Dynamic pricing requires a significant amount of in-lane equipment as well as a back-office operation to handle transactions, traffic monitoring, and manage the pricing algorithm. Vehicles using the facility and paying the toll must be equipped with a transponder. From an enforcement and revenue perspective, it may desirable (but certainly not necessary based on current experience) to require all vehicles, including carpools, to carry a transponder even if they are allowed free use.

Hybrid Variable Pricing

Finally, it should be noted that operators can mix the two identified types of variable pricing. In one example, such as on I-635 in Dallas, the priced managed lane facility may open with fixed variable pricing so as to provide actuarial data on user response to pricing. This approach is especially helpful for the ongoing tuning of the dynamic pricing algorithm. In turn, the operator uses this actuarial data to refine the parameters of the dynamic pricing algorithm before its deployment in the field. For operators specifying a hybrid pricing solution, the fixed variable pricing scheme is in use for at least 6 months. After toll commencement, the pricing algorithm can operate as a shadow to the fixed pricing, and continue to be tuned, yielding a more stable and mature dynamic pricing system at conversion.

Conversely, other operators have chosen to adopt a permanent hybrid system. On SR-167 in Seattle, for example, WSDOT has chosen to implement a fixed variable pricing schedule as the default pricing system on the facility. Dynamic pricing operates only when traffic patterns warrant a shift from the fixed schedule. This has the benefit of providing travelers with greater predictability of toll rates, yet preserves the operational benefits that dynamic pricing provides the system.

7.2.2 System Operations

Federal law requires the use of ETC on all priced managed lane facilities. In addition to the design specifications as described in Chapter 6, additional system parameters should be addressed towards achieving this system. The operating agency will need to establish a protocol for distributing transponders to and a financial/accounting system to reconcile patron accounts and toll payments attributed to other agencies where reciprocity has been established for toll payments. These functions, whether facilitated by public or private entities, could be performed by that agency or potentially outsourced.

Operating a customer service center coupled with a toll processing center (often called a “back office”) is an essential component for achieving these system operations requirements. Processing tolls and maintain customer accounts involves the creation of software and human capital solutions designed to accommodate the acquisition of traffic and transaction data, assembly of tolls, processing of toll transactions to accounts, and invoicing of customers. Although many operational managed lanes utilize pre-existing toll road systems for customer service and back-office functions, there are nuances to the conduct of priced managed lanes that differ significantly from traditional toll roads. As such, regardless of the chosen processing entity, it should be well understood and codified under operational documentation that priced managed lanes must account for assembled toll trips, not single point toll transactions, and do so without incurring cumulative transaction costs for the assembly. Additionally, the operations of dynamic pricing introduces a disproportionately higher level of complexity—from maintaining the performance of the toll algorithm, to ensuring the correct prices are displayed to customers, to creating and sustaining linkages between toll, traffic, and incident operations, and finally to providing a reasonable basis by which customers may manage charges to their accounts.

For customer service, motorists generally establish accounts and obtain transponders by telephone or over the Internet. In certain cases, they are also available at a customer service center or through brokers, such as grocery stores and other third parties. Payment policies also need to be established; operating agencies find it to their advantage to require users to pay via credit or debit accounts. [13] Similarly, priced managed lane operators will also need to determine whether or not motorists should be required to pay a fee to obtain the transponder itself, or, an additional surcharge if using alternative toll collection systems, such as those associated with ALPRs. Achieving desired transponder penetration in the customer base is a critical function for the priced managed lanes operator, which often involves identifying the correct mix of incentives and requirements. In certain cases, priced managed lane operators may use a regionwide automated toll collection system. If this is the case, the agency will need to adhere to the distribution policies and window placement guidelines established by the regional consortium of tolling agencies that use the technology.

Given that all tolls are collected electronically and involve no cash transactions, internal accounting procedures for priced managed lanes are simpler than those required by legacy toll facilities that still collect tolls from cashiers or automated coin machines. Reporting functions associated with toll operations, including reconciliation and auditing, can be challenging with a simple toll system, let alone a dynamically priced, trip-based, priced managed lanes toll system. Operators must also account for general system monitoring and reporting, especially for performance monitoring of the system, as MAP-21 established an annually reporting requirement to the USDOT for all priced managed lane operators. As back-office software solutions are developed, subsystems should also be developed to automate reports.

