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CHAPTER 4 Integrating Performance Evaluation and Measurement with Public Outreach To date, interest in performance measures for facilities with congestion pricing has been relegated to technical discussion between planners and engineers tasked with developing these facilities. From a public education perspective, this is unfortunate because it is often decisions made on individual performance element thresholds that ultimately will drive positive (or nega- tive) public opinion on a project. For example, the top two reasons why a customer will consider using a congestion-priced facility--travel-time savings and trip reliability--are performance based. For the public projects operating or being considered, key performance targets are often prescribed by the major funding proponent, FHWA. For example, a mandate of maintaining an average travel speed of 45 mph at least 90 percent of the time on high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and priced high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes is a common FHWA-established threshold performance standard that drives many supporting operating decisions. In the case of the conversion of an HOV facility to HOT operation, it may be necessary to make radical changes to the existing operations in order to meet the 45-mph speed mandate fol- lowing the conversion. Changes may involve charging users who previously had no-toll access to the managed lanes, altering or closing some restricted lane access or exit locations, and/or requiring transponders or registration for users who used to be able to make a spontaneous choice to use the facility. These types of changes all affect the public's positive perceptions of congestion-priced facilities as an acceptable travel option. In addition, congestion pricing involves the exchange of "money for service," which introduces associated expectations about how much money will be collected, who gets to keep it, and how it will be spent. In the face of public acceptance challenges, documenting the benefits of congestion pricing is vital to securing public support. 4.1 Advantages and Drawbacks of Including Performance Measures in the Public Outreach Process and How Existing Facility Characteristics Shape a Future Facility Vision Using performance measures as a basis for decisions about congestion-priced facility operations can have three major benefits in the public affairs arena: · Performance monitoring presents existing conditions scientifically. Presenting current, accu- rate information on existing conditions to the public helps stakeholders to understand why change is necessary. It is difficult to convince people to support a solution if they do not believe there is a problem. For example, many HOV lanes experience periods of excessive demand, which results in the same congestion these lanes are supposed to offer an alternative to--addressing this 66
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Integrating Performance Evaluation and Measurement with Public Outreach 67 condition first means sharing information about why steps such as pricing need to be considered to regain lost benefits. · Performance monitoring establishes quantifiable benefits and tradeoffs resulting from a congestion-priced facility. Sharing the anticipated performance of the congestion-priced facility builds public trust and confidence. Performance metrics should demonstrate how trav- elers, communities, businesses, and environmental and other special interests will be better off as a result of the priced facility. · Performance monitoring puts the focus on the project, not the personalities. Using exist- ing and desired performance metrics as the blueprint for operational changes helps to ensure a decision-making process separated from conflicting political and/or special interests. For example, converting an existing HOV lane to a congestion-priced facility may cause dissat- isfaction among current HOV customers who will no longer be able to use the facility with- out paying a fee; however, maintaining free use or increasing occupancy requirements may have quantifiable benefits to the corridor and region. HOV customers need to be persuaded that a change in facility operations will be to their benefit. One method to achieve that out- come is to acknowledge the poor existing performance of "their" lane/s and to share a vision of what future travel can be like as evidenced by anticipated performance. Although a win- win outcome may not be possible for all affected customers, an outcome that is both rational and objective and founded on the region's adopted goals and objectives provides a good basis for constituent support. At the same time, using performance standards to support the need for change presents some risks: · Performance monitoring fosters closer scrutiny of individual performance standards and outcomes. Sharing existing and anticipated performance means that such data is no longer reserved for a select few or those "in the know." Extra care needs to be taken to ensure that existing conditions data and anticipated performance information are adequately collected from reliable sources, checked for accuracy, and vetted for review prior to release. To secure and maintain the public's confidence, project officials need to be well versed in the details of how and when existing condition information was gathered and how anticipated condition performance measures are calculated. · Performance monitoring increases pressure to prepare alternative actions in case desired outcomes do not materialize. When there is transparency and full disclosure about future facility expectations--as in the case of fully vetted performance measures--there is always the increased pressure to have back-up strategies in place if anticipated results do not materialize after the project has been implemented. Although some level of back-up plan should always be prepared, there will likely be more public scrutiny of individual performance measures as a result of increased prominence during the outreach and education process. Although converting a roadway facility to a more restrictive use may technically be the most straightforward and simple way to introduce pricing, it is a challenge from a public perspec- tive. If the introduction of pricing has little effect or requires little change or action on the part of the current facility users, then there will likely be relatively little resistance to the change. However, as the change element--or action--increases, then the pushback or reaction will likely increase as well. In the United States, almost all variably priced managed lane facilities began their "restricted access lives" as HOV lanes, or at a minimum offered HOV preferential access. With the exception of I-95 in Miami, existing HOV users were required to make rela- tively minor changes to stay in compliance as a result of the introduction of pricing. Table 4-1 documents the changes in HOV policies that occurred with the introduction of variable pric- ing on the seven HOT lane facilities for which case studies were prepared as part of this research effort.
