Office of Operations Active Transportation and Demand Management

The Active Transportation and Demand Management Program (ATDM): Lessons Learned

3.0 Moving from Idea to Implementation

When deploying ATDM, certain elements are beneficial to help ensure success. To that end, early adopters of ATDM in the United States provided insight into prerequisites for implementation, the project development process, resources to sustain the concept, and benefits they have seen as a result of ATDM. Specific enquiries focused on the following:

  • What were some important attributes that allowed buy-in for the concept?

  • What procedures were used for project planning, development, design, and procurement? What are some lessons and success factors?

  • Who are your key internal and external stakeholders?

  • How have you approached the planning of your project? Which agencies and partners have been parts of that process?

  • What were the goals and objectives of the implementation?

  • Do you feel that those objectives have been met?

  • What do you see as the primary external public benefits (e.g., to the traveling public or broader society) of the implementation? Were these benefits expected or unexpected?

  • What do you see as the primary internal agency benefits (e.g., more effective at your jobs, cost efficiencies, improved agency perception/reputation, improved worker safety)?

  • What do you see as the primary internal agency costs/dis-benefits (e.g., higher maintenance and operations costs, more staff required, degraded agency perception/reputation)?

  • What measures of effectiveness did you use/do you plan to use to assess the success of the implementation?

  • How have you approached securing the funding of your implementation?

This chapter provides a summary of the viewpoints of early adopters regarding these issues. The following projects are summarized:

  • Minnesota: I-35W ATM project in Minneapolis – This project, as shown in Figure 5, involved the opening of an HOT lane segment in the Crosstown Commons section of I-35W South between Highway 13 and downtown Minneapolis, which provided a 16-mi HOT lane in the northbound direction and a 14-mi HOT lane in the southbound direction. The installation included the creation of a PDSL and the display of advisory speed limits in the corridor (ATM). (7)

    Figure 5.  Minnesota:  priced dynamic shoulder lane on I-35.  Photograph of signage identifying a priced dynamic shoulder lane on I-35 in Minnesota.
    Figure 5. Minnesota: priced dynamic shoulder lane on I-35.
    Source: MnDOT
  • Washington: I-5, SR-520, and I-90 ATM deployments in Seattle – The project featured the installation of ATM on I-5, SR-520, and I-90 in Seattle. As shown in Figure 6, the installation included lane control, DMS, and enforceable speed limit signage to alert drivers of delays and to direct drivers out of incident-blocked lanes. (8) The installations on SR-520 and I-90 were part of the FHWA Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) project.

    Figure 6.  Washington:  ATM on I-5.  Photograph of an ATM installation along I-5 in Washington.
    Figure 6. Washington: ATM on I-5.
    Source: Texas A&M Transportation Institute
  • California: Junction Control on the Northbound SR-110 Connector to Northbound I-5 in Los Angeles – The project involved the installation of time-of-day junction control in the northbound connector from SR-110 to northbound I-5 in Los Angeles. The project, implemented by Caltrans and shown in Figure 7, was intended to improve safety and mobility on the connector and to eliminate the occurrence of drivers traveling on the shoulder of the connector during peak periods.

    Figure 7.  California:  junction control on northbound SR-110.  Photographs:  junction of SR-110 and I-5 in Los Angeles; signage above the roadway used in the time-of-day junction control.
    Figure 7. California: junction control on northbound SR-110.
    Source: Caltrans
  • California: SFpark – SFpark is a demand-based parking pricing system deployed in downtown San Francisco with the intent to reduce traffic congestion related to parking. Using ITS technologies such as parking occupancy sensors, networked parking meters, and real-time parking information, parking prices are modified based on demand to optimize occupancy. (9)

  • Georgia: HOT Lanes on I-85 in Atlanta – The Atlanta project involved the conversion of existing HOV lanes on I-85 into dynamically priced HOT lanes called express lanes. The project is located on a 16-mi portion of northeast I-85 from Chamblee Tuck Road to Old Peachtree Road. (10)

3.1 Keys Attributes for Success

Numerous factors have played into the success of the ATDM projects across the country. For instance, Minnesota credits strong partnerships and a multiagency organizational structure—with strong support from agency leaders—as helping the project from the outset. Partner agencies capitalized on strong working relationships to successfully implement and operate the project. The project’s diverse partners included MnDOT; the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council; Metro Transit; the City of Minneapolis; Minnesota Valley Transit Authority; Anoka, Dakota, Ramsey, and Hennepin counties; the Center for Transportation Studies; the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota; and the transportation management organizations in the area.