The back-office systems are capable of instigating credit card transactions, generating invoices, and compiling detailed reports allowing agency officials to track all financial activity and performance metrics as required under federal, state, and other laws or policies. If the priced managed lane operator is participating in a regionwide automated toll collection system, the facility will be assigned a use code that will be included in all transactions in order to distinguish it from other tolled facilities. In such cases, the facilities share the same transponder technology, same accounting database, and same outlets for purchasing and subscribing to the various programs (although there are some unique exceptions to this at each locale). Experience shows that use of priced managed lanes is made more convenient if the transponders for a project are the same as for other toll facilities in a given locale or region. Furthermore, MAP-21 has established that the United States will have a nationally interoperable toll payment system by September 2016.

7.3 Enforcement Operations

Enforcement of moving violations are generally no different for priced managed lanes than they are for other freeway enforcement activities. Speeding, illegal crossing of solid white lines (such as buffer separations), and other associated infractions are pursued and apprehended as consistent with each state’s statutes and procedures. In the context of priced managed lanes, the primary enforcement functions are to maintain desired traffic service levels, maximize compliance with user policies and minimize revenue leakage. This is primarily accomplished through robust vehicle occupancy rate and toll evasion enforcement. Without effective enforcement strategies and countermeasures to minimize willful violations of pricing and occupancy policies, the financial integrity and credit worthiness of the priced managed lane may be jeopardized. Visible enforcement efforts also promote and maintain public acceptance of managed lanes.

Agencies sponsoring priced managed lane projects should coordinate early on with enforcement agencies as well as the local judicial system to agree upon enforcement strategies and policies and the degree to which state and local law allow these processes to be automated or safely addressed with field personnel. Enforcement issues can also be vetted through concept of operations process described in Section 2.3.1.

7.3.1 Manual Enforcement

Manual enforcement involves placing police officers in the field to monitor traffic and apprehend violators of various infractions. On some priced managed lanes, visible beacons are installed in toll zones to assist officers with identifying vehicles that have not successfully processed a toll transaction. In turn, the officers observe passing vehicles allowed free use to ensure that they meet the occupancy requirements for the facility in lieu of toll payment. Some projects provide designated enforcement monitoring zones requiring specific design attention; others provide shoulders, hand-held technologies and other provisions to allow some of the enforcement activities to occur more randomly along the corridor or even from roving patrols. This level of enforcement need not be present at all operational times. Indeed, as indicated in the case studies, some operating agencies use targeted, part-time patrols during peak periods, which has been sufficient in generating acceptable rates of compliance. In most situations, operational facilities use toll revenue and enforcement fines to cover the incremental costs necessary to provide for the increased levels of enforcement.

Due to the unique attributes of each corridor, specific enforcement needs may vary. The level and magnitude of enforcement needed is based on the design and operational characteristics of each individual corridor. As a result, operating agencies will determine procedures, processes, locations, and frequency of designated enforcement based on discussions with local enforcement personnel who are most familiar with the unique characteristics and needs of each corridor.

7.3.2 Automated Enforcement

Automated enforcement strategies complement manual activities by limiting in-field enforcement personnel’s responsibilities to occupancy verification and other traffic violations (i.e., illegal buffer crossings). Increasingly, ALPR systems are used concurrent with electronic toll collection to enforce toll violations. On the I-95 Express Lanes, SR-91 Express Lanes, and I-25 Express Lanes, cameras capture license plate images of vehicles that do not display a recognizable transponder. The license plate images of these vehicles are used to determine whether the vehicle is registered to an account, in which case the toll is automatically deducted. If the vehicle license plate is not associated with an active account then the license plate number is processed through the Department of Motor Vehicles database to locate an address to send an invoice to collect payment. In this way, ALPR removes the responsibility of toll violation enforcement from officers in the field.

The use of ALPR requires a way to identify vehicle occupancy since a picture of a license plate alone cannot do this. Identification can be done through vehicle registration or occupancy declaration. The use of occupancy self-declaration (“switchable”) transponders is one method increasingly endorsed by priced managed lane operations, including upcoming implementations on I-10 and I-110 in Los Angeles, I-495 in northern Virginia, and I-25 and U.S. 36 in Denver. Drivers will self-declare their vehicle occupancy using a switching mechanism on the transponder, and the toll system will recognize the occupancy setting and assess the appropriate toll. Although this process avoids the requirement of constructing declaration lanes and allows for automated enforcement opportunities, this approach requires that all carpool users register and carry the switchable transponder. Non-switchable transponders will also work on these managed lanes, although they will not allow users to declare as an HOV or receive toll-free access.

