Patrick DeCorla-Souza, Tolling and Pricing Program Manager, FHWA
Lee Munnich, Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota
Kenneth Buckeye, Minnesota Department of Transportation
John Doan, SRF Consulting
Office of Innovative Program Delivery
Federal Highway Administration
First Part of a Webinar Series on Road Pricing Outreach
Welcome everybody to the first of ultimately three mini-courses hosted by the Federal Highway Administration Office of Innovative Program Delivery on Road Pricing Outreach and Public Acceptance. Our moderator today is John Doan who is with SRF Consulting. He will be introducing the presenters and leading us over to the Q&A later on. With that, I introduce John Doan.
Good afternoon, everyone and good morning to the folks in the West Coast. Thank you for joining us. We are excited to have this opportunity to share with the folks on the line the lessons learned and the key findings and of the rich experiences from three very robust case studies that you will get to hear more about in this and the subsequent webinars. The title of this is IPD Road Pricing Public Acceptance and Outreach Webinar mini-course. And if that is that the webinar you signed up for, we are glad to have you and hope you'll learn something from the course and how.
The objective for mini-courses is to provide tools to transportation professionals to help you gain an understanding in public acceptance issue for congestion pricing as well as strategies that will help you address these issues. This is a hands-on course for practitioners on road pricing and public acceptance.
A couple of logistical items to be aware of, this is the first of a series of three webinars. We encourage you to participate in all three of them because the lessons learned from each of them will build on each other. As well as the cases are very complementary and address different facets of public acceptance and road pricing.
We will be providing a door prize for a particular individual or registrant and if you have more than one person at your site, you have to share it among the group of you for the folks to attend all three of the mini-courses. That will be a door prize to be announced that the last session.
Also, to let you know each of the session will be 90 minutes and we have developed a program to extend the full 90 minutes. We will try to keep it on-time but in cases where there are questions that are very robust we may extend for a few more minutes after that, and we understand that folks who need to leave will just pop off the line. I will have some other items toward the end of the course. Let's jump right into our first presentation which is going to be a road pricing overview that will be presented by Patrick DeCorla-Souza.
Before we go to that, we have some initial questions to folks you will see on your screen a polling question of where you are located to give a sense of geography.
We will give the about 30 seconds to select. It looks like the votes are stabilizing and a few trickling in still. I will close it in five seconds.
For where folks are located, we have about 1/3 of the folks in the west and northwest. Followed closely with the mid-Atlantic and eastern states. Equal amounts to the midwest & central, and south and southeast.
Our next question relates to what type of organization they work for. The answers can be federal, state, regional, consultant, researcher or other.
We have a pretty good balance shaping up, about 1/3 state agencies, and then about 1/5 each for federal and regional local agencies. Closely behind are consultants at 17% and other and researcher make up about 11%. That is a pretty good cross-section of folks.
One of the things particularly in the third section will be focused for MPO types and MPO planning process and programming process. For those at the regional and local level, if you have friends and colleagues that you think will be a benefit, please, encourage them to join the third session.
The third and last question for our first session, what level of involvement have you had with road pricing. Either you have none but are interested in the subject, you've conducted research for planning study, you are in the concept feasibility, you are in the process of implementing a road pricing project, or you are in the operational phase, overseeing or managing an operational project.
Looks like everybody has voted and we have a majority of folks in the "none but interested" and in the "conducted research for planning studies" categories, with the remainder in the implementation or operational phase this is the target audience we were hoping for.
With that I am going to introduce our first presenter who is Patrick DeCorla-Souza. He is the Tolling and Pricing Manager at the Federal Highway Administration Office of Innovative Program Delivery who is not only the person who conceived this idea of the webinar, but also our first presenter and a seasoned veteran of road pricing. He is also the chair of the TRB Congestion Pricing Committee. And many years of experience at the federal level with issues related to road pricing and public acceptance.
With that, Patrick I am going to hand the floor to you.
Session 1 Presentation by Patrick DeCorla-Souza
Thanks, John. First let me say that there are two main reasons why you want to do congestion pricing. The first is you want to make your transportation system more efficient by managing demand so that it matches supply. And tied to that is the fact that when you have pricing, the level of the price or - - toll tells you whether or not it is a good idea to invest in a particular transportation facility or corridor, and so there is a double benefit to efficiency.
Along with this efficiency benefit, you also get the revenue which helps you to actually make the transportation improvements that you need.
Types of Congestion Pricing:
With those two broad goals, we have had in the United States several types of pricing that have either been implemented or have been explored. I am going to go through each of them separately in the slides that follow.
To give you an overview, we have mainly had congestion pricing on single lanes or a part of a facility, a couple of lanes on a freeway. We are now going to begin, next year, pricing an entire highway, an existing free facility that will be converted to a toll facility. We made an attempt to price a zone in New York City. Finally, in regard to pricing and entire networks, there has been no attempt at that, but a lot of studies. I will talk about each of these types of pricing. Since this webinar is about a public acceptance, what I will focus on is why these types of pricing projects have been successful and why we have gained public acceptance.
Priced Lanes: HOT lanes:
The earliest example was in San Diego on I-15 where we had existing high occupancy vehicle lanes that were underutilized. Basically, what it did was allowed people in single occupant vehicles -- vehicles that would not normally be allowed in those lanes - to use those lanes for a price. You see the $2 price on the graphic. What made this acceptable is that there was no take away of an existing general-purpose lane. You are pricing the HOV lane. Most of the net revenue was allocated to transit, so there was some type of modal equity.
