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Road Pricing: Resources

USDOT Resources: IPD Road Pricing Public Acceptance and Outreach Webinar - Session 2 Transcript

Patrick DeCorla-Souza, Tolling and Pricing Program Manager, FHWA
Lee Munnich, Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota
Bruce Schaller, New York City Department of Transportation
John Doan, SRF Consulting

Center for Innovative Finance Support
Federal Highway Administration

Second Part of a Webinar Series on Road Pricing Outreach

FHWA - IPD Road Pricing Public Acceptance and Outreach Webinar Mini-Courses Transcript


  • John Doan, SRF Consulting


  • Patrick Decorla-Souza, Tolling and Pricing Manager, FHWA
  • Lee Munnich, Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota
  • Bruce Schaller, New York City Department of Transportation
  • John Doan, SRF Consulting

Road Pricing and Public Outreach - Session 2

9/7/2010 2:00-4:00 p.m. EDT

Operator: Welcome, and thank you for standing by. At this time, participants are in a listen-only mode. I would now like to turn the meeting one of our speakers for today, Mr. Michael Kay.

Michael Kay, Host

Thank you, and welcome everyone to the second of three webinars on Road Pricing Public Outreach and Awareness. My name is Michael Kay, and I will be one of the moderators for today. I'm with the U.S. DOT Volpe Center, and this webinar is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration's Center for Innovative Finance Support. Before turning it over to our other moderator, John Doan, I just wanted to point out a couple of key features of our webinar room. On the top left, you will see a download pod where you can download today's presentation and follow along. Below that is the call-in information and passcode in case you are to get disconnected at any point. Below that is the attendee list and, finally, at the bottom is a chat box which you can use to communicate with the presenters, ask questions, and we will also use that for our question and answer session later in the webinar.

With that, I will turn it over to John Doan who is with SRF Consulting and a member of the TRB Congestion Pricing Committee, and he will be the moderator for today. John, take it away.

Moderator for the Event - John Doan

John Doan

Thank you, Michael. Welcome everyone. It looks like we have over 120 sites the line. We appreciate you coming back for session 2 of this webinar mini course on road pricing, public acceptance and outreach. Session 2 will focus on seeking approval, which will highlight the lessons learned from PLAN-YC 2030, which was the New York City approach to congestion pricing that occurred a few years back. He will hear more about that, where that is going and what life it has lived from Bruce Schaller.

We want to also let folks know that we do have one more session left, session number three will focus on Washington State and Puget Sound/Seattle region and please feel free to sign up for the last session. That will be on September 28 at the same time as today. That is Tuesday, September 28. We look forward to having you participate in that session as well.

Just a quick reminder, the participant that attends all three of the sessions will be eligible for a door prize and it will be a road pricing care package that will be assembled by not only yours truly and Patrick DeCorla-Souza of FHWA. We look forward to having a special winner of that care package. With that, I'm going to ask some survey questions.

The first of which, Michael, if you could proceed, is, how many people are attending from your site? We want to get a total account of the number of people at each site. I will open it up for about 15 seconds to respond.

Based on my estimates, we probably have over 150 people on the line.

Thank you very much, Michael. Could we go to the next question?

This is a repeat if you were on the first session. We want a pretty good sense of the folks in attendance and the cross section of where you are located. If you could answer the question of what region you currently are participating from.

And it looks like we've got a little bit more presence from the west and northwest this time than we did from the first session. Michael, could you proceed to the next survey question?

The third question is, what type of organization do you work for currently? Federal, state, regional or local, consultant, university researcher or the other category.

It looks like we have folks from the local or regional agencies, which is a key group we want to reach out to. And we are about equal between consultants, states and federal agency staff. Thank you very much, Michael.

Last question is, what level of involvement have you had with road racing? The first choice is none, the next is conducting research or plan studies, the third is implementing a project currently, and the fourth is managing an operational project.

And it looks like we're hitting our target audience. A predominant number of folks either are interested in learning more or conducting research or planning studies for road pricing projects. About 75% in those two categories. Thank you very much, everyone.

With that, I'm going to also mention that at the end of this session, in lieu of doing a participant case study, we all save a case study for session 3. For this session, we are going to have an open discussion which will last 15 or so minutes. And for those who did not see the e-mail, this webinar is planned to go until 4 PM Eastern Standard Time. So it is a two-hour session today. With that, I'm going to present to you Patrick DeCorla-Souza who conceived the idea of this webinar mini-course.

Patrick will be talking about communicating with key stakeholder groups. This is the follow-up to his presentation during session 1 which focused more on the nuts and bolts of 101 of road pricing.

Part 1 - Communication with Stakeholders

Presentation by Patrick DeCorla-Souza

Thanks, John. As John mentioned, if you're at this webinar, you are at the second level now. In the first webinar, we talked about some basics on the various types of pricing. One of the differences between the various types of pricing is based on how much do you price? How much of a facility do you price? In the first webinar, we focused a lot on what might be called partial pricing of facilities. That is, pricing of lanes. In this webinar, we are graduating up to now pricing more than just lanes, but pricing entire facilities and we're going to talk -- Bruce Schaller from New York City is going to talk --- about the kind of outreach that New York City did in trying to get that type of pricing scheme implemented in the city.