With the UPA installation in Washington, leaders in the partner agencies (WSDOT, King County, Washington State Patrol, Puget Sound Regional Council, University of Washington, Washington State House and Washington State Senate, and Washington Transportation Commission) saw the need for the project in the beginning and were willing to pursue it in the political arena to ensure that it met the requirements for FHWA UPA funding. This need was supported by the preexisting regional strategies targeting mobility and effective investment in strategic capacity, operating existing assets more efficiently, and managing demand. (8) Strong partnerships and regular communication were the foundation of the project and helped ensure that the ATM projects and their related implementations met with success as well.

Relationships, partnerships, teamwork, and continual outreach are key attributes for success.

In Los Angeles, internal teamwork helped ensure the success of the project, with one group concentrating on the safety aspects and another concentrating on the mobility and operations aspects. The selling point for the project that garnered buy-in was the fact that the project would address a major crash problem at the interchange of the northbound SR-110 connector to northbound I-5. The interchange, which is a left-hand exit onto northbound I-5, is one where demand exceeds capacity. Problems were arising with drivers jumping the queue on the connector by using the shoulder to form a second lane at the split. Caltrans realized that the need for the additional capacity was only during the peak period. Thus, staff decided to formally open the second lane going into the connector during the peak period. Any major reconstruction of the connector was not feasible given the geography of the interchange and the inability to realign the ramp. The project was justified given that its intent was to improve safety and mobility at the interchange, recognizing that they go hand in hand.

Intra-agency coordination helped move the SFpark project forward, and the UPA project provided the region with the opportunity to advance the congestion pricing discussion. (9) The challenges with the project lay in the fact that the project scope shifted, modifying the roles and responsibilities of the partners and increasing tensions related to project ownership and authority. USDOT was asked to increase its coordinating role to help overcome some of these challenges as the partner agencies felt isolated. Furthermore, the overall challenges with inter-agency coordination limited joint outreach efforts. Despite these challenges, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) saw this project as a new way of doing business and increased their ability to work internally to coordinate activities. (9) The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) valued the project and thus allowed it to deliver enhancements to the 511 program, with the UPA project closing a funding gap.

Preexisting relationships among the partners in Georgia helped facilitate the HOT lane project, and clearly defined roles and responsibilities ensured continual cooperation. (10) A shared commitment for the project also helped maintain the strong partnerships among the various partners: the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, State Road and Tollway Authority, Atlanta Regional Commission, Georgia Department of Public Safety, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Gwinnett County Government, Clean Air Campaign, and Georgia Institute of Technology. The past successful working relationships between these partners helped spell success for the project. The project presented an opportunity to implement a strategy to reduce congestion using pricing, which was new to the region. All of the partners agreed on the selected facility and the fact that it offered an excellent opportunity to move forward to reduce congestion in the absence of the funds to increase capacity. Stakeholders also concurred that the hands-on role of USDOT helped keep the project moving forward, and strong support from elected officials was invaluable as well. (10)

3.2 Goals and Objectives of Implementation

The first and perhaps most critical step in moving forward with an ATDM project is the establishment of project goals and objectives. Without these components, agencies will struggle with communicating the concept to stakeholders and partners and will not have a benchmark against which the project can be measured. Those agencies that have implemented ATDM strategies clearly established goals and objectives early in the project development. For example, the Minnesota UPA projects, of which ATM was a component, focused on reducing traffic congestion on the I-35W corridor and in downtown Minneapolis. Twenty-four multimodal projects were planned and implemented in tandem to facilitate this goal, including the PDSL intended to increase HOT lane usage in the region via connectivity to downtown.

The goal of the ATM project on I-5 was to improve operations and reduce crashes. The overall goal of the Seattle UPA projects, which included ATM implementation, was to reduce traffic congestion along the Lake Washington Corridor. Another example is that the primary goals for the Los Angeles project were to improve safety and mobility on the connector. The goal of the SFpark project was to reduce traffic congestion related to parking in downtown San Francisco. The objectives were to increase parking availability, reduce the number and duration of vehicle trips, and reduce double parking. (9)

The goal of the Atlanta Congestion Reduction Demonstration (CRD) project was to reduce traffic congestion in the I-85 corridor, primarily by introducing congestion pricing on the facility by converting the HOV lane to a HOT lane. By enhancing transit availability and facilities in the corridor, it was anticipated that congestion would decrease on I-85 in the project section and reliability would improve. In each of these instances, the implementing agency had clear, concise, and measurable goals and objectives that resonated with stakeholders and the public at large. This approach helps ensure that agencies focus on a consistent message that carries through the entire project and works in tandem with regional transportation goals.