Priced Lanes: Express Toll Lanes:
The next example is, instead of using an existing HOV lane, we created new lanes. This was on SR 91 in Orange County, California. Again, no existing lane was taken away, so nobody was made worse off; and in order to have some modal equity, in this case, higher occupancy vehicles with three or more people were given a discount or free service. That made the project acceptable. Nobody was really made worse off.
We are now trying to do something more aggressive. On SR 520, on a floating bridge in Seattle, for the first time an existing free facility will be converted to a priced facility. We're going to take existing lanes that were free and we're going to price them. Something that would be difficult for the public to accept, but in this case, the public has accepted it, primarily because Washington State DOT and the MPO there had been able to explain to the public how the cost of the bridge was so high that there were no tax resources to pay for it, and tolling will be necessary to make up some of the deficit from tax funding. The key to success and public acceptance in this case was the fact that the public agencies were able to convince the public that there was not sufficient revenue from tax dollars to pay for the improvements that would be made on a new bridge that would replace the existing bridge.
The one attempt at cordon pricing or area pricing, which in this case means establishing a cordon around the central business district in the New York City area. This is obviously even more aggressive than the SR 520 situation, where you were only pricing one facility. Here, you are pricing every facility in an area. If you wanted to enter the downtown or midtown area in Manhattan, you would have had to pay a toll during the daytime hours. With SR 520 there was an alternative free route, but here, if you wanted to drive in, you would have to pay. Actually, no alternative, except taking transit. In this case, again, city council in New York City voted for this proposal because they and the public understood the huge economic cost of congestion. You will be hearing more about this in webinar number 2, the next one, scheduled on September 7.
The Chamber of Commerce did some outreach, and then there was some outreach explaining that the revenues from congestion pricing would go to improve the transit system, and the public approval and acceptance shot up.
They took care of concerns about negative impact. For example, in the outer boroughs, where access to transit was not very good, they promised to provide improved transit service to those areas.
Fully Priced Road Networks:
Finally, the next and final type of tolling is when you price the entire network, either a network of freeway facilities, or everything, freeways as well as surface streets.
This has not been implemented in the United States. It has been implemented for trucks only in several countries in Europe. With regard to pricing all vehicles, the only place where that has been done is in Singapore, where on the Expressways as well as downtown, tolls are charged at peak hours. In the United States, we are doing pilot test in New York State for trucks only. Several pilot tests involving passenger vehicles have been completed in Oregon, Seattle, Minnesota and Atlanta. There are also 12 on-going studies. This is being funded through SAFETEA-LU. That work is still going on through the University of Iowa.
Metropolitan Area Study: Seattle, WA:
One very interesting study that has been done is a model based study in the Seattle area. We will be hearing more about this in the last webinar on September 28th. Seattle, with funding from the Federal Highway Administration, did a pilot study with about 500 households, giving them incentives and charging them tolls according to the schedule you see there on the slide, and got data which helped them build models so that they could forecast the impacts of pricing the entire network in the Seattle area.
The study, called the Traffic Choices study, was done to estimate the amount of toll revenue that might result as well as other impacts. That study led to analysis that was done for the long-range transportation plan for 2040.
Seattle Study: Finance
Here you see some of the results from that study. They looked at the gamut of alternatives. Alternative 1 was converting existing HOV lane to HOT lanes. Alternative 2 was creating new HOT lanes. You see the costs are much higher. Alternative 3 was pricing the entire facility, putting tolls on the entire facility, but not with congestion-based prices, simply to recover the cost of improvements. Then Alternative 4 was using congestion-priced tolls to manage demand, and Alternative 5, pricing not just the freeway network but also the entire surface free system.
As you can see from this graphic, Alternative 2, where we have to spend a lot of money on building new lanes, was the most expensive. That is the new HOT lanes, Alternative 2. The revenues you see above the bar are minuscule. Very small relative to what you would get by pricing the entire freeway network, as you see in Alternative 3 and 4, and Alternative 5 where you price the entire road system.
Seattle Study: Emissions
Similar results, when you look at emissions. For Alternative 2, you have actually a worse emissions situation for most of the pollutants. Whereas where you actually price existing capacity on the freeway network, you get much better emissions impact, and of course when you price the entire system you get the best result.
Seattle Study: Benefits vs. Costs
The study also did a benefit-cost analysis. You see the costs below the line, in orange. The benefits are in blue. Again, what you see is that the costs are highest for Alternative 2 because of the flyover connectors and extra infrastructure you would need for a HOT network. The benefits are relatively small compared to the rest. The black line shows you that the net present value, that is benefits minus costs. You actually see a slight negative net present value with building new HOT lanes.
An interesting study, and as a result, what they have done in Seattle is adopted a plan that looks to price the entire freeway network which I am sure you will hear about in Webinar 3.
Effectiveness vs. Acceptance:
What all of this shows, from the analysis and from public acceptance surveys that had been done, is that when we price more lanes, it is more effective with respect to a lot of criteria and goals of metropolitan areas. However, the public acceptance is relatively low. If you want public acceptance, you actually have to have partial network pricing, such as single priced lanes as shown in the graphic.