So, the challenges, as you will note from Bruce's presentation, are much more difficult. But also, the payoffs are much greater. The more of a highway you price or the more of an area you price, the greater the benefit in terms of congestion reduction, and all of the other benefits.

Equity Concerns

So, what I want to do in this session here is simply give you an overview of the types of concerns. They are mainly equity concerns. The concerns tend to differ based on whether you're talking about partial or full pricing. I will talk first about income-based equity. Sometimes that is called "vertical" equity. And I'll also talk about other types of equity: modal equity, geographic, and fairness, which are considered to be "horizontal" equity, in case you have heard those terms.

Income-Based Equity:

So the first type of equity, the one that is most often raised, is the issue relating to the burdens that tolls are going to place on those least able to afford it.

New Priced Lanes: Equity Concerns:

First, with partial pricing, here you have in this graphic an example from SR 91. If you can't afford to use and SR 91 priced lanes, you can use the adjacent general-purpose lanes and it does not cost you anything.

So, the issue of burdens on low-income individuals really does not arise. But, there is another type of equity issue that is based on benefits. Just as burdens can be disproportionate, benefits might also be disproportionately distributed and low income people may not get the same amount of benefits as high income people. This is what you see as the issue on priced lanes such as SR91.

This graphic shows that if you're in the high income group, you use the express lanes more often, or the frequent users of express lanes are about 45% of those in the high income group.

For those in the low income group, the frequent user group is smaller. "Frequent user" is defined as those who use the express lanes -- the priced lanes -- more than half the time, for more than 50% of their trips.

You can see the benefits of the lanes are not proportionately distributed in the case of priced lanes. But the burdens, you might say, are not an issue.

Share of Income Spent on Tolls:

Now, if you're talking about pricing entire facilities -- if you recall in the last webinar we talked about SR 520 in Seattle, which is going to be where new tolls put in place -- low income people are not going to be able to avoid the toll by taking an adjacent lane. They might have to take Interstate 90 or go around the lake. Not very easy or convenient alternatives.

So, we do have a burden issue here. If you see at the last set of bars over there, on SR 520 commuters, if you look at the ‘all other" or "other than low income" group, they would spend about .10% of their income on bridge tolls if the toll were $2 to cross the bridge. Low income people on the other hand might have to spend as much as .20% of their income on tolls. As you can see, the burden would be disproportionate.

But you have to be careful because here, the group you are looking at is commuters on SR 520. On a broader scale, if you look at all commuters in the entire Seattle area, you would find it very interesting that the burdens are proportional. The "low income" and "all other" spend roughly .05% of their income. It just so happens that SR 520 is more used by high income people. So, if you look at the entire Seattle low income group, you're actually seeing a proportional impact.

And, if you look at all households, not just commuting households, you actually see that low income people spend even less than .05% of their income, and this happens simply because low income people tend a lot of times not to have jobs. And, if they are unemployed, they are not traveling, and so they are not represented in the peak hours as much as higher income people.

So, how you compartmentalize these groups is very important.

Addressing Equity Concerns:

So, we need to address these issues. The way you can do that is by providing, for example, low-cost transit services. So low income drivers would have an option not to pay the tolls and take transit. You can provide them with toll credits or discounts. In New York City, as Bruce might mention, there was a plan to actually provide reimbursements to those low income people who would have to drive in. The reimbursements would be any amount they spent over and above the transit fare.

And finally, the issue of "unbanked" low income individuals. They generally do not have bank accounts or credit cards. How are they going to pay if the tolling is going to be all electronic?

Ways have been developed whereby low-income people who don't have bank accounts can simply put cash into ATM-type machines and fill up their accounts.

Modal Equity:

So, the second type of issue is the modal equity issue. That relates to basically the folks on the transit advocacy side saying that if you relieve congestion, you're actually providing an incentive to people to drive. HOT lanes are a good example, where you allow solo drivers to come into those lanes and give them a congestion-free option. Transit folks tend to believe that it might cut into transit ridership, when you give people an option to avoid congestion.

Transit and Congestion Pricing:

Well, if you are doing full congestion pricing, as in the case of London, where you need to pay 8 pounds to enter the central area, what you actually have is an increase in transit ridership, simply because everybody who drives in has to pay. If they want to avoid the charge, they can do so by taking transit. So, you actually increase transit ridership.

Congestion is reduced, which allows buses to go faster and stay on schedule. That improves the quality of service. And then, because buses are going faster, with the same amount of bus hours of service, you can actually provide more service. For the same cost, more service can be provided. There are a lot of benefits that transit can get from full congestion pricing.

Addressing Modal Equity Concerns:

Now, in the case of HOT lanes, there are ways to address the issue, and one of the ways is to provide some of the revenue that is realized from tolls, and allocate it to transit. That has been done in San Diego and Minneapolis. Minnesota has legislation that requires 50% of the excess revenue above that needed to operate the facility, requires 50% of that revenue to go to transit.

And also, you can provide free or discounted service for carpools. That has happened for most of the HOT lanes that have been converted from HOV lanes. Carpools continue to travel free of charge.