Although the use of ALPR and switchable transponders automate toll violation enforcement, police officers will still need to perform occupancy enforcement. Since technology to automate vehicle occupancy verification is still experimental and will likely not be available for large-scale implementation in the near future, police officers will still need to verify the occupancy of vehicles that self-declare as carpools. Operating agencies have deployed an in-field beacon on toll gantries that alert observing police officers to the status of the transponder read for each toll transaction. These beacons contain a set of lights that indicate whether an HOV transaction was processed, signaling the need for the police officer to inspect the vehicle and confirm that it meets occupancy requirements.

The principal benefit of this system is to remove the responsibility of enforcing tag misreads and non-reads from police officers, yielding:

  • Increased effectiveness and safety of violation enforcement. Toll collection enforcement would be via ALPR technologies, allowing enforcement personnel to concentrate solely on occupancy enforcement. This represents a simplification of enforcement over contemporary operations, reducing total number of personnel required to maintain enforcement operations, and reduces the absolute number of vehicles per lane for which enforcement personnel must observe occupancies. Furthermore, the number of improper traffic stops can be reduced when the user has a tag misread and appears to be a violator.
  • Maintained travel-time benefit for carpoolers and bus riders. Regular carpoolers and bus riders benefit from a better level of service. Reducing the number of violators and placing a value upon all use of the priced managed lanes helps the facility operate at its best performance for the original beneficiaries of the managed lanes concept.
  • Improved viability of the facilities. In the short term, violations artificially increase the toll rate, as violators remove available capacity for sale. In the long term, violators decrease the available capacity for HOVs, as significant violations may force the conversion of the facilities to higher occupancy classifications. As a result, reducing the number of violators through the enforcement program benefits the facilities in both the short-term and long-term.

7.3.3 Moving Violations

Besides toll and occupancy violation, police officers enforce other moving violations to maintain safety and enhanced operating conditions. The implementation of priced managed lanes adds new and unique enforcement duties to their responsibilities. From both a safety and financial perspective, one of the most important of these new responsibilities will be the enforcement of priced managed lane access to ensure that vehicles enter and exit only at designated locations, such as breaks in buffer or barrier separation.

Illegal buffer crossings pose a safety risk for vehicles in both the priced managed lanes and the adjacent general-purpose lanes, and can represent a source of revenue leakage if vehicles bypass toll zones to avoid payment. However, WSDOT and MnDOT have operated priced managed lanes with minimal buffer separation for years on SR-167 and I-394, and on neither facility has there been substantial reported revenue loss due to weaving. Additionally, research on SR-167 by WSDOT indicates that illegal buffer crossings are more typically found with drivers entering the managed lane, rather than illegally existing the facility. Part of these findings may be based upon the conversion of previously continuous access HOV lanes to buffer-separated managed lanes. For these and other situations like them, informative marketing and signage is necessary to educate drivers about the locations of priced managed lane access points to minimize buffer crossings that are a result of driver confusion.

7.4 Incident Management

Effective and responsive incident management protocols are critical for the successful operation of priced managed lanes. In order to provide reliable, time-saving travel for users, not only must priced managed lanes maintain enhanced operating conditions during recurring congested periods, but they must also be managed effectively during non-recurring events or incidents to ensure that users are not adversely affected. And since many of these users will be toll-paying customers, it is important that the value of the managed lanes be maintained so customers can enjoy the benefits for which they paid. Without incident management protocols, the integrity and reputation of the priced managed lanes can be compromised leading to low public acceptance and reduced revenue potential.

Priced managed lanes must be equipped with incident surveillance and detection equipment, monitored by observant (and preferably dedicated) staff at least during periods of peak demand, and staffed with trained and experienced responders with drills and exercises to improve responsiveness and safety. If construction is anticipated in the proximity of the priced managed lanes, operators should incorporate 24-hour service patrols, temporary collision investigation sites, immediate-tow rules and procedures, and agreements with construction contractors to assist in clearance of debris.