Public Acceptance: Opinion Surveys
This slide summarizes the public opinion data. For priced lanes, 70% approval. For priced highways in Seattle, 64%. New York City's was 40% rising to 59% later on with outreach efforts. For priced highway networks, no surveys have been done. It would indicate from the general surveys done in the U.S. and elsewhere that you would get no more than about 30% approval for an entirely priced highway network. In Seattle, the MPO board actually approved the priced highway network with a 98% vote. This would be in the future. They are planning to have that implemented in 2030.
Addressing Equity Concerns:
What are some of the issues that arise that you will have to grapple with in your outreach efforts? I will summarize them into two categories. One is equity which is a big issue that will arise. The second is simply public misperceptions about tolling and pricing that you will have to address, or explain to the public that these issues can be addressed.
Let me first talk about equity concerns. The big one is income-based equity. That is, equity towards low-income people. There are two issues here. One is that affordability. If they have jobs and must commute during peak periods, they might not be able to afford the higher tolls. There are ways to offer reimbursement or discounts on the toll, and this can be done electronically. Another issue that arises, is that many of these folks are what is called "unbanked." They don't have bank accounts or credit cards. For most electronic toll collection that currently exists in the U.S., you have to have a prepaid toll account tied to your credit card or your bank account. The difficulty is: how will they pay? In Puerto Rico, that is done by having ATM like machines where people who do not have bank accounts can simply put in cash and increase their account balances at the ATM machine.
There are other types of equity issues. The one that is of general interest no matter what your income is, you like to have a benefit if you're going to pay more. This might be also called fairness. On HOT lanes, of course, when people are paying, they do get some congestion relief. On SR 520, there was a promise of physical infrastructure improvements and that contributed to the feeling of fairness.
Modal equity is an issue that is of special concern in metropolitan areas. You cannot be seen as simply favoring automobiles, making things better for automobiles and not doing anything for alternative modes. What has been done to address this issue is providing toll exemptions for carpools and buses. And using some of the revenues to support alternative modes. On I-15, toll revenue, a large portion of it, goes to support transit service. Many of the urban partnership agreement projects that were implemented or are being implemented provide plenty of new transit service to go along with congestion pricing. So that all modes are treated equally, whether you are in a single occupant vehicle or a transit rider, you could benefit.
Finally, the issue of geographic equity comes up. If you decide, for example, to put a toll on a facility in one part of a region, because that infrastructure is about to collapse and you need to fix it and there is no money. People in that part of a region will feel it is inequitable because they have paid taxes that have gone in the past to pay for infrastructure improvements in other parts of the region. They don't think it is fair that, now that it is their turn so to speak, you asking them to pay a toll.
The one way to address the geographic equity is to do what Seattle did. Take a regionwide approach and have a larger plan that everything will be priced, everybody will share equally in the burden and throughout the region.
Addressing Public Perceptions:
I am now going to talk about the public perceptions that you are going to face. There are people who doubt the effectiveness, that pricing can eliminate congestion. As in Stockholm when they decided to do congestion pricing, one way to address that is to sell it to the public as a pilot with an opportunity after the pilot to vote it down if they so choose through a referendum. A pilot can help in that respect.
People do want travel alternatives. If you are pricing the entire facility, they want to be able to avoid the toll. Whenever congestion pricing on all lanes has been implemented, and for the SR 520 plan in Seattle, a lot of alternatives will be available. That is something that has been seen everywhere in the world where congestion pricing has been implemented.
Traffic diversion is another issue that you will encounter. If you toll an existing facility, existing lanes, where is some traffic going to go? They will go on parallel streets. You need to make improvements on parallel streets in order to be fair to people that might be using those streets.
Double taxation or "paying twice" is another issue that you are going to confront. People feel that they have already paid for the roads. It needs lots of public education like in Seattle. For SR 520, they had to demonstrate to the public how expensive it would be to replace the SR 520 bridge and that existing tax resources were not sufficient.
Cost of the toll collection. People tend to compare the cost of collecting tolls, which is pretty high - to put up that infrastructure and operating the facility as a toll facility can be expensive -- they compare it to fuel taxes for example, where cost for collection might be less than 1% of total revenues. The way to address that is to point out that if you generated at the same amount of revenue from taxes, you will not get congestion relief because the facilities will be free and when things are free, people overuse them and you cannot manage demand. The cost of toll collection should be compared with the benefits of congestion pricing rather than simply being compared to the revenue.
Addressing Public Perceptions (contd.):
This slide shows other issues that you are going to face, The first is privacy which tends to be a concern primarily when you are pricing the entire highway system. People may feel that they're being tracked and the government will have information on their whereabouts. You need to have legislative safeguards. Also, there are ways to protect account information -- to have anonymous accounts. Finally you can have what is called an electronic purse -- similar to smart cards -- where you can fill up the card with money and then the toll amount is simply deducted from the card anonymously, and nobody knows who that card belongs to.
Finally, the last issue relates to trust of government which is one of the most difficult issues. When a particular agency does not have credibility, it is going to be difficult to tell the public you're going to relieve congestion, because they may not believe you. A way to address that doubt would be to offer a money back guarantee if congestion is not relieved.
Another issue is that people don't believe that you're going to use the revenue to improve the corridor or facility where the revenue is being collected. You could have stipulations as to how the revenue is going to be used. When you are doing regionwide pricing, you could specify specific projects where you will spend the revenues.
These are some of the ways that you can promote and address issues. What we're going to do over the rest of this webinar and for the next month, in Webinar sessions 2 and 3, is to show you how the regional agencies and state DOTs and city governments have actually done outreach to address these perceptions or issues of equity, to help to get the public on board.