3.3 Measures of Effectiveness and Benefits

Once an agency establishes goals and objectives for a project, the companion step is for the agency to select appropriate measures of effectiveness (MOEs) to determine if the project meets those goals and objectives. The selection of MOEs also drives the data that an agency must collect to calculate the MOEs and the equipment that must be installed to gather such data. Furthermore, the MOEs help an agency communicate with stakeholders and the public regarding the project and its realized benefits.

measuring tape
Measures of effectiveness help an agency determine success in meeting project goals and objectives.

Specific MOEs for the MnDOT project include volumes in the HOT lanes and the number of vehicles violating the occupancy requirements. Evaluation results indicate that use of the HOT lanes and PDSL by MnPASS users has increased since opening, and that MnPASS users have resulted in increased vehicle volumes in the HOT lanes. At the same time, significant numbers of carpools, vanpools, and buses use the HOT lanes at no cost during the morning peak hours. (7) The number of vehicles violating the occupancy requirements has declined over time. From the perspective of transit, the new and expanded park-and-ride lots have helped to increase usage, and bus ridership on routes serving the I-35W South park-and-ride lots has increased by 13 percent. Increased operating speeds for transit in the downtown area have been reported as well as increased operating speeds and reduced travel times in the HOT lanes. From an agency perspective, the partners see the project as a testament to the strong working relationships that are normal for the community and illustrate that they can successfully work through a complex project with diligence, communication, and collaboration.

The measures of effectiveness identified for the Washington UPA project include travel time and travel speeds, travel time reliability and variability, spatial and temporal extent of congestion, vehicle and person throughput, and user perception of congestion on facilities crossing Lake Washington. (8) Early analyses of the project indicate that average daily traffic volumes have decreased in the SR-520 corridor and reliability has improved in terms of median travel times and the 95th percentile travel time on SR-520. Median travel speeds have also increased. The ATM project on I-5 was intended to improve mobility in the corridor and help reduce crashes on the congested facility. Early findings have indicated that travel reliability has improved. Anecdotally, the ATM system was beneficial during a major closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct as part of a reconstruction project. It has also improved merging at congested on-ramps in the downtown area. Overall, the traveling public has accepted the ATM signage, but some confusion remains regarding how to interpret the displayed variable speed limits when they are higher than actual travel speeds. (8)

The primary MOEs for the Los Angeles project are safety (crash rates) and delay on the connector (minutes). The primary benefits to the public have been an increase in safety and mobility on the connector. The SR-110 connector project has helped staff look beyond traditional solutions to address unique problems. Their hope is that it encourages more innovative thinking and risk-taking in the region in terms of trying a new approach. A project like this encourages others to pursue their own ideas of what they can do in terms of innovative solutions and look at different ways they can do their job.

SFpark has a primary MOE of parking occupancy. This measure is the percent of time that a parking space is occupied by vehicles. Preliminary analyses conducted as part of the UPA evaluation suggest that pricing appears to be shifting parking to blocks experiencing a price decrease, but the magnitude of that impact seems to be site specific. (9) Another trend seen is that the shift appears to be somewhat larger in parking areas served by large employment centers rather than area wide.

The MOEs for GDOT’s Express Lanes are travel time and travel speeds, travel time reliability, vehicle throughput, and user perception of congestion on I-85. Preliminary results from the UPA evaluation indicate that express lanes have been successful, though more definitive results are yet to come. To date, volume on the express lanes is growing, and lane performance has either improved or not degraded compared to when the facility operated as an HOV lane. (10) The related transit improvements also appear to have helped make the project a success. Transit service performance has improved since the opening of the I-85 express lanes. Park-and-ride lot use has increased in three of the four lots for which data are available, and average weekday ridership for bus routes that use the express lanes has increased in the peak periods since the opening of the facilities. (10)

3.4 Project Dis-benefits

ATDM projects may have some unforeseen impacts or disbenefits that require agencies to modify operations, consider different approaches for current or future applications, or implement mitigation strategies.

ATDM projects may have some unforeseen impacts or dis-benefits that require agencies to modify operations, consider different approaches for current or future applications, or implement mitigation strategies. Learning how other agencies have handled unanticipated challenges and dis-benefits can help agencies considering similar ATDM applications. Agencies can use past experience to identify methods to overcome potential drawbacks prior to implementation and to establish policies and procedures to mitigate future challenges.

The speed harmonization that sets variable advisory speed limits (implemented in Minnesota) often results in lower speed limits being posted than might ordinarily operate on the corridor. These lower speed limits result in slower speeds and longer travel times on I-35W South. This result conflicts with those expected from the other improvements in the corridor, which are intended to increase speeds and reduce travel times. (7) It is likely that these operational improvements may result in improved trip-time reliability and increased throughput, though the complex implementation of the diverse improvements in the corridor make it impossible to fully assess the impacts of these individual competing strategies.