An issue arises with new HOT lanes or new priced lanes, where the cost to build and operate the facility is so high that there is no excess revenue -- and in fact, most of the new managed lanes that are being constructed have required tax dollars to help pay for the cost. There is no excess revenue, and that becomes an issue.

Geographic Equity:

The next type of equity I want to talk about is geographic equity. And this relates to people in a particular area when you propose to put a toll on a facility in their neighborhood, the one that they use. They feel that it is unfair to them, because the rest of the region is not paying similar tolls.

Well, in Seattle, they have taken a region-wide approach. Their 2040 long-range transportation plan calls for all of the freeways in the Seattle area to be tolled by the year 2030. That would of course give the folks on 520 a feeling that they will not be alone and have not been singled out and the burden is being spread across the area.

Region-wide Approach vs. Patchwork:

Affordability: There are lots of benefits from taking a regionwide approach. One of them, as I have shown here, is that you can afford to actually charge lower tolls if you are charging tolls on more facilities.

An example on the other side, if you don't take a regionwide approach, as in Washington DC., is depicted here. You see there the Intercounty Connector. The tolls are expected to be high and people are complaining that they won't be able to afford the polls. There is lots of negative press about the higher tolls. Also, people won't be able to afford tolls on the HOT lanes. Affordability is better if you take a regionwide approach.

Region-wide Approach vs. Patchwork:

Efficiency: But there is another very important benefit, which is efficiency. For example, on the Intercounty Connector, the one on the north there, if I don't want to pay the toll, I can go around and take the Beltway which is parallel to that facility. That is inefficient, because I would be making a longer trip, wasting more fuel, and at the same time, if the Beltway is already congested, I will be making things worse there.

This is not only a cost to me, it is a cost to others. Social costs that I am imposing on others. If on the other hand, we took a regionwide approach and spread the cost around the entire freeway network, you would not get these types of diversions that happen when you price some facilities and not others.

Paying Twice:

Paying twice. This is the double taxation issue. The concern is that "I have already paid for the road and now they are making me pay again."

Construction Cost of New Lanes:

What we need to explain to people who raise this issue is that expanding a highway is very expensive. What I have shown there, as much as $7 per trip on a new Lane, versus a fuel tax payment of something like $.40.

Construction Cost per peak Trip:

I won't go into the calculations. They are in this graphic which you can download from the website. It simply shows you the amount of actual costs that the public has to bear. $7 on a normal cost highway and $29 on a high cost highway, versus the fuel tax received from the driver on that facility. This simple fact shows that you're not doing any double taxation, you're simply recovering the amount of public expenditure to serve that trip when you put a toll on an expanded highway.

Costs for Reconstruction per Trip:

Now, if you don't expand highway, and you simply reconstruct it, that too has a high cost. Here, what I show is a 20 mile trip cost about a $1.20. These costs don't account for routine operation and maintenance costs. And, you can compare that to the actual gas tax paid, it is only $.40.

So, recovering the extra amount from tolls would not be double taxation. It would be simply making up the deficit.

Taxes vs. Tolls:

This concern relates to taxes versus tolls. The trucking associations tend to prefer taxes because they think it is very expensive to collect tolls relative to collecting a fuel tax, for example. And actually, they are not wrong.

Yes, it does cost a lot more to collect tolls. However, building that extra lane and reconstructing that highway, using taxes instead of tolls, you would continue to have congestion. You would waste a lot of time in traffic, and incur all those costs that extra traffic and congestion causes.

Taxes vs. Tolls: Congestion Delay

If you were able to impose a variable price, you could eliminate most of that congestion. So, tolling has a benefit which taxes don't have. And what I have shown here is a result of at least one of the many research studies. It shows that just a 10-14% reduction in traffic causes a reduction of as much as 80% in delay.

Benefits to Government and the Public:

And these reductions in delay lead to lots of other benefits. First of all, if you could relieve congestion by managing demand, you don't have to spend money on new roads, or expanding existing roads. Emergency vehicles are not stuck in traffic so you can save lives. Freight transportation moves a lot faster. In fact, one of the biggest benefits in London -- the biggest beneficiary was commercial traffic. Reduced greenhouse gases, improved their quality, and as we saw in London, a big increase in the transit riders, as well as generating revenue that can be used to expand transit services. So, with that, I'll turn it over to John.

John Doan, Moderator - Questions and Answers Section

John Doan

Thank you, Patrick. We want to fuel a couple of questions. For folks who are participating, feel free to enter your question in the chat box.

The first question is, if you have seen any linkages for congestion relief for transit that has been provided for a road pricing project played out. That could be here in the US or internationally.


Yes. Well, in the case of partial pricing, which is basically managed lanes or priced lanes, there is generally not a lot of reduction in congestion on the general-purpose lanes. There is a reduction, but it is not a huge amount.

In Miami, we did get some reduction on the I-95 general purpose lanes, but at the same time, you have to understand, that project included an expansion of capacity.

And so, there was some relief on the general-purpose lanes. But generally, not a lot of relief for congestion from partial pricing. On the other hand, full pricing, for example in London, saw huge amounts of delay reduction -- on the order of 30% in London and then in Stockholm, where a similar project was implemented, a 20% reduction in traffic led to about a 50% or so reduction in delay.