The incident management process provides coordination among the various agencies responsible for incident management functions to ensure safe and efficient responses. The intention is to ensure that incidents that affect priced managed lane operations are handled efficiently and are properly communicated to operators. The following describes a typical incident response plan for priced managed lanes:

  • Detection. The focal point for initial awareness of an emergency incident or situation is likely to be the local police dispatch system, which is staffed 24/7 and fields calls from police officers and citizens via the 911 emergency system. However, the automated sensing capabilities of the priced managed lanes introduces a secondary level of incident awareness, depending upon the coverage of the sensing equipment and frequency of system interaction with managed lane users within the facility.
  • Categorization. Police dispatch will categorize the incident and create a new entry that reflects the description as provided. Priced managed lane operators will be alerted by either active monitoring of the dispatch log or direct lines of communication within a traffic management center (TMC). In some instances, courtesy patrols may address the incident before a report has been made to police dispatch. If there is no discernible effect on traffic flow nor need for police presence at the site, these incidents may be cleared without being logged.
  • Response. Incident response is dictated by the severity of the incident, which can generally be classified as minor or major. Minor incidents such as a stalled vehicle or minor debris on the roadway will likely not require a manual override of managed lane operations to execute a response. However, it is important that managed lane operators receive detailed information about the time and location of the incident in case there are adverse impacts on operations during incident response. Major incidents such as injury accidents or hazardous spills may require the police responders to use the managed lanes to divert traffic while the response is being executed. In these cases, managed lane operators will need to initiate a manual override of tolling equipment to display the appropriate information about the use of the lane. The implications of diversion and override decisions upon revenue and facility performance should be identified in operations documentation.
  • Clearance. Throughout the clearance of the incident, the police officer or other responsible responder is in control and will initiate all necessary actions, as applicable, to address the emergency or situation that has arisen. After the conclusion of the event, it is vital that records are kept as information is passed, decisions are made, and the incident/situation develops. Once normal operations resume, the managed lane operators return to normal operating mode and normal signage. In many circumstances, the police officer may briefly use the managed lanes to provide access to emergency responders, or may direct general traffic into managed lanes. Although these situations do not typically escalate to police dispatch, the managed lane operators may still require knowledge of these actions and/or observations in order to properly process account adjustments. The incident management plan and concept of operations for the priced managed lanes facility should identify a communication protocol for these situations.
  • Accounting. At the conclusion of the incident, some projects have policies where they try to address tolls charged to customers either in response to customers filing complaints or proactively through a review of the event log. Practices vary widely based on current experiences.

7.5 Maintenance Operations

Maintenance of the toll equipment, software, traffic sensing, and related toll enforcement systems for priced managed lanes requires specialized attention, which may be specific in nature to the technology deployed by the tolling integrator and systems vendor for each facility. This technology may also be employed in other lanes of the roadway. For example, dynamic tolling requires collecting significant amounts of data across multiple lanes of traffic (managed lanes and general-purpose lanes) in order to operate effectively. Maintenance on toll collection equipment is usually conducted at night during periods of low utilization when lanes can be closed. These tightly integrated systems require a high level of reliability and preventative maintenance. Performing preventative maintenance helps avoid unforeseen equipment outages. Every attempt should be made to provide maintenance access off the roadway to equipment cabinets so that access to devices does not requiring lane closures. In addition, adding in redundancy—more toll readers and detectors than are needed—is another strategy being used on project such as I-85 in Atlanta in order to avoid outages.

In addition to the tolling and enforcement systems, priced managed lane corridors feature virtually continuous installation of ITS technologies, including sensor loops, independent closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems for traffic / incident monitoring, ramp metering, active traffic management, and other traffic control systems, often under the purview of the region’s traffic management center. Typically, the priced managed lane operator will have no role in the maintenance of regional ITSs, unless the TMC and managed lane operator are integrated with one another. Similarly, issues pertaining to communications networks can affect the priced managed lane operator. In these situations, the operator and the appropriate entities should establish appropriate performance guidelines within the facility’s concept of operations and interagency agreements.

7.6 Supporting Technologies

Increasingly, priced managed lanes may be implemented concurrent with other efforts for transportation systems, management, and operations.

7.6.1 Active Traffic Management

Whereas priced managed lane facility design often involves design trade-offs, future managed lane networks may rely upon an aggressive deployment of ATM strategies, such as hard shoulder running, to complement the use of pricing for capacity expansion and overall corridor operations. Based upon established practice in Europe and demonstrated initially on I-5 in Seattle (as seen in Figure 7-1), ATM has since been deployed on I-35W in Minneapolis and I-90 and State Route 520 in Seattle with support from the UPA and CRD programs. ATM is useful as a safety and operational mitigation device in the use of shoulder lanes for priced managed lanes. Priced managed lane operations are able to benefit from selective application of available ATM strategies, notably connector and ramp metering, lane control signals, queue warning, and variable speed limits (speed harmonization).

