Early HOV to HOT conversion projects implemented in San Diego saved I-15 FasTrak users up to 20 minutes compared to main line travelers.
Date Posted

Value Pricing Pilot Program: Lessons Learned - Final Report

Summary Information

This research synthesized evaluation findings from 24 projects sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Congestion and Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP) between 1991 and 2006. Strategies evaluated included:

  • High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) to High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane conversions with pricing
  • Variable pricing of new express lanes
  • Variable pricing on existing toll facilities
  • Region-wide variable pricing initiatives
  • Making driver costs variable
  • Other pricing projects (i.e., voluntary cash out and carshare programs).

This source report included an overall assessment of the impacts of value pricing and included detailed findings for several projects.


I-15 San Diego


In the mid-1990s express toll lanes were constructed in the median of SR-91 to improve travel between Orange County and southern Los Angeles. The toll lanes were designed with no intermediate exits or entrances, and were separated from general-purpose lanes by a painted buffer and plastic pylons. In December of 1995 the express lanes were opened. Since the overall goal of the project was to maintain free-flowing traffic in all toll lanes, dynamic pricing (based on real-time traffic data) was not required. Toll schedules were preset and updated periodically based on general trends observed in traffic data relative to time of day, day of week, and direction of travel.

Operations required that vehicles traveling in the express lanes have an in-vehicle transponder (FasTrak) to communicate with roadside equipment at full highway speeds. The system was designed to automatically deducted tolls from prepaid accounts. In 2007, the toll schedule was set at $9.50 during the busiest half-hour, and HOV3+ was allowed a 50 percent discount (currently there is no charge for HOV3+).

In January 2003, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) purchased the privately funded project and began public operations. A benefit-to-cost analysis favored the express lanes over a carpool lanes alternative. The express lanes had a higher net present value compared to the carpool lanes ($490 million versus $303 million ), largely due to the higher travel time savings in spite of the higher operating costs.

Between 1988 and 2004 the average daily traffic on I-15 HOV increased from approximately 9,200 vehicles (representing less than half available capacity at highway speeds) to more than 21,000 vehicles per day with HOT. Evaluation reports indicated that most carpoolers interviewed did not feel adversely affected by the HOT Lane program, and FasTrak users reported saving up to 20 minutes compared to main line travel.


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