What we are seeing in projects that have been involved in full pricing, where everything is priced, you do get significant amounts of reduction in congestion which allows buses to move much more rapidly. It improves bus service, improves its reliability, encourages people to take transit.


Great, thank you, Patrick. Another question for you. You have outlined different types of equity. Income-based, modal, geographic, and the issue of fairness -- paying twice. Can you highlight if there are one or two of those four that are deal killers or that are more prominent with folks who are opposing the idea of road pricing. Which ones come up more often and which ones have kind of the potency to actually stop a project in its tracks.


Well, you know, the income-based equity issue is one that arises most often. But as I indicated, it is different for managed lanes versus for full pricing. In the case of managed lanes, we have what is called the "Lexus lanes" argument. That they are providing better benefits for the rich and not proportional benefits for low income individuals. It is more of an issue of benefits being fairly distributed.

In the case of a project such as New York's, income-based equity came up again, and I'm sure Bruce will talk about it. It was a significant issue. There were a certain number of low income residents. Not a lot. They needed to travel into the priced area during some hours that the pricing system would be in effect. And in that case, the planners had to do a lot of analysis to demonstrate how small the proportion was, and then to propose that reimbursements would be provided to those low income residents that qualify for the earned income credit on their federal income taxes.

So that is the main one. Now, if you are trying to toll an existing facility such as on SR 520 in Seattle, the issue of fairness -- I'm sure they will talk about that in the next webinar -- is going to be the focus. Webinar 3 on September 28.

Geographic equity would be one of the issues for such a project, if you're just trying to price one facility in an entire metropolitan area. That is the type of issue that keeps coming up. Why me? Why not the people on the other side of town?

And, it is a difficult issue to address because you know, people feel picked on. They feel that their tax dollars that they have been paying over so many years have gone to pay for other roads and now when it is their turn, you are asking them to pay a toll.

Putting a new toll on an existing facility is a huge hurdle to overcome. And, we have not done it, yet. I mean, SR 520 will be the first one to actually price an existing free facility.

There was one in the Seattle area, actually in Tacoma, where they put a toll on what you might call an existing facility. But what it actually was a new parallel bridge to the existing Tacoma Bridge where the toll was put in place. So, you could actually say that they did not really price an existing facility, they priced the new bridge that was built.

By the way, the new bridge carries traffic in one direction, and on the old bridge traffic is in the opposite direction. So, you have to pay the toll. There is no way to avoid it. But, that was the only time that we have actually put a toll, in the United States, on an existing facility.


Thank you, Patrick. And as Patrick had mentioned, more will come on the Seattle case study in session 3. Just to summarize, what I've heard from Patrick is that each of the different types of equity concerns are challenges and could potentially adversely affect a road pricing project. Also, these equity issues affect different audiences, in different ways. From driver, on a more macro level, to specific geographic regions and communities.

We appreciate that explanation, Patrick.

Now, I will turn it over to Lee Munnich for a learning moment. Lee is the director of the State and Local Policy Program at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute.

He is going to walk you through some of the research that has been done around road pricing and public acceptance as well as some cases that he has walked through. Lee?

Part 2 - Public Perceptions and Congestion Pricing

Presentation by Lee Munnich

Thanks a lot, John. I want to talk about public perception and congestion pricing. When we first started working on congestion pricing in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Metro Council were very interested in this. And the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota collaborated with them in conducting a weeklong citizens jury.

Citizens Jury

Now, this is a process that was developed by a local group called the Jefferson Center, where you bring together a randomly selected group of people for several days. In this case, a week. We met for five days at the state Capitol. We presented information about congestion pricing. One constraint was that we had to present both the pros and cons so we had speakers for and against it. The question was, is congestion pricing a good way to manage congestion and fund transportation?

After a week of deliberation, the citizens jury voted against congestion pricing on a 17 to 7 vote.

At that point, the question was, should we go forward with it?

We dug into it a little bit deeper and found out that while actually 17% oppose pricing, 18 of the 24 were open to considering congestion pricing as an effective solution in the future.

The primary concerns that came out of this citizen jury was that first of all, congestion was not bad enough. We did have citizens from throughout the Twin Cities area and in fact, it was only one quadrant of the Twin Cities that had a very serious congestion. The others weren't experiencing it.

And so, congestion was not bad enough. However, we knew it was going to get worse and in fact it did.

A second concern was that congestion pricing was not fair. This is the concern that Patrick referred to, the Lexus Lane concern. Again, we were talking about at that time, a HOT lane approach. So, there were concerns about that.

There were also concerns about the cost of congestion pricing compared to the gas tax. This was a good piece of learning for us. We were really asking two questions. We were saying, is congestion pricing a good way to manage congestion and fund transportation? They quickly gravitated toward funding. The citizen jury' response was to simply raise the gas tax rather than implement congestion pricing.

At the time, the only example we had in the world of congestion pricing was Singapore. People tended to discount Singapore as a different kind of government. And so, they did not take that as seriously. Now since that time, there have been a number of projects in the US and we actually learned that we needed to demonstrate how congestion pricing was working in the US.

We developed a video based on the congestion project in San Diego and the SR 91 that had just opened. We use the video to show how congestion pricing works, and show how people reacted to it. We had several interviews where people were quite positive to the new priced lanes.

