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Guidebook for State, Regional, and Local Governments on Addressing Potential Equity Impacts of Road Pricing

2.0 Congestion Pricing Strategies – Illustrative Scenarios

As discussed in Section 1.0, two illustrative scenarios were identified during discussions with FHWA staff and discussions with subject matter experts, academics, practitioners, and State and local agencies.

These examples were deemed relevant for the purpose of this guidebook and include the following case studies:

  • Scenario 1: Agencies considering implementing roadway congestion pricing strategies for the first time.
  • Scenario 2: Agencies considering road pricing expansion along their network.
Scenario 1: Agencies considering implementing roadway congestion pricing strategies for the first time
In this scenario, it is very important to consider equity at all stages of the project to ensure a successful implementation and lay the groundwork for future road pricing projects in the region. In a region where travelers are unfamiliar with road pricing, communications of the project objectives, needs, and use of the funding are paramount. Equity issues should be analyzed and presented proactively and as early as practical. It can be difficult to gain public support, especially if there are perceived equity issues that are not being adequately considered. Incorporating equity considerations into the earliest stages of the planning process is critical in that equity issues that arise for the first time during later phases tend to delay or block project implementation.

Agency and Region New to Pricing

For the purposes of this guidebook, we will think in terms of an agency and a region new to pricing as follows: county X has two urban areas separated by a 12 mile long, eight-lane freeway. Ten years ago, the county widened the roadway from three lanes to four lanes (each direction) by adding a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane alongside the three general purpose lanes. However, the HOV lane has been consistently underutilized, leaving the highly congested general purpose lanes adjacent to the low volume HOV lane. The agency is considering an HOV to HOT conversion, which will allow carpools (HOVs) and buses to continue to use the HOT lane for free but charge a fee to ineligible vehicles to use the lane.

Scenario 2: Agencies considering road pricing expansion along their network

In this scenario, the original facility should be well established and evaluated, and there should be an awareness of the current road pricing conditions in terms of effectiveness, acceptance, and an awareness of pricing. Few equity-related problems are being caused by or perceived within the current HOT lane system. For this scenario, expansion can be considered either by extending the length of the facility, expanding the capacity of the existing facility, expanding into a network of priced roadways, or implementing a cordon pricing scheme.

Expansion can be highly rewarding and very effective in dealing with the growing challenges of congestion and a limited ability to expand freeway capacity due to construction costs, right-of-way constraints, and environmental and societal impacts. This scenario is very much related to the concept of "managed lanes," defined as "highway facilities or a set of lanes where operational strategies are proactively implemented and managed in response to changing conditions." In expansion projects, it is important to consider cooperation across agencies and geographical borders as these projects frequently cross jurisdictional boundaries. Careful planning and project development is key to successful implementation. As the system expands, equity may be a larger issue than when only one road was priced. Other equity considerations, such as rural and urban issues, should be addressed as well as the market and societal equity at either end or either side of the project boundaries.

Tolling Expansion

For the purposes of this guidebook, we will think in terms of a city planning to expand tolling along its roadway network as follows: city Y currently accessible from three directions: north, south, and east. The north Interstate currently has an HOT lane while the south Interstate only has general purpose lanes. The east access road is a highway corridor with an adjacent arterial, also un-priced. Due to current budget shortfalls, funding is insufficient to add general purpose lanes to the south Interstate and east highways. Thus, expanding the HOT network to these facilities, utilizing their existing footprints, is now being considered.