With that, I will turn it over to John for the Q&A.
Questions and Answers:
Thank you, Patrick.
Can everybody hear me?
Yes, we can, John.
That is the most distinct, 24 to 25 minutes overview road pricing I have heard in along long time. I appreciate your wisdom that you are sharing I know that you raised a lot of good point and good question said. We have a couple that have come through. Actually, three of them. The first two relate to the issue of transit. Why should tolls be used to cross-subsidize transit or alternative modes? Does not seem necessarily linked. Could you explain that rationale for subsidizing transit with toll revenues?
For each car that you take off the roadway and put that driver in transit, you can save as much as $10 in congestion cost. There are analyses that have been done, a type of analysis that I have done myself, that show you the magnitude of the cost that you can reduce by encouraging people to take other modes. As a result of that driver going into transit, the drivers that remain get a benefit of $10. So it is quite fair that $10 goes to support transit. Overall, there are other issues and there are a lot of reasons. You don't have to expand highway infrastructure which can cost even more than $10 per single occupant driver. You reduce emissions which is a social cost that drivers never have to take into account. You can reduce dependence on oil and energy which is security issue. Parking cost of the employer will be reduced. And on and on. There's a lot of costs that putting somebody into transit saves society, which justifies subsidizing transit.
Thank you, Patrick. We have another question which is related to environmental justice. If there have been any studies done that look to add tolling, and if there have been incidents where road pricing projects have been instituted in a low-income area, and what kind of environmental justice issues arise from that? And consent. As well as what you talked about earlier with traffic diversion, if you are pushing people into local streets. What kind of mitigation might one have?
There are no projects that have actually been in that situation. I can tell you the SR 520 project did do an analysis and found very few low income people would actually be affected. And in the case of New York City which was the other project where low-income people would have had no option except to take transit, they addressed that issue by simply saying that if you qualified for an Earned Income Credit on your federal income tax return, then you would get a reimbursement on all the tolls that you paid minus the cost of transit fare. They recognized that the extra burden of the toll would be something that would be too burdensome for a low income person and should be reimbursed.
Thank you, Patrick. Related to that, there is a question regarding toll credits. You have done some research and writing on the issue of what you call FAIR lanes. Could you address what the role could be of income-based discounts or toll credits.
I have suggested in the FAIR lanes example that credits be given to everybody in the general purpose lanes. And then once they accumulate sufficient credits, they could use the priced lanes with those credits. That would be equitable not just for low-income people, but for everybody. But others have suggested that credits be only given to low-income people. There was a study in Alameda County that we funded that actually looked at that alternative. You can address equity because electronic toll collection makes it easy to provide credits to the transponder account of the low-income person.
Thank you, what I think we will do is transition now to a learning moment with Lee Munich. Lee has gotten some wisdom to share not only as a researcher, but as a practitioner who has been involved with the Minnesota congestion and road pricing project as well as other projects throughout the country to his role as the chair of the Transportation Research Board congestion pricing outreach subcommittee. With that, I will pass it to flee. To give you an overview of the - - approach and how that can be used to effectively outreach and communicate to broader audiences.
Section 2 Presentation by Lee Munnich, Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota
Thanks, John. This is for mine and I think everyone has been involved with congestion pricing project the continual learning process. We learn from each other, we learned from its projects that go forward. I think, we are happy that we have so many people that are beginning to think about this and looking at how to move forward. What I would like to do is summarize a few key things that we have learned primarily from our experience in Minnesota, but also applies in other cases as well and some of this we anticipate the presentation back Kenneth Buckeye will be giving. I will I want to highlight a few principles and things to think about as we talk about this issue of road pricing.
There are several different components to what might be considered an outreach and communication strategy. The first is market research. That is basically understanding what the where the public is coming from we know from market research that people are suspicious of congestion pricing. They don't understand why they should pay toll. With the benefit of that is in terms of reduced congestion. What we let go so it is once people see it work, they are strong supporters of having some sort of baseline and ongoing market research is going to be important. To talk about that and to plan for that as you move through a project.
The next is education. At the Humphrey Institute, one of our missions is teaching and as Wallace Research and outreach. It is important that you-have some process for people court involved in these decisions and to learn and understand and a variety of strategies in doing that, we have done things like rethinking transportation finance round table where we invite in people who are interested in transportation. We have speakers from another city is doing and has a de congestion pricing project. A good opportunity to learn. And we spend a good amount of time educating, some can be done through media, editorial, but how to explain to people what the benefits of congestion pricing might be and addressing issues that and concerns they might have.
Outreach, as opposed education is really involving people more in the process. You need to understand, they need to know why you are doing this. You need to have a and method in which you engage the citizen and key stakeholders in this. We tried a number of strategies for engaging the public. It is more than just a public forum. The public form may not be the best way for this kind of discussion. There's a lot of strategies that you can use to try to engage the public and understand in understanding the issue involving them directly.
Communication is as opposed to education and a which is really about explaining this and putting it into terms that people can relate to rather simply.
Finding ways to present this and the news media. Getting things into simple form play.
After working in congestion pricing in the 1990's and not been particularly successful, but learning a lot, we hired a communications consultant, Joelle Loveland, who helped us kind of think about and, put better strategies for extending it to the public.
You might think about bringing in some communications talent at an early phase to help you and how you frame these issues and how to explain it to the public in a way that they can see the benefits.