So, showing people that congestion pricing will work was important. So, as I mentioned, we did a survey at the end where we asked people about a variety of different things that they have learned during the citizens jury.

Should Minnesota Consider Congestion Pricing in the Future?

One question we asked was, should Minnesota consider congestion pricing in the future? We found that 25% were against congestion pricing and there is probably nothing we could say to convince them.

We had about 33% who would be in favor of congestion pricing in the future. We had 42% who were opposed to congestion pricing but open to consideration if their concerns were addressed.

Loss Aversion

So this showed us that there was maybe an opportunity with time and education for the public to change their attitudes towards congestion pricing. And, you know, what we have found over time is that as we moved into and put together a Friday of different things in Minnesota, actually, Ken Buckeye did a good job of talking about those activities. Over time, as congestion got worse, we were able to see enough of a shift so that we now have a fairly high leveled of support about 65% for I-394 and the I-35W project.

Support levels are even higher if you just counting the users themselves. Even those who don't use it think the MnPass lanes think they are a good idea. The other thing I wanted to kind of point out and I don't want to get too much into the psychology of this in behavioral economics and decision theory, there is a concept called loss aversion which refers to people's tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains.

There are a number of different tests been done to find out how people think about gains and losses. Basically, if you look at this chart, you will see that people are more adverse to loss than they are to the gains that they might get. So, the concern that people have about paying more, about what they might lose with congestion price project, tends to dominate even though we know there are significant benefits in terms of time reduction.


A study that was done in Europe by an organization called CURACAO found that based on a number of different congestion pricing projects and proposals, the public was open to congestion pricing, maybe slightly negative towards it when it was first talked about it in general terms. But, as proposed pricing projects moved towards implementation, the support dropped.

Two very good examples of that are in the Edinburgh Scotland and Manchester England where they actually held referendums. After introducing the congestion pricing plan and doing a lot of education and outreach, they then took a vote on whether to move forward with congestion pricing.

The Edinburgh and Manchester referendums both failed miserably --- 75% against in Edinburg and 78% against Manchester.

Public Support for Congestion Pricing

But then you look at other projects that managed to get past this sort of implementation negativity in London and Stockholm. Stockholm did sort a unique thing. They implemented a congestion pricing project, even though the public was opposed to it in the polls. After operating the system for several months, Stockholm then shut down the system and held a referendum asking whether to reopen the system. The Stockholm residents voted in favor of the referendum to reopen the congestion pricing system after seeing it work in reducing congestion.

Most places cannot implement this sort of Stockholm approach. It is very costly to put in a system and then shut it down and asked people whether they want it. This shows dilemma that we have how to demonstrate to people that they're going to get the benefits of this after the fact.

In the case of Stockholm, once people had the benefit of reduced congestion, even though they were paying a fee in order to get it, they saw that the value of congestion pricing time savings were strong enough that the loss aversion flipped the other way, and they did not want to lose that time savings benefit.

These are just a few ideas that we wanted to present to show you the dilemma that we have. What we need to do is to figure out how, through education and outreach, marketing, a variety of strategies, how we can deal with concerns about what people are losing. You cannot ignore that because people who are going to lose something or perceive they're going to lose something are going to be much more outspoken than those who can see what the benefit is.

John Doan, Moderator

Great, thank you, Lee. Just a reminder that we are expecting questions through the chat box. So feel free to type your questions as they come to you.

I have a question on the idea of loss aversion. What kind of -- do you see particularly on the -- where do you see the opposition coming from? Who thinks that they are losing and who think that they're winning when it comes to HOT lanes in particular. And if you could discuss a Toby Todd conversions, versus building but they call -- if you could discuss HOV conversions to HOT lanes.

Lee Munnich

We have done a lot of research on the data that Patrick showed, that people who are higher income tend to use those HOT lanes more than lower income. However, we also found that lower income people also used those lanes. They don't use them as much but they have the choice of doing it.

One of the advantages of HOT lanes is that you are in fact giving people a choice. In marketing HOT lanes, you want to emphasize that they do have a choice. What we have found, however, when we have done surveys of people asking them whether they think HOT lanes are a good idea, people of all income levels tend to support them.

So, lower income individuals like the idea of having that choice of using HOT lanes, too.

With HOT lanes you're giving people a choice and so the equity concerns are not as great. The other issue for HOT lanes is where you're doing it. If you have a low income population in a corridor, you may have more equity issues than if you have a higher income corridor. And those are some of the things that may come into it.

I guess the bottom line is, each congestion pricing project has its own set of issues but you need to tackle those arguments against congestion pricing, and equity is one of those.

John Doan

Great, thank you, Lee. Again feel free to enter in your questions. We have 152 attendees for this webinar and we encourage every one of you to submit a question and we'll make sure that we try to get to them as promptly as possible.

Now, I have the pleasure of introducing Bruce Schaller who is the deputy commissioner for planning and sustainability for the City of New York's Department of Transportation.

Bruce led PLAN-YC's transportation component, the congestion pricing proposal which received national press coverage and attention. Right now, we have a unique opportunity to hear the real story and lessons learned from a true insider of that process. So, Bruce Schaller is going to walk you through the New York City congestion pricing proposal and give you the inside scoop on the lessons learned.