Figure 7-1: Active Traffic Management Deployed on I-5 in Seattle

A photograph of interstate lanes with an overhead truss indicating a speed limit over each travel lane, the four right lanes are signed at 40 mph and the left lane is signed at 55 mph.
Source: Parsons Brinckerhoff

Altogether, the use of speed harmonization, queue warning, connector and ramp metering, and lane control signalization constitutes a managed corridor, whereby traffic patterns are affected across all lanes of travel. This managed corridor, though, may still benefit from priced managed lanes within the corridor. Much like a similar application implemented along I-35W in Minneapolis, these managed corridor treatments increase efficiency and improve operational safety. As applied on I-35W, the inside shoulder is expanded to 14 feet, with use allowed for eligible traffic during peak periods, reverting to breakdown / refuge only in off-peak periods. Coordinated Active Traffic Management and Transportation Demand Management is used to manage flows, and provide warnings of downstream incidents. Additionally, emergency refuge areas are constructed every ¼-mile whenever an interchange is not available downstream. This design section not only assists in implementing a managed lane, but it also serves as a mitigating tool for safety concerns.

7.6.2 Integrated Corridor Management

One notable development concerning traffic management and the provision of priced managed lanes is ICM. Transportation corridors often contain excess capacity along parallel routes, in the nonpeak direction on freeways and arterials, and in buses, vanpools, and passenger vehicles. Efficient use of this capacity can help manage congestion throughout the corridor. ICM optimizes the use of existing infrastructure assets and leverages unused capacity. With ICM, transportation professionals manage the transportation corridor as a multimodal system, rather than taking the more traditional approach of managing individual assets.

ICM strategies provide travelers with information encompassing the entire transportation network in order to enable the proactive multimodal management of infrastructure assets. Travelers dynamically shift to alternative transportation options—even during a trip—in response to changing traffic conditions. For example, while driving in a future ICM corridor, a traveler could be informed in advance of congestion ahead on that route and alternative transportation options, such as a nearby transit facility’s location, timing, and parking availability. Priced managed lanes are integral to this concept, as they provide enhanced levels of service within the roadway infrastructure that can be accessed and leveraged by the ICM system.

Transportation corridors often contain unused capacity in the form of parallel routes, the nonpeak direction on freeways and arterials, single-occupant vehicles, and transit services that could be leveraged to help manage congestion. Traffic information today is often fragmented, outdated or not completely useful. ICM is a strategy that seeks to optimize the use of existing infrastructure assets and leverage unused capacity along our nation’s urban corridors. With ICM, transportation professionals manage the transportation corridor as a multimodal system—rather than taking the more traditional approach of managing individual assets. The USDOT has called ICM “the next logical step in congestion management.”

Since 2007, the USDOT has partnered with various sites to develop, deploy and evaluate ICM concepts in eight of our nation’s busiest corridors. In 2009, U.S. 75 in Dallas and I-15 in San Diego were selected to actively demonstrate and evaluate ICM strategies. In both cases, the corridors will incorporate a combination of HOV, tolling, value pricing, active traffic management, and transit services (Dallas focusing on light rail whereas San Diego will incorporate bus rapid transit). The USDOT ICM Initiative aims to advance the state of the practice in transportation corridor operations to manage congestion. This initiative will provide the institutional guidance, operational capabilities, ITS technology and technical methods needed for effective ICM systems. In an ICM corridor, because of proactive multimodal management of infrastructure assets, travelers and shippers could receive information that encompasses the entire transportation network. Travelers could then dynamically shift to alternative transportation options—even during a trip—in response to changing traffic conditions. For example, while driving in a future ICM corridor, a traveler could be informed in advance of congestion ahead on that route and be informed of alternative transportation options such as a nearby transit facility’s location, timing and parking availability.

7.7 Transit Operations

Riders on buses and vanpools within priced managed lanes are users and beneficiaries of their operational performance. Improvements to travel times and travel-time reliability for buses help increase transit ridership and lower transit providers costs to transit providers. In certain situations the revenue generated by priced managed lanes may also be used to fund enhanced transit services. In fact, with many operating facilities, demonstrating an improvement in transit capacity and service was critical to gaining public support for the managed lanes. As such, operators may coordinate plans for enhancing transit service with the development of priced managed lane improvements. These improvements may include BRT, as well as other technology-dependent strategies to improve service and provide better information to transit riders. Coordination with transit providers is facilitated through the concepts of operations described earlier in Section 2.3.1. Under the right conditions transit improvements leverage the benefits of priced managed lanes, but this requires close coordination and often the deployment of the strategies described below.