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68 Evaluation and Performance Measurement of Congestion Pricing Projects Table 4-1. Characteristics of HOV operations before and after HOT conversion. Project HOV Operations Before Conversion HOV Operations After Conversion I-25 Express Two-lane reversible facility No capacity added--conversion Lanes 2+ HOVs and registered hybrids required operational changes only Denver, CO allowed access No occupancy requirement changes Motorcycles allowed access HOVs and hybrids not required to Under 10% violation rate carry transponder but must use a 6-min bus headways from park-and- "declaration" lane at the toll gantry ride lots mid-way down the project Free motorcycle access continued SOVs pay toll for access No trucks allowed (same as before conversion) I-95 Express One-lane directional facility Added one new lane of capacity and Lanes 2+ HOVs and hybrids allowed access converted existing HOV lane to Miami, FL comprise the two-lane directional As high as 80% violation rate priced facility (4 lanes total) Limited transit service Only 3+ HOV with prior registration may use priced lanes at no charge SOV hybrid users must have a FL State Decal and an I-95 Express decal to use lane at no charge SOVs, non-registered 3+ HOVs, non- registered hybrids, and HOV2 pay toll No trucks allowed (same as before conversion) I-10 "Katy Previous single-reversible HOV lane Built two new managed lanes in each Freeway" operated with 3+ restriction in peak direction Managed hours and 2+ outside the peak for 2+ HOV and motorcycles travel for Lanes most of the daytime hours free 5-11 am and 2-8 pm. Required Houston, TX to pay at all other times HOVs not required to carry a transponder but must enter the facility through "declaration" lane SOVs, hybrids, and small commercial vehicles allowed access for toll Minnesota 2+ HOV and motorcycles allowed I-394: No capacity added--conversion "MnPass access required operational changes only Lanes" I-394: Two-lane reversible and I-35W: Freeway modified and I-394 single-lane directional facility reconstructed with new capacity I-35W designated as priced lanes I-35W: limited single directional Minneapolis, lanes 2+ HOV travel at no charge MN Significant transit service HOVs not required to carry transponder Free motorcycle access continued Hybrids and SOVs allowed access for toll No trucks allowed SR-91 Opened in 1995 as first privately Two-lane directional facility (4 lanes Express funded tollroad built in US in 1940s. total) Lanes Project did not exist as an HOV lane Limited ingress and egress points Orange County, as it opened as a priced lane under only on each end CA private ownership HOV3 motorists are typically allowed Purchased by Orange County Transp. to use the facility free of charge, with Authority in 2003 the exception of the p.m. peak period Generally allowed 3+HOVs with from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastbound, transponders free use when they are required to carry a No trucks transponder and pay 50 percent of the established toll All other users pay toll via transponder Limited transit service No trucks allowed
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Integrating Performance Evaluation and Measurement with Public Outreach 69 Table 4-1. (Continued). Project HOV Operations Before Conversion HOV Operations After Conversion I-15 Express 2+ HOV, hybrids with HOV Access No capacity added initially Lanes Clean Air decal and motorcycles conversion required operational San Diego, CA allowed access changes only 8 mile 2-lane reversible facility No occupancy requirement changes Limited access on each end All HOVs and hybrids with HOV Limited transit service Access Clean Air decals are not required to carry transponders Free motorcycle access continued SOVs pay toll for access No trucks allowed Project has since been expanded and lengthened to a facility that can operate as 3-1, 2-2 or 1-3 directional configuration SR-167 HOT 2+ HOVs and motorcycles allowed No capacity added conversion Lanes access required operational changes only Seattle, WA 11 mile single-lane directional facility No occupancy requirement changes Only two adjacent general-purpose HOVs not required to carry lanes in each direction transponders Unlimited access locations to HOV Free motorcycle access continued lane SOVs and hybrids pay toll for access Limited transit service Access to HOT lane at designated locations only No trucks allowed I-15 Express 2+ HOV, hybrids with decals Started with decal program to Lanes and motorcycles allowed access registered SOVs willing to pay Salt Lake City, $50/month for unlimited use, Single directional lanes in both UT transitioning to toll for SOVs with directions transponders Unlimited access No capacity added conversion Limited transit service required operational changes only No occupancy requirement changes All HOVs and hybrids are not required to carry transponders Free motorcycle access continued SOVs pay toll for access No trucks allowed No transit service changes As shown in Table 4-1, most HOV to HOT conversions have required very little change on the part of the existing HOV customer. For the most part, access to new customer groups was added, but not at the expense of removing benefits to existing HOV users. Future projects, however, will likely require more significant operational changes in order to ensure operational benefits and achieve financial objectives. Fewer and fewer HOV lanes have excess capacity to "sell," so a con- version to a congestion-priced facility will require adding capacity and/or changing access require- ments. Public education and outreach will become more important as the challenges facing HOV- to-priced-lane conversion increase. When considering the conversion of an existing free-of-charge facility to one where pricing is an element for access, establishing and sharing "baseline" conditions is essential to beginning to secure support for changes being considered. Public buy-in on the legitimacy and accuracy of existing conditions is essential to the project's ability to garner support for change. Undertaking market research activities, such as those described in Section 4.2, will document where public opinion and reality intersect and where they diverge. Ongoing education and outreach activities should focus on those areas of divergence.