Part 3 - New York City Congestion Pricing

Presentation by Bruce Schaller

Great thank you very much, Michael. I am going to give a quick overview of the proposal itself. I am sure many of you on the webinar here know a good deal about it. But, if you don't, I'm happy to give you an overview. Then, I'm going to go to the debate over congestion pricing. The people on the pros side and cons side and the arguments with my assessment, having lived through this whole debate and participating in it.

How I think the dynamics of the argument of the debate was over congestion pricing in New York City. And then, I'll take a step back and talk about lessons learned and the things driving out lessons which are applicable across the country. Thinking about any type of road pricing.

Overall, I'm going to try not to get too far into the weeds in terms of the congestion pricing proposal or the two-year long examination of it. But, really draw out the lessons learned that I think it will be helpful for people think about their own situation.

There was in the material beforehand, an article which I wrote and presented at TRB and has been published in Transport Policy, which goes into this in a lot more specific detail as well.

NYC Congestion Pricing Proposal (Jan. 2008)

This map shows the final congestion pricing proposal that was considered by the Legislature in the spring of 2008. The hashed brown area shows that pricing zone. If you are familiar with New York City geography, is the area of Manhattan from 60th St. down to the Battery.

The final proposal was an eight dollar a day fee would be charged once even if you went back and forth a number of times. $21 for trucks. There was a reduction to seven dollars for low emission trucks. It is a play from 6 AM to 6 PM weekdays Monday through Friday. So, the way this would work in practice, in terms of the charging is that if you went over one of the currently free East River bridges, which is shown there in green coming from Queens and Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, you currently travel for free and would pay an eight dollar fee to come in between six and six.

If you come southbound across 60th St., the same thing, and eight dollar fee to come in. If you're using a toll crossing, the four tunnels which are shown in red in this map, you already pay at peak at least an eight dollar toll and so there was an offset for tolls paid as well as for the other major crossings coming into Manhattan. The objection being to equalize the cost of driving in and no matter what crossing you would use.

So, the people who pay the congestion pricing fees are the ones who currently use the bridges coming across 60th St. Others already paying a toll would not have paid anything in addition to that. And that became an important in equity dynamic in particular as they went through the consideration of congestion pricing as I will discuss in a few minutes.

There was a good public policy and reason for equalizing the cost of Internet happen. Currently, people would use the free bridges when actually a tolled facility would make more sense and so they clog up the free bridges and residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens to access them and it just is not a sensible use of the transportation infrastructure.

The original construction -- congestion pricing had a double fee of four dollars which was dropped during the consideration and was replaced by parking in taxi fees and taxes to cover interest on all trips. There were some other and --

The original proposal was for both inbound and outbound and it was changed to outbound only. The northern boundaries moved from 86th St. to 60th St. which you see here.

The congestion pricing proposal was part of Mayor Bloomberg's plan to sustain facility plan that included a total of 127 initiatives for quality of life and for accommodating the addition of new residents and new jobs over 25 years.

And so I will talk about that in a few minutes. The importance of congestion pricing being part of a much larger plan, long-term.

Distinguishing attributes of NYC experience

Now, this next slide alludes to what Patrick was saying earlier. It is important whenever we talk about pricing for using the more general terms, to think about some of the specific factors that help to shape the proposal itself and how it is played out in what the final disposition was.

When you compare New York to London or Stockholm and Singapore, in particular the other major cities, the pricing scheme, it is important to also understand that governmental and political context in which the proposal was made and implemented.

I have listed on this slide four of those key factors of NYC who experienced those.

First of all, congestion pricing in New York City required the approval of the City Council and state legislature. So, there were three votes required. We need to get affirmative votes in all three of those. We did so at the City Council. One house of the legislature would most likely have approved it as well. You have three shots. Three bites to the apple, if you will.

So, the fact that there were approvals many legislative bodies was obviously very important to the outcome to distinguish the New York City example from London in particular to a degree from Stockholm as well. Secondly, and Patrick talked about this, the area of pricing scheme is definitely existing capacity, people who are using the street for free would have to pay.

And inherent to that if there is no free driving alternatives. It is a really important concept with HOT lanes. And then finally, and very importantly, there was a lot of discussion and a lot of perception of whether the plan would be carried out as intended and as promised. And the credibility of this major transportation transit agency in the regions. The MTA - this very much affected public perception as to whether transit is now or would increasingly be in the future comparable to driving.

Summary of views on congestion pricing

So, the next slide, and I have a couple of versions of this to show, is a very summary view of the arguments for and against congestion pricing in his year-long debate.

I want to point out a couple of things. First, if you're having trouble viewing this as some people were on our preparatory call, you can click that little box in the upper right of that part of the screen and enlarge it to the full screen.

And it is also reproducing the papers. So, if you're having trouble viewing this particular side. Along the left, you'll see I have decided the arguments in these two sets. Those who have the final impact and those who have individual level impacts. So, those which were talking about the city as a whole or region as a whole or at-large scale impacts. How it is affecting our society and future generations and the like.

