This research synthesized evaluation findings from 24 projects sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Congestion and Value Pricing Pilot Program between 1991 and 2006. In addition to documenting lessons learned applicable to policy and institutional issues, outreach and public acceptance requirements, and issues relating to the adequacy of technology for the administration and enforcement of pricing programs, researchers examined the effects of value pricing on travel and traffic, costs and revenues, equity, and impacts on the environment.
The projects selected for review were grouped into the following six categories of pricing strategies:
- 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
- Regionwide variable pricing initiatives
- Making driver costs variable
- Other pricing projects (i.e., voluntary cash out and carshare programs).
Implications for planners and managers
- Plan for extensive outreach activities. An important lesson for project planning is paying heed to the extensive outreach activities associated with all project categories. Be prepared to involve stakeholders and champions and make changes as necessary to accommodate customers and the general public. Patience and persistence is key during the planning stages since initial opposition often diminishes over time.
- Realize that value pricing projects with large capital costs, such as those requiring new facilities or networks (i.e., HOT lane conversions), may not be fully self-financing. Covering the initial capital cost of conversion from HOV to HOT lane operation can be difficult, especially where conversion requires expensive capital outlays or where a relatively large number of vehicles are allowed to travel freely. In all but one of the HOT lane evaluations studied, however, revenues were sufficient to support operating expenses. Well-designed HOT lane programs can be expected to increase throughput and possibly support additional services. For example, the I-15 HOT lanes in San Diego, was able to cover its operating expenses and support a transit subsidy.
- Pay attention to technology advancements. For HOT lanes and new priced express lanes, important issues include: pricing by transponders versus license plates; enforcement systems for transponder violations; latest developments in vehicle occupancy verification; open road tolling systems; and truck axle counting automation. Technology upgrades packaged with new pricing strategies may enhance prospects for acceptance.
Overall, by influencing travel behavior, pricing projects have prevented congestion from occurring on priced lanes, reduced congestion on toll facilities, and improved utilization of highway capacity.