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Variably Priced Managed Lanes 1. Colorado Department of Transportation I-25 Express Lanes On March 2, 2009, Governor Ritter signed into law S.B. 09-108, Funding Enhancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery (FASTER). The legislation created the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE), replacing the Colorado Tolling Enterprise (CTE), which was established in 2002 to implement tolling and pricing projects in Colorado. Like its predecessor, HPTE is a government-owned business, vested with the authority to issue revenue bonds to accelerate construction of toll improvements on any corridor or roadway in the state of Colorado. The new statute eliminated the previous prohibition on tolling existing capacity, provided that all affected communities are in agreement. The new law also changed the composition of the Enterprise Board of Directors to include three members of the Colorado Transportation Commission and four external members, making it more independent of CDOT. There is also a new emphasis on congestion management, given that potential projects are assessed for congestion reduction rather than strictly on financial considerations. The HPTE operates the I-25 Express Lanes, a HOT-lane facility described in further detail below. In addition, it is considering the possible use of tolling and public-private partnerships to deliver improvements on other highway corridors in the state including · US 36, · I-70 East, · C-470, · I-70 West and · I-25 North. 1.1. Overview of HPTE's Congestion Pricing Program The I-25 Express Lanes is a 7-mile, two-lane, reversible-flow HOT-lane facility operating between downtown Denver and US 36. The facility was created by converting the existing HOV lanes to provide two HOT lanes southbound into downtown Denver during the A.M. period and two lanes northbound during the P.M. period. HOV2+ vehicles and registered energy-efficient/hybrid vehicles may use the facility at no cost, while single-occupant passen- ger vehicles pay fixed variable toll rates based on time-of-day to use the facility. The preferred hierarchy of users is transit vehicles, HOVs, toll payers, and hybrids. The number of hybrids allowed on the facility is capped and the privilege will expire with SAFETEA-LU. There is a consistent two-to-one split between non-paying and tolled vehicles on the facility. The facil- ity provides declaration lanes for HOV vehicles, which are not required to carry transponders. 93
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94 Evaluation and Performance Measurement of Congestion Pricing Projects Prior to the HOT conversion, the I-25 facility was constructed as a bus-only HOV lane by the Regional Transportation District, the local transit authority, with 50 percent of the funding pro- vided by the FTA. Transit ridership in the I-25 corridor was the most robust in the Denver region, providing 6-minute bus headways during peak periods from park-and-ride staging areas, making it easier for most commuters to use transit rather than forming carpools. The intent of the conversion was to take advantage of under-used capacity on the managed lanes without affecting the express bus service. Given the importance of providing high-quality transit service in the corridor, express bus travel times are a key performance metric in the corridor and can trigger a toll adjustment if a degradation is detected. In addition, peak-hour tolls on the I-25 Express Lanes cannot be less than the express bus fare on the corridor. Pricing on the I-25 Express Lanes is variable on a fixed time-of-day schedule. The lanes are closed for maintenance activities from 3:00 to 5:00 A.M. and from 10:00 A.M. to noon each week- day. Tolls range from a low of $0.50 during off-peak period and a high of $3.50 during the morn- ing peak period and feature various shoulder rates. Revenues from the facility are used to repay a $3.0 million loan from the Colorado Transportation Commission for capital expenditures on toll collection technology and signage needed for the HOV-to-HOT conversion on the I-25 cor- ridor. Revenues also pay for contracted and internal maintenance, toll collection and back office operations, enforcement, toll violation processing, and administration. Any remaining proceeds are put into a reserve fund for major capital improvements--per the I-25 capital plan, which includes a proportional share paid by the I-25 Express Lanes. Revenues are approximately $2.5 million annually, with expenses of roughly $1 million. In addition to the loan cited above, CDOT also received a $3.2 million grant from the FHWA Value Pricing Pilot Program, which was used to cover other implementation and outreach costs. 1.2. What Is Monitored? The full spectrum of HPTE's performance monitoring activities is provided in the accompa- nying Facility Performance Monitoring Summary Matrix for the I-25 Express Lanes. The matrix is a comprehensive record of all current, known metrics used to monitor performance on the facility, organized by evaluation category. The matrix provides the following information for each individual metric: frequency of collection, purpose, a simple indication of overall impor- tance, and particular characterizations of the metric that relate back to agency/facility goals or applications. An expanded version of the matrix providing sources of information and other notes is included in the Final Report for NCHRP 08-75 which is available on line. The matrix is intended to be a visual overview of HPTE's complete monitoring effort, easily comparable with other HOT-lane facilities with similar matrix summaries. A more qualitative discussion of how these metrics are applied in practice and which ones are the most significant is provided below. Not all metrics noted in the matrix are discussed here. Prior to the conversion of the I-25 HOV lanes, a formal performance monitoring plan was established for the facility. FHWA had required that the HOV lanes perform at LOS C, but CDOT and its partners found that this was a difficult criterion to measure. Because the man- aged lanes were essentially a long ramp with a single point of access and egress, they instead used travel times on the facility as the major criterion. A study was performed to track travel times for buses by installing non-revenue transponders to monitor travel times and speeds. This continues to be the primary means for measuring transit travel times in the corridor and to verify that the 45 mph average speed threshold is not degraded. The average on-time rate for buses operating on the I-25 Express Lanes for the past 4 years has been achieved 97 percent of the time. The travel time savings for motorists using the I-25 Express Lanes during peak periods is approximately 10 minutes.