7.7.1 Dynamic Transit Operations

Dynamic transit operations overall seek to expand transportation options by leveraging available services from multiple modes of transportation. Travelers are able to request a trip via a handheld mobile device and have itineraries containing multiple transportation services (public transportation modes, private transportation services, shared ride, walking and biking) sent to them via the same handheld device. This type of enhanced traveler information builds upon existing technology systems such as computer-aided dispatch/automatic vehicle location systems and automated scheduling software, all of which have been a mainstay for transit operations. However, in order to facilitate dynamic transit operations they need to be expanded to incorporate business and organizational structures that aim to better coordinate transportation services in a region. Once implemented, this form of dynamic transit operations will enhance communications with travelers to enable them receive the broadest range of travel options when making a trip.

Priced managed lanes directly contribute to specific travel-time reliability and assurance such that dynamic transit operations can occur. The intent is to improve rider satisfaction and reduce expected trip time for multimodal travelers by increasing the probability of automatic intermodal or intra-modal connections. This strategy protects transfers between both transit (e.g., bus, subway, and commuter rail) and non-transit (e.g., shared-ride modes) modes, and facilitates coordination between multiple agencies to accomplish the tasks. In certain situations, integration with other dynamic transit operational strategies may be required to coordinate connections between transit and non-transit modes. Dynamic transit operations is an element of USDOT’s Connected Vehicle Initiative.

7.7.2 Real-Time Ridematching/Dynamic Ridesharing

Today, slightly more than 10 percent of Americans commute to work by carpool, and carpooling rates have declined steadily since 1980, when 20 percent of Americans shared rides for the journey to work. [14] The decline in carpooling levels is most commonly attributed to the fact that workers today have increasingly variable work schedules that can change on a daily or weekly basis. Unpredictable work schedules are incompatible with fixed plans required for traditional carpooling.

Today’s ubiquitous information and communications technologies provide a platform from which a new range of dynamic ridematching [15] services have emerged to facilitate the formation of carpools in “real-time.” Real-time ridematching (RTR) matches drivers and riders at the time of (during or directly prior to) the taking of a trip. Unlike traditional ridesharing. RTR does not require commuters to commit to a single carpool with fixed routes and schedules, rather it facilitates the matching of riders and drivers on an ad-hoc basis, based on availability of seats and a common origin-destination pattern. While these services greatly expand options for commuters, they do not modify the basic dynamics of prearranged carpools, which still requires substantial coordination among participants and severely constrains schedule flexibility.

The primary enabler of RTR today is smartphone technology, which permits the matching of riders and drivers in real-time through the coalescence of location-based services, cashless payment, incentives and rewards tracking, secure identification, matching by affinities and relationships, and user ratings/ crowdsourcing (Figure 7-2). RTR represents the natural technological evolution of carpooling and has the promise of substantial social and environmental benefits. If technology is the enabler of RTR, then incentives are the catalyst to making it succeed. Success in a RTR program is dependent upon creating an incentive for drivers to abandon their single-occupancy vehicle habits, and to share their seats with riders that they may not know. Combining direct financial incentives with the convenience of real-time matching of riders and drivers has the potential to dramatically decrease the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road.

RTR has the potential compliment priced managed lane facilities as it gives single occupant motorists the opportunity to carpool with ride sharers, thereby allowing them to use the priced managed lane at no cost or for a reduced fee.

Figure 7-2: A Ridematching Smartphone Application used in Seattle

A photograph of a smartphone with an application pulled up on the smartphone for ridematching.
Source: Avego


[13] In order to avoid unfair equity bias against individuals who do not have credit cards or bank accounts many operators also accept cash towards prepaid accounts. Back to reference 13.

[14] In order to avoid unfair equity bias against individuals who do not have credit cards or bank accounts many operators also accept cash towards prepaid accounts Back to reference 14.

[15] Dynamic ridesharing is defined as a market package as ATIS8 in the National IT Architecture. See, “The National ITS Architecture.” Version 6.0, May 2007 update. Back to reference 15.