Marketing is - once you move toward the project, in Minnesota, once we have the public support and the political support to move forward with the project, HOT project in 394, it was important to sell the project to the public. We wanted them to buy the transponder and use the system. There was specific marketing techniques that were broaden that were on seven people on has to why they would use the transponder. They were special extra credit separate given to people in using in when they first tried it. Where they could get into - we need more specific marketing techniques in order to sell the project.
Finally, you need an evaluation strategy where you can confirm whether or not people are accepting and using the projects. We have had a panel survey approach during the process of implementing the 394 amid pass project and we did a before and after study to find out how people felt about it not just the user's, but the nine users as well. Ken will be presenting the data from that. All of these things will be going on at the same time and to relate in some and support each other. For example, we have - a communications strategy was fairly successful in getting this topic up to the public and a NEW-LINE lot about mid pass. And the marketing consultant came out to sell the transponders', he said we have already had a lot of earned media which means free media. We don't have to pay as much to do the marketing we had to do that. If you can find ways that these things can work together a lot.
A couple of one of the things that we hired the indications - Joe Loveland pass yet he was the person that we ended up selecting. He said that - we had a couple of unsuccessful efforts in trying to implement congestion pricing he said we really need a grasp top approach will need to be able to explain that and convinced that policy leader that this is a good idea and they can explain it to the public. The other than having the transportation professional engineers and - No offense to the engineers in the room. Some of them are very good communicators, too. We have seen that as well, but at the time we felt like it was important that we have the political leadership one board to do this. There are a couple of things that we - the we worked on. When needed to gather the governor on board. We went to three different governors from the three different parties. During this time, the Republican - two different parties. The Republican independent again that we needed to get the governor on board to make sure that he either supported this project or at least would oppose not oppose moving forward with it. That was an important part of the communications strategy. We did not spend a lot of time talking to the governor, but we made sure that the people around the governor were aware. We had Jesse Ventura, an independent governor, he never became out in support or opposition to congestion pricing, he did not stop these projects from going forward. The next governor, and a adapting it.
English legislative champions - there were legislative campaigns in the corner who saw the benefits of this and they needed to be shown why this is the press that made sense.
Keep it bipartisan - one problem that you have that if one leader in the party it gets in front and advocates, you may end of the other party taking the position - in Minnesota and when we worked on this, there are people who were strong supporters of congestion pricing on the right and on the left. If you need some help either side, we can help find the people who will help explain why it might make sense from either a conservative or liberal point of view. Take your show on the road - again, the idea of going out to the community and talking about this, we have done a lot of presentations to clubs and city council to talk about this. To prepare the way and lay the groundwork before we got into the project. Be prepared to go on and talk to people about it.
Take policy leaders on the road. One of the things we found in Minnesota, we had a group of legislators and policy leaders tell helping on the 394 project and they had that of questions and we flew the group out to San Diego and SR 91 and Orange County and looked at those projects and came back with a much better understanding. If it is possible to get some of your political and policy leadership out to see the way things work elsewhere, or to bring people if you can do that, bring people in four involved in these projects. If you are going to a place, you might suggest to one of the city's, we will arrange a tour and show them what we have here and likewise with the other locations. There are a lot more places where you can see this working.
The ideal place to go is Stockholm if you can work that out or London and Singapore. We had John involved in the scanning to were there. There's a lot to learn in the other countries, but there's a lot you can see in the U.S. as well.
To the media for opportunities. We have these communication consultant come out looking for opportunities to have a guest editorial on the topic and keep track of if there was opposition out there. Questions that need to be addressed. How to take advantage of those. Leave no questions behind - one thing learned early on, there were a lot of questions. The kept track of all of those questions and developed frequently asked questions and what over time you will find out that there are answers for all the questions that you can come up with whether it diversion or equity, it may be different in every location, but there are studies. I see Tom HIC and was posting a couple of reports. A lot of information that you can pack in the you can answer those?
I had one more I thought was there. It must have fallen off the chart. The final point was if at first you don't succeed, try and try again we had a couple of failures in Minnesota and fortunately, we have support from the Federal value pricing Program to keep working on this project and we had interest and support from MN DOT. So when the opportunity came we had to move forward. It may take a lot of time, there may be process and education and outreach - you may not be able to move quickly as you want. You can learn a lot over time.
I will turn it back over to John for the next part of the presentation.
Thank you. We are going to six questions for Lee after Ken's presentation.
At least the grass top approaches the way he described it does not seem like a rocket science. It seems pretty basic outreach and education to various audiences and sounds like to me what to is successful in the case of Minnesota or what Lee and Ken will dive into deeper, it is delivered and proactive process so that when the opportunity to come, the folks were ready and the professionals were ready to strike when the iron was hot. I think that is a great lesson learned.
Next - I would like to introduce Kenneth Buckeye who is a value pricing program director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. He is also active and as a member of the Research board. You might see a running team of folks who are engaged in this conversation and also engaged in the research at TRB. Ken has been very active and been involved in pricing since the early '90s. The three presenters that you have the we have here today, we are lucky enough to have. The people on the ground floor of a lot of these projects over the last two decades. With that, Ken, we look forward to your presentation thank you, John.
Session 3 Presentation by Kenneth R. Buckeye, AICP
I-394 MnPASS Case Study
What I am going to talk to about is the case study of I-394 MnPASS HOT lanes and our most recent HOT lane experience on I-35W as well.