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Congestion Pricing Case Studies 95 In addition to bus travel times, HPTE collects various secondary performance metrics. These include traffic volumes reported by time of day in 15-minute intervals, enforcement statistics, incident data and response times, and various maintenance measures. Maintenance activities, including plowing and sweeping, are contracted out to a private vendor and are per- formed at a higher level of service than that of the general-purpose lanes. The metrics included in the performance monitoring plan were identified by a stakeholder group tasked with addressing various policy issues associated with the conversion of the I-25 HOV lanes to HOT operation. This group was composed of CDOT, CTE, FHWA, FTA, the City and County of Denver, the Regional Transportation District (RTD--Denver's transit authority), and the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG--greater Denver's Metropolitan Planning Organization). CDOT and CTE coordinated separately with the local and regional police departments to develop incident management plans with protocols for emergency response, detours, and related monitoring information. 1.3. Other Essential Data Gathering Activities Prior to the opening of the I-25 Express Lanes, CTE conducted a series of focus groups and surveys to gauge expectations for the facility. CTE also conducted outreach activities to inform the public about the rationale for the conversion and how the new HOT lanes would function. These included a video, which was available on CTE's website and on DVD, a moving billboard installed on the back of a flatbed truck, which was deployed in the I-25 corridor, and compre- hensive press coverage. HPTE staff report that response to these activities was positive. The DRCOG recorded an initial increase in the number of carpool registrations prior to the opening of the I-25 Express Lanes, and there was also an increase in the number of EXpressToll transpon- ders issued by the E-470 Public Highway Authority, which also provides back-office services for the I-25 Express Lanes. HPTE staff report that equity has not been found to be a concern in the conversion of the I-25 HOV lanes to HOT operation. When HPTE marked the milestone of the 500,000th paying customer using the I-25 Express Lanes, the motorist turned out to be a lower income, single mother who commutes to downtown Denver and appreciates having the option of using the I-25 Express Lanes. This coincidence reinforces the fact that people of all income levels take advantage of the I-25 Express Lanes and generally hold favorable opinions of the facility. 1.4. Why Performance Evaluation Takes Place and How Performance Monitoring Data Is Used The primary purpose for performance monitoring on the I-25 Express Lanes is to manage traf- fic on the facility and ensure that the bus speed threshold is maintained. Traffic performance on the facility has been very constant and no adjustments to toll levels have been necessary to main- tain bus travel times, even with the addition of license plate tolling in early 2009. Although there has been one adjustment to peak-period tolls on the Express Lanes since their opening, this was due to an increase in bus fares, rather than conditions on the lanes themselves. Most data collection and management on the facility is automated. Monthly and annual per- formance reports are produced. However, HPTE staff report that after 4 years of service, the rou- tine operational nature of the Express Lanes suggests that quarterly reports would be sufficient. HPTE uses cameras deployed on the facility to detect incidents. These include an initial set of cameras installed prior to the conversion and others that were added because of it.
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96 Evaluation and Performance Measurement of Congestion Pricing Projects Congestion Pricing Case Studies 97 Table 1-1. Colorado Department of Transportation I-25 Express Lanes summary matrix.
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98 Evaluation and Performance Measurement of Congestion Pricing Projects HPTE has used information from its outreach efforts to make some minor adjustments to the I-25 Express Lanes. These include some initial changes to signage due to customer feedback early on, as well more recent requests from customers to accommodate special events, especially foot- ball on the weekend. HPTE staff report that they receive approximately one to two customer service calls per week. 1.5. What Additional Performance Metrics or Data Would Be Helpful to HPTE or Other Agencies Considering Congestion Pricing? HPTE staff believe that there is no cookie-cutter approach to developing performance moni- toring programs for priced highway facilities. Each facility is different and pricing is imple- mented to address differing operational objectives. With the I-25 Express Lanes, the impetus behind the HOT conversion was not congestion, but rather HOV underutilization. At the time there was some legislative pressure to simply allow general-purpose use of the HOV lanes, so conversion to HOT was seen as a compromise. HPTE staff believe that it is necessary to identify performance management goals up front and then develop monitoring metrics around these goals. Staff also believe that selling a pricing project as a pilot that can be changed and is flexible is helpful, but that proponents of pricing should not be overly cautious or nothing will get done. In terms of what might have been done differently, HPTE staff noted that they would like to have performed before-and-after traffic counts on the general-purpose lanes to explicitly iden- tify any congestion reduction due to the HOT conversion. This was not done because the oper- ative issue behind the conversion was to meet the legislature's mandate of optimizing the utiliza- tion of the HOV lanes, rather than reducing congestion on the I-25 general-purpose lanes. This dynamic was also reflected in the negotiations with stakeholder agencies, which focused on meet- ing the mandate of addressing the underutilization issue, rather than "testing the waters" of implementing congestion pricing on the I-25 Express Lanes.