And the specific impact on individual and transit riders and drivers. And, there is arguments in each of these boxes, as you can see. But in terms of the main driving arguments, for those who supported congestion pricing, the arguments tend to focus on the societal impacts. Reducing traffic congestion, funding, mass transit, producing or improving the air quality. Reducing emissions and furthering the larger goals of which were laid out in PLAN NYC of sustainability and urban quality of life.

Those were certainly important and compelling reasons for support. On an individual impact level, we certainly cover these in important ways. Funding transit in ways that would improve individuals commutes, use of the system. The ability of the transit system absorbs driver switch and provide reasonable and viable transit alternative.

If you look at the views of opponents of congestion pricing, their main and most compelling certainly to themselves and in many ways and larger debate argument had to do with the impact of congestion pricing on individual users.

There, the argument -- the improvements that we were talking about are promising with the congestion pricing revenues would not be sufficient to make transit of viable alternative. And that from strictly a driver standpoint, the value of the travel time savings would not be worth the eight dollars fee. So, essentially not presenting a good value proposition to drivers who continue to drive.

Those two arguments then really turned into a societal level argument about congestion pricing, targeting the working person who needs to drive to work, drive to medical appointments, and for other purposes in the Manhattan etc.

The dynamic was from the opponents that I to start with -- to critique the credibility of the promised transit improvement and then that morphs into a much larger argument about the fairness and equity of having congestion pricing in the first place.

Lessons Learned

So, this next slide highlights about half a dozen lessons learned that I will run through quickly and then on the following talk about some other lessons a bit more length. These are important lessons learned. I think they are particularly important. They would be important whether or not congestion pricing has been adopted in New York City.

They are not unique lessons to New York City by any means. In fact, they are widely shared with successful and unsuccessful pricing proposals. Both nationally and internationally. So, I think it is important to note them and note the importance of the top-level leadership from the mayor, the governor, the MTA head, a whole Brady of people that I will talk about later.

Being important for the kind of city that we want New York to become in the future. Particularly with a growth branded vision of how the city needs to evolve and change. So, the specifics of congestion pricing that into this much larger vision. And then also, kind of broadly being part of a comprehensive plan that includes improved transit service and serving abroad set of goals listed there.

So, really shows the connections between pricing and these larger sustainability goals and showing that the city has a comprehensive approach to solving traffic and other problems. Not just using pricing, but pricing as part of a variety of approaches.

So, third, public involvement, very much shaped the plan. We had a pricing commission where I ran through some of the major changes, changes in boundaries, dropped the internal charge, and so, showing in a very public process a lot of very good public input and feedback on the original proposal to shape the final plan which help to improve the plan and helped to build public support for it.

Next, extensive outreach and education were critical. I think everyone who has been through the processes would agree with that and Lee touched upon that earlier as well.

Leadership from abroad. Nongovernmental advocacy groups who worked very intensively on congestion pricing and we certainly would not have gotten as far as we did without their efforts. And finally, New York City was conditionally awarded $354 million in urban partnership grants. That was very important, particularly to the pace at which we move into the type of focus that we brought to this.

Lessons Learned

And, on a final slide, which I want to talk to about little bit more, really, what I think the takeaways are for thinking about any type of congestion pricing and road pricing. First, and I talked about the public engagement should really shape the program design. Public engagement is not something -- it's not like box 12 on the list of 22 boxes that you need to check during congestion pricing or road pricing processes.

It should be interwoven and integrate from the very start, from defining the problem and approaches. So that the public conversation, you're having the public conversation.

Is also very hard to do this in public. But, having a public conversation about what the need is, what the problem is, and how pricing combined with other steps can help to address it.

Second, pricing must provide a value proposition to those who will pay. Some of the earlier, particularly in the chat room discussion touched on this in a nice way.

This is a particularly challenging lesson learned when drivers are entering and so everyone will pay a HOT lane and it has the advantages for people to choose the general-purpose lane or pay the HOT lane toll.

I think one of the places that we had a real issue was in really defining in a convincing way the value of opposition for drivers, why this made sense for them.

The other piece of that value proposition is why some drivers pay and others don't.

So, people from Brooklyn and Queens would say, well, why do I have to pay the eight dollars fee? I currently use one of the bridges. People from New Jersey, of all places, are not paying any congestion fee. Because they are already paying a toll.

This was important point in a discussion and became a focal point in the working person equity issue which was further exacerbated by the objection of the working person in Queens and Brooklyn has to pay but those folks coming from New Jersey are not paying any additional.

Finally the need to demonstrate the benefits that will drive from the overall plan, reduce congestion, I think was pretty well accepted except that the congestion pricing fees would reduce the number of vehicles entering Manhattan. They would have a significant, we were estimating, about 12 to 14% reduction in vehicles entering and several times that reduction would delay. Not quite the ratio that Patrick was showing in his example but very substantial.

Conveying that the reduce congestion, whether it was value proposition or not the driver was real, was being paid through the improved transit which was more of an issue. Could you really deliver the MTA transit improvements that would be promised? What the revenue from congestion pricing be siphoned off in some other fashion before it even got to the MTA?

People thought that the lottery which was designated to the education but did not work in fact that way. I don't know if that is true or not but that is the perception. Sort of a similar issue here. Secondly, as it gets to the MTA will all been used as it was being promised?