First I would like to give you a brief history. Lee has gone over some of that. I will describe the project and discuss some of the driving forces pushing the project along. Then I will touch on public acceptance issues and public involvement. I will then give you some information on the performance that we are experiencing with the project, and what the current are the satisfaction levels. Finally, I will close with the lessons learned and the related NCHRP projects which complement the readings that were sent out ahead of time.
It is very clear from what both Patrick and Lee have said, that it takes a lot of persistence and tenacity to keep these projects going. Road pricing is not for the faint of heart. Our experience goes back to 1993 when the public - private partnership law was passed in Minnesota. This law is our toll enabling legislation. In our first initiative with the tolling we invited the private sector to propose projects to the State of Minnesota. The second attempt at implementing road pricing was in 1997 and both fell because of strong public opposition. We had no history with tolling in Minnesota. The public was not convinced that we needed pricing, and we were not clear as to the reasons we were pursuing it. We needed to be more explicit about that.
The Ventura administration - while not support pricing - did not stop us from studying it. With the support of the federal Value Pricing Pilot Program, we were able to continue studying that notion. We develop a working group called the Value Pricing Advisory Task Force and was coordinated by the Hubert Humphrey Institute at the University of. It provided a neutral setting for us. Not to advocate any particular project, but rather to consider whether or not pricing deserved to be on the table, and what were the good and bad things about it. What we learned from that is we could have a rational discussion about this policy. The group finally decided, it is not something we love but it is something we should try in the region.
With that, they were very instrumental the 2003 HOV to HOT lane legislation getting passed.
We had a governor that was ready to implement some new ideas. Congestion was growing in the Twin Cities at the time he entered office in 2003. There was a significant budget deficit and a promise of no new taxes. The stars are aligned for us and we got the governor's support- the grass top support Lee was talking about- in addition to other influential legislators as well.
Between 2003 and 2005, we develop the project and it was launched in May of 2005. Within two years we had support for launching the second project, the I-35W project. The grass top support really is instrumental.
The goal for the legislation that allowed for HOV to HOT conversion was set in the language of the law. First, was to improve the efficiency of the corridor. Next, was to maintain and improve the free flow speed for transit and car pools. It is a recognition that transit and carpools are primary purpose for HOV and HOT corridors. The legislation also said use half of the excess revenue to improve the highway and have to go to enhanced transit services in the corridor. And, finally the legislation directed us to employ new technology for the purpose of variable pricing and enforcement. This provision embraced the notion of dynamic pricing.
The graphic will show you the I-394 corridor. It is an east-west radial that runs into downtime Minneapolis from the western suburbs. It is 11 miles long. Eight miles of Diamond Lanes and three miles of reversible section close to downtown Minneapolis. A single HOT lane is designed into the first eight miles of the Diamond section. From highway 100 the double lane reversible section goes into downtime Minneapolis.
The region's second HOT lane corridor, I-35W, is nearly complete with the exception of the middle section which is going to be opened this fall. Priced dynamic shoulder lanes were added to the section of I-35W closest to downtown Minneapolis for the purpose of lane continuity.
This slide shows the interchange of I-394 and I-94 near downtown Minneapolis. The elevated section is the reversible lane. This section of I-394 and I-94 leads into the Lowry Hill tunnel. This slide shows the reversible section from the west looking east into downtown Minneapolis.
This slide is taken from roughly the same location looking west. We are hovering over Highway 100. The Highway 100 interchange is shown in this photo. The interchange has direct access ramps from Highway 100 onto I-394. The final two photos show a couple of the innovations introduce with I-394 MnPASS including the double white stripe buffer that was introduced with this project. The dual pricing system for MnPass is shown also. This photo is a close-up of the 3-mile reversible section from Highway 100 into downtown Minneapolis. This section is dedicated to eastbound traffic in the a.m. and to westbound traffic in the p.m.
What were some of the driving forces that caused us to search for the MnPass solution. At the time, we were experiencing increasing congestion. There was a perception that the lane was under used. Research supported that it was in fact underutilized and had a very high violation rate, at one point exceeding 24%. We knew that expansion in the corridor was not really an alternative. Furthermore, Federal Highways ruled that it could not be converted to a general-purpose lane.
There was a growing expectation among decision-makers and the public that we must manage the system better.
The influence of other successful project like as are SR 91 and I- 15 was instrumental as well.
I had previously mentioned the Value Pricing Task Force and the influence that it. It met for nearly two years and resulted in that the legislation authorizing the conversion of HOV to HOT. I would be remiss if I would not did not say that we were very fortunate to have the support from the federal value pricing pilot program to help us as well. As has been pointed out, public acceptance is by far one of the biggest challenges that we faced.
At the time we had already studied pricing for nearly 10 years before we got the authority for HOV to HOT conversions. The Governor's direction was to accelerate implementation. Being new elected, the Governor had political capital to spend and directed MnDOT to try some new things and to be more efficient.
We formed what we then called the I-394 Corridor Implementation Committee with the charge to implement the project. This committee was structured to provide sound advice to the commissioner on implementation aspects of the project.
What were some of those concerns we had to address in the corridor? I think Patrick discussed this piece quite thoroughly. Equity, double taxation, and performance were among the concerns. Nobody understood how pricing could enhance performance.
At the time, there was no clear understanding of electronic tolling. But the public perception also was that we would diminish the level of service for transit and carpools. We had to ensure that we would not do that.