Operational support for the ATM systems in Washington has most likely had the largest impact on WSDOT. As a result of implementing ATM, 3.5 full-time employees were added to the regional traffic management center, and operations migrated to 24/7 operations. The number of electronic signs increased from 60 to 300, which increased the agency’s maintenance budget and responsibilities. WSDOT has made efforts to secure dedicated funds for maintenance of the ATM system to ensure that operations do not suffer over the long term.

The largest dis-benefit from the Los Angeles project is maintenance. The topography and physical attributes of the corridor make the system a challenge to maintain, and staff members are hesitant to make maintenance calls for the implementation, especially for anything that requires a lane closure. The in-pavement lighting and dynamic message signs are also a maintenance challenge. Operations personnel have worked diligently to meet with maintenance personnel to work out these issues, and they believe that many of the issues have been mitigated. The nature of the project means that the agency has devices that they have not used before in this application, which presents a challenge and is maintenance-intensive. A good lesson learned is that if the agency plans to deploy this in the future, maintenance input will be valuable from the beginning.

Another challenge of the Los Angeles project has been the fact that operations personnel were not familiar with overseeing the operation of such a unique deployment, so they may not have had the necessary skills to be as efficient as possible. Engineers and TMC staff are responsible for overseeing operations and assessing how the project has impacted mobility, travel time, speeds, delay, etc. This type of project requires analyzing data and operations differently, and staff may not necessarily have the skills or expertise to be able to say how it should operate.

The most significant challenge associated with the SFpark project was the organizational tensions between the partners. The project shifted focus away from a major road pricing and reconstruction project to a demand-based parking project. This shift meant a shift in the UPA lead agency from SFCTA to SFMTA, which in turn affected the partnership collaboration, as SFMTA had the sole authority to plan, implement, and deliver the project since it was based on parking pricing.

The primary drawback for the I-85 express lanes in Georgia to date has been the fact that the formation of 3+ carpools continues to be a challenge. Preliminary results of the evaluation also indicate that the effects on the general purpose lanes may be mixed. (10)

3.5 Securing Funding

Funding for ATDM, as with all other transportation projects, can be a challenge. Experience has shown that agencies are successful at securing funding for ATDM when it is part of a larger, more comprehensive project that may already be in the planning stages. Leveraging resources with partnering agencies has also proved fruitful.

money bag
Leveraging resources with partners and incorporating ATDM in larger projects has helped agencies secure funding.

The Minnesota ATM and PDSL projects were part of the larger UPA project funded by the USDOT. The significant amount of Federal funding available through the UPA was a key mechanism for bringing the myriad of agencies and partners together in the initial application. The mix of funding and the flexibility in applying the funds were also important factors in the deployment process. (7) Specifically, non-Federal funding was used to pay for a Results Only Work Environment pilot program to increase teleworking and flexible work schedules in the I-35W corridor and to construct a southbound auxiliary lane on I-35W from 106th street to TH-13. (11)

The I-5 ATM project in Seattle was funded as part of a larger project, the SR-99 Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement project. Funding for that project originated from a variety of sources, including gas taxes, State transportation funds, traditional Federal funds, local funds, toll revenues, and the Port of Seattle. Federal grant funding was secured for the UPA program. This included $43.7 million for the technology (ATM) portion of the program. (12)

Since the deployment of the Los Angeles project had a safety focus, Caltrans secured safety funding for the implementation. The crash rate was six to eight times what would be expected on a typical connector. Thus, Caltrans requested funds from the State Highway Operation and Protection Program for the project, demonstrating that the agency was using technology to solve a safety problem.

SFpark was funded through the USDOT UPA program. The funds aided MTC in closing a gap in its resources to implement 511 upgrades to enhance traveler information in the region. The project served as a mechanism to pilot congestion pricing in the region as well.

As with many of the other deployments, the Atlanta CRD was funded through the FHWA UPA program. The funds facilitated the introduction of congestion pricing in the region and also offered the opportunity to upgrade transit service on the congested I-85 corridor. The funds were also instrumental in implementing the new technologies necessary to make the project viable.

3.6 Improvements for Future Deployments

To promote the deployment of ATDM approaches on a broad basis, agencies are encouraged to include them in their long-range planning process and to consider specific implementations as they move forward with management and operations of their networks. Specific issues related to future deployments and planning for ATDM include but are not limited to anticipating future ATDM deployments and operational approaches, incorporating ATDM in a region’s congestion management process, and considering features in future facilities that might accommodate ATDM.