The benefits had for the transit user or the user who might switch became a real key. Something we need to demonstrate more effectively than we did. So, I said I would try to go through this relatively quickly and I think I have succeeded in that so they will have a good amount of time for questions and discussion.

Questions and Answers

John Doan

Thank you, Bruce. That was definitely very insightful. We do have some questions for you, here, right off the bat.

First, what you would say was the primary reason for New York City not getting legislative approval and thus not moving forward despite having $354 million as well as having leadership support from civic, business and environmental groups. It seemed like you had a lot of good things going right for you. What were the key stumbling blocks?

Bruce Schaller

You're right, we did have some good things going for us and we got a long way with this. Before I answer question, I want to make one other point that comes to mind. Which is that even though we did not get congestion pricing improved and implemented, I don't think anyone who participated in the very intensive effort felt it was in retrospect a waste of time.

We were reading through the specific changes here at New York City DOT to see how the city operates. Much of that was paved the way of that congestion pricing debate because it really set up saying, we need to be more transit friendly, bike friendly, pedestrian friendly city.

And so, it really had that payoff and I could talk much more about that but I will just say that much. In terms of sort of the one factor question. I think it was really that people who should have been supportive of this, because of the transit benefits, particularly residents of the areas outside of Manhattan who use transit very heavily. This includes people in central Brooklyn for example where the transit modes are very high coming into Manhattan. Particularly 90 to 95%.

Those potential supporters were never really activated in the way that politics played out. Why would members of the assembly, who represent those areas not be fully supported and actively supportive of congestion pricing? They were not convinced of the benefits or they weren't convinced the benefits would make a real difference in their lives.

So I think it was really that the congestion pricing was not so much the issue. It was that there were people against it were able to block it because there was not a counterforce that was strong enough, based on the benefits.

John Doan

We've got another question for you, Bruce, related to the environmental approval process, what process was taking and did you need and environmental justice determination as part of moving forward?

Bruce Schaller

So, we had planned out and pretty well scoped out the environmental review process. We were going through a NEPA review and were hoping not to have to do a full NEPA EIS but that was not determined yet. As the whole, the environmental impacts were positive and not negative.

The state-mandated environmental review process, which is actually more stringent than just a state federal review and we are planning to go to that as well with a couple of modifications as part of state legislation.

We were doing a full environmental review and it was a very important issue number of supporters of congestion pricing from the environmental community that would not somehow short-circuit the environmental review process.

We were definitely going to environmental review and I don't remember specifically environmental justice but I presume that is part of that process in some fashion. I think from an environmental justice standpoint, congestion pricing would definitely be a very favorable thing.

John Doan

Bruce, we have another question related to the MPO's role in this process. New York, I believe, is very distinct in the ability of the mayor and city of Department of Transportation to play a very key role in decision-making processes as well as a number of stakeholders. Could you talk about the MPO stakeholders in this process?

Bruce Schaller

The MPO was very supportive of congestion pricing. It was one of the tools and approaches discussed in the long-range plan. We worked with the MPO well, all of the trouble modeling was based on the NYMTC best practices model which we continue to move for any number of contexts. And so, we very much took advantage of the modeling tools and works closely with NYMTC on that.

We have to do to process and the like, NYMTC made changes in their schedule to accommodate the congestion pricing and the proposal itself did not grow out of an MPO process, per se, but was integrated into where they were in the various processes as we got -- as we really kicked off consideration of congestion pricing with PLAN YC.

At NYMTC, other state agencies, New York DOT in particular were all very important and key partners throughout this process.

Particularly with NYMTC, which he stated that the appropriate role or could they have played a different role to help further the project and that could go more broadly to New York State DOT and/or other key stakeholders? Was just organizing of the various partners that you would look back upon and what would have done anything differently or wish that you would've enhanced and agencies will versus another?

That is a good question. I think that the wrapping for congestion pricing & -- for congestion pricing was a very good thing. I think that the dynamics, and this could go back to one of the first site that I showed, in New York City, there are basically two people who could put something on the table for broad public discussion. There is the mayor and there is the governor.

You know, it is a very big city. And there are many, many things going on. So, until you have one of those two people put a proposal on the table, this is what I want, it is hard to get people's attention.

So, if you think about, well, would that have done better or will it be the differences in an MPO planning process for example.

You just cannot get the level of attention on that. Just inherently, it is not -- it is a fact of life. You don't get the same attention that you do. When Mayor Bloomberg is that a big speech and says, this is what I propose, so I think this has been the case with a lot of pricing around the country. We are not yet to point of -- there are some things going on I will not say a lot about what is going on around the country, but there is good planning processes going on which I think will lead to good pricing projects for what they've seen so far is that they try to be stand-alone and of the moment and that was certainly the case here. I just think inherently so.

John Doan

Another question for you, related to funding and some concerns about what to do with the revenues from the tolls that would be collected. You would collect those in theory and why was their suspicion around the money is not being spent in the way they were intended to be spent?

So the city would have collected the congestion pricing fees we were set up at New York City DOT to lunch implementation through processes right after the legislation voted, had they adopted it. The money flow would have been from New York City into a lockbox of special accounts that would