The public had little idea of how t dynamic pricing could work to enhance performance.
This project broke some new ground as I mentioned, the double white strap stripe buffer being an innovation that other projects are now adopting. The pricing component and the read-write transponder technology for enforcement purposes was introduced as well. We had to spend some time with the public to help them understand how this technology works.
Our involvement effort really was a strong collaboration. We had assistance from the FHWA, the Metro Council and University of.
Along with the public sector partners, we had our private-sector partner led by Wilbur Smith. The consortium did not ask for an equity position in the project, but what they offered to contribute were discounted design and engineering services, and discounted fees on licensing technology, in exchange for being first in the market in the Twin Cities. We gained valuable benefit from that partnership.
The value pricing Advisory Task Force model was used to implement the I-394 corridor and to advise to the Commissioner on substantive issues such as hours of operation, safety enforcement plan, what the signs would look like, the types of vehicles allowed, ,the kinds of transponders to use. All issues that they provided guidance on the Commissioner of Transportation took very seriously.
What made our outreach process effective? Being guided by the implementation task force was clearly an important step. The legislation clearly articulated what are project objectives were. We took several of those task force members to California. They really became very strong proponents of this notion after seeing this work in another location.
We defend the solution as a choice. It was not going to hurt anybody and we ensured the public that lanes would continue to be an HOV transit facility first. HOT was an option that the public did not have before. And, of course, the use of the revenue was a very important consideration.
We had to build trust and expertise. We had to provide ample opportunity for public input which we did in every one of those meetings of the implementation task force.
We said we would answer every question posed, as Lee pointed out, and we conducted extensive market research which included three waves; one wave before the project opened, one wave six months after the project opened and one a year after the project opened to see what problems people encountered, as well as what they liked and didn't like.
We promised the public that we would make changes to the project if necessary. We said we don't have all the answers. A lot of this was new learning and that we would make changes to make the project better if necessary. We did have to make some significant change early on in the project that improved it.
We worked hard at communications and marketing and this was very instrumental in helping us gain support.
This summarizes some of our findings with regard to performance. We have seen a 9% to 33% increase in volumes on the MnPass lanes during peak hours. On the general purpose lanes we have also seen enhanced performance during the peak hours. We are able to maintain travel speeds at 50 miles per hour or above at least 95% of the time. Travel speeds in the general purpose lanes has also increased. Transit rider ship and carpool have not decreased. We have even seen an uptick in transit and carpool performance and there are a number of reasons behind that. For the first time people are seeing the value of taking transit because they see a price that they did not see before. We know that safety has not been compromised.
Enforcement has been effective. This chart shows acceptance by income levels across the lower, mid and higher income levels. There is a good level acceptance among all groups.
This chart shows that there is a high degree of satisfaction with enforcement efforts. The safety of merging, the ease of identifying access points and the speed of traffic flow in the MnPASS lanes also has a strong level of support.
This chart compares our I-394 experience with our latest MnPass experience I- 35 W. In terms of Regional support, it was very weak. By the time we implemented I-35 W MnPASS we experienced strong regional support. The legislature was cautiously supportive on I-394, but they were very supportive with the second project. Public perceptions were negative and we had a high level of engagement and concern with I-394. With I- 35W we had very low level of engagement. Framing the problem was an important dimension. We had an underperforming lane with I-394. We had high violations, and the recognition we needed to preserve the HOV and transit level of service. It was also presented as a choice option on I-394. On I- 35W had an underperforming lane as well, but we were adding a priced dynamic shoulder lane for the purpose of continuity and also enhancing transit service as well.
Within our own agency, we had weak to moderate support with I-394. By the time we had implemented I-35W we had strong support internally.
We had no EJ and equity issues on either corridor.
MnPass is meeting its goals and significantly reducing congestion and increasing safety.
Customers are getting value for their toll dollars. You can go to www.MnPass.org. To find a recent survey for public satisfaction. Our revenues are not as high as we had hoped when we initiated the project they are covering cost. As we bring more projects on-line, we think we will see their economies of scale print and we will see reduced costs and increased revenues.
What are some of the lessons learned?
To echo what Lee said, political leadership is essential. We had that political champion. The public will support road pricing if they see the benefits. We have not diminished the level of service for transit. We have put the market to work and we believe this is a sustainable policy because we can alter the prices and the occupancy requirements to continue to keep these facilities free-flowing. The HOT lane revenue generated is not as high as we hoped it would be, but if these lanes cover their costs of operation, the benefit of improved facility performance is justified.
Effective outreach, education and marketing are critical. Effectively involving constituents is also very important dimension.
Projects are more likely to generate support if they are linked to transit. We saw that with the I-35 W.
And nothing succeeds like success. The success of the I-394 project clearly was a strong motivator to moving into the I-35W MnPass project.
This is a list of the NCHRP Projects I encourage you to take a look at. The first three are complete now. The last two are in the final draft stage and should be available very shortly.
With that I will conclude my remarks.