To promote the deployment of ATDM approaches on a broad basis, agencies are encouraged to include them in their long-range planning process and to consider specific implementations as they move forward with management and operation of their networks.

ATM was recently included in the MnDOT Metro District Highway Investment Plan 2011–2030. (13) Specifically, the plan outlines a new investment strategy that recognizes that while congestion will not be eliminated within current fiscal constraints, its impacts can and must be mitigated to the fullest extent possible in order to preserve mobility levels essential to the region’s economic vitality and quality of life. To that end, the plan recommends that ATM applications be implemented system wide to smooth the effects of congestion and reduce the number of incidents. Specific ATM approaches noted in the plan include traveler information systems, incident response programs, dynamic signing and rerouting, dynamic shoulder lanes, hard shoulder running, speed harmonization, and queue warning. (13) The plan notes that comprehensive ATM implementation can be more effective when combined with other corridor-wide improvements, such as the construction of a new managed lane. However, it recognizes that more limited ATM strategies can be implemented in an effective manner, on a case-by-case basis, to improve freeway and non-freeway highways.

WSDOT assessed the feasibility of ATM strategies in the Seattle region in 2008. The agency used the results to incorporate ATM into the regional ITS architecture and develop a concept of operations, which helped move the concept into implementation. WSDOT has adopted a policy, titled Moving Washington, which emphasizes the investment of resources in an integrated manner to operate the network more efficiently, to manage demand, and to strategically add capacity. (14) ATM has become part of that dialogue and is being considered in other corridors that are in need of attention. Moving forward, WSDOT has identified specific issues that can be considered to facilitate implementation. First, it is important to coordinate early with FHWA on sign messages, given that there are few accepted standards for MUTCD messaging. ATM messaging is the key mechanism for communicating with the traveling public, and working with FHWA is a key to success in that arena. Second, projects can benefit from the development of standard operating procedures. Partner agencies should spend time thinking beyond the normal situations to ensure that plans are in place when an unusual event occurs. They should also plan ahead to work through testing procedures prior to deployment to ensure that issues are addressed. Finally, education is essential—early, often, and continual. Agencies should take advantage of all media platforms to ensure that their messages are delivered to the right audience throughout the life of the project.

To date, ATDM is not the long-range planning process in the Los Angeles region. Momentum exists to move the concept into planning for the future in the region. The LA Metro (Los Angeles Regional Transportation Authority) highway program is taking a greater interest in operations and maintenance of the State highway and freeway system and getting more engaged in ITS. They are working with other regional and sub-regional agencies to look at deploying ITS-type projects on freeways, and while ATDM is not necessarily mentioned as a program, it is likely that some of the concepts will get into the regional planning process. While ATDM has not been branded as such in the region, agencies have been deploying approaches. Currently, ATDM is not identified as a strategy in the congestion management process (CMP).

Caltrans is likely to consider a variety of approaches and is working to secure funding to conduct a feasibility study and a preliminary concept of operations for ATM strategies in the district. This study is intended to be the first step, with the hopes that it could lead to implementation. Caltrans is not sure of the right strategies or where they should be implemented, so hopefully the study can help with that issue. The agency wants ATM as something to consider. It is being discussed from a planning perspective, though many issues make staff apprehensive, including the fact that many approaches can be very expensive. Caltrans is looking for criteria to use to determine what applications would be appropriate. The extra lane at the junction currently operates over a fixed time: from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Caltrans is considering moving to dynamic operations and connection of the application to the TMC.

As with the Los Angeles region, ATDM is not currently part of San Francisco’s long-range planning process. The SFpark project has provided a starting point to consider, including similar approaches into planning for the future in the region. Currently, ATDM is not in the CMP for the region either. However, SFCTA continues to pursue congestion pricing initiatives for the city, which indicates that the region sees the value of road pricing to mitigate congestion.

To date, ATDM approaches are not in the GDOT long-range planning process or CMP for the region. However, the success of the CRD may help bolster the consideration of other ATDM approaches if the public reaction is positive. The strong support received from elected officials shows promise moving forward. Also, the area will vote on an increase in the local sales tax next year to address the need for operating funds for the CRD. Should this initiative be passed by the voters, it could indicate that ATDM is seen as a viable congestion-reduction approach for the region. If the Atlanta CRD proves successful and viable with the public, it may serve as a precedent for considering other innovative approaches to managing congestion. GDOT is already working to implement variable speed limits on I-285 as an additional measure to address congestion in the region. (15)

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