95 Express is the Florida Department of Transportation's (FDOT) on-going congestion management improvement program (CMIP) for Interstate 95 (I-95) in southeast Florida, which combines express or High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes with carpool and transit incentives, ramp metering, rapid incident detection and enhanced operational management strategies. These lessons cover the period of July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.
These lessons learned are from Phase 1A and 1B, which are now open as two-lane, delineator separated, 7.3 mile segments of northbound and southbound I-95 between State Road (SR) 836 / I-395 and the Golden Glades Interchange (GGI) in Miami-Dade County. They cover the period of July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. Phase 2 of the project will expand the limits of the project approximately 14 miles north into Broward County.
The completion of Phase 1 resulted in the following lessons learned to aid in current and future deployments.
- Continuous monitoring of cause and effect of tolls and the corresponding operations of the facility is important in maintaining project goals. It is important to "stay ahead of the curve" (i.e., tolling algorithm) when determining how quickly tolls should rise/fall based on steep changes in demand.
- Increased tolls were attracting motorists to the Express Lanes (EL) versus discouraging them. This needed to be dealt with through additional public information (see Public Information lesson learned below).
- Out of the ordinary conditions have resulted in special operations. Weekday special events (e.g., major sporting events) that extended the length of the peak period needed to be better handled by the tolling methodology.
- Reliability of all equipment is essential to overall operations. It is critical to have functional field equipment for both collection and dissemination of information. Collection (i.e., volume and speed) is important because it directly relates to the ever changing demand of the facility; and hence each calculated toll. Dissemination is equally important due to the availability for toll amounts to change every 15 minutes. As there are numerous entry points to the facility, if a single Dynamic Message Sign (DMS) displaying the toll amount were to freeze on any given toll amount, then the entire facility has to remain at that toll amount shown until the DMS is turned off or fixed.
- Proactive public information is a key to success, including establishing strong relationships with the media. One of the best examples of this partnership was when 95 Express demand continued to increase, the need to re-educate the public of "how" and "why" the tolls rise and fall became crucial to maintain the project's operational livelihood. FDOT contacted the local media and worked alongside them to increase the public's understanding of how congestion pricing works. Much effort has gone into debunking the notion that "higher tolls means I can get to the front of the line faster." It is the exact opposite. Higher tolls means the facility is experiencing increased demand (and possibly slower speeds) and is trying to deter the motorist from entering the facility.
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