Thank you, Ken for sharing the Minnesota experience as well as those NCHRP studies. I know we have some people out there on this webinar new had been active in developing those reports and we welcome your expertise also and appreciate it. A couple of household keeping items before we jump into questions as we are running at about five or so minutes before the end time for this session. The first is for sessions two and three, we are looking to make it more interactive than this first session by having a group or individual volunteer to present the case and then will get feedback on that case from the panelists. This is meant to be an open environment for discussion. There are no reporters or media types on this webinar. What is discussed here is mainly for educational purposes and will not be recorded for anything that you would need to be concerned about. It is mainly for educational purposes and will talk about it at a high level and we would provide more detailed feedback to a volunteer. I hope I did not scare too many people away by that comment. That was not the intent and in addition, I posted a web link to a blog that Lee Munich keeps up and get back and read more information about the Minnesota case study. A couple of articles posted there. One, jointly by Lee and Ken. Helpful for people who want to have that research beyond this webinar.
Session 4 John Facilitates Group Discussion and Preparation for Next Session.
Questions and Answers
John: Now, moving to your questions, we have a question related to the Environmental process. How public outreach for road pricing could have implications for the EIS or environmental approvals process. Particularly for a HOT lane.
Ken: With the conversion of the I 394 project to pay HOT Lane. We received a category called categorical exclusion in the environmental process. It was really a modest change from the original operation plan. There did not appear to be any adverse environmental effects that were discernible. On the 35W, we did do an Environmental Assessment, a couple of different issues arose, we had to provide some added lanes - lane work, and noise wall work and other things that required more detailed environmental work.
John: Great. Just to provide another perspective of a project I had been involved with, which is the I-85 HOT lanes project in the Atlanta region. That also went through an environmental assessment. There was an outreach component to it. For many of those HOT lanes that are going to come on line, that seems to be becoming more of the norm than the exception. Patrick, I don't know if you have any additional thoughts for a broader perspective nationally about how HOT lanes in particular are being dealt with in the environmental documentation process.
Patrick: We have a planning office that is better qualified to answer that but what I know from reading the newspaper is we have a big issue right here in the Washington area with the I-395/I-95 proposed HOT lanes being challenged. What they're going to be doing is restripe the facility to create an extra lane. You will have extra traffic volumes which is the concern being expressed -- dumping extra traffic and pollution into an EJ neighborhood. This goes beyond the pricing. What you are doing in this project is expanding capacity. You cannot attribute that to the pricing component.
John: Just a follow-up question and maybe more of a comment -- how can one work with the federal partners to encourage more [ audio not understandable ] and performance tracking of what is happening so we can have more accurate models for predicting the impacts of HOT lanes or road pricing on a facility or systemwide basis?
Patrick: I think it is the planning folks that are in the model development business. We are going to be scheduling workshops for MPOs and in the workshops we expect to provide some good practices for modeling pricing as well as evaluation of pricing. There is a model that has been available for a while called STEAM that can do a very good cost-benefit analysis similar to the type you saw that Seattle did. You can evaluate alternatives. We expect to roll these workshops out in about three months or so. Stay in touch.
John: We have another question related to how you move beyond HOT lanes as they are severely limited with regard to their capacity and throughput. How do you move to broader types of congestion and road pricing that would be what you talked about earlier, Patrick, in your diagram -- public acceptance getting harder - how do we get there, either GPS technologies that can help allay some of the issues that come up or other issues and challenges to a project? What is the current thinking and the movement to broader road pricing applications?
Patrick: As I said in my presentation, Seattle has been in the forefront and demonstrated how to a least educate the elected officials so they understand the need for full pricing of all lanes on the limited access highway system. They have been successful. Stay tuned for webinar 3 on September 28. Seattle, Puget Sound Regional Council, they will tell us what they did in partnership with the State DOT. There have been a lot of outreach efforts there. While the public may not be as educated about pricing as we would like them to be, they are still much further along than in other metropolitan areas. We've got a long way to go to go for sure. Takes a lot of hard work like those folks in Seattle have been doing.
Ken: If I could chime in on that, Patrick, you have been an innovator in the sense of developing the FAIR lanes concept and the FEE lanes concept as well. I think that is one of the paths, one of the options that could get us to broader pricing. The FEE lanes idea is an idea that encourages pricing of an additional lane, not just the HOV lane, but two lanes or more, with conversion of the shoulder to a dynamic lane during peak periods to provide more capacity, in addition to full facility pricing. I think this is a kind of an incremental step to get there as well.
Patrick: Back in their early nineties, it was called "Introducing congestion pricing, one lane at a time." There was a paper written, I forget by whom.
Ken: I think I remember reading that.
John: Great, thank you, Patrick and Ken. We have come to our appointed time. I know there are a few questions out there. For those who have lingering questions on the chat board who would like to hang on the phone after we dismiss the rest of the group, feel free - John Doan will stay on the line and we could walk you through the last questions. For those who are interested. Otherwise, I encourage everyone to attend session 2 which will provide a case study of the New York City congestion pricing initiative and the inside scoop on what happened and why it happened and where they are going from there and what lessons are to be learned from that experience and we believe there is a silver lining in every cloud and we definitely hope that congestion pricing and New York City and whatever from that experience keeps moving and will have some opportunities into the future.
John: With that, we have just one last survey question here. The folks can look at it and provide us some feedback about how this webinar - how it was conducted and your experience, that would be greatly appreciated. It will help us improve session 2 and 3. Thank you very much everyone.
For those who would like to have their questions answered, hopefully you can stay on the line for a couple minutes and we can answer those before it gets too late. Thank you, everyone and hope that you will join as for Session 2 on September 7 from 2 to 3:00 p.m. eastern standard time. Thank you all.
At this time, you may disconnect whenever you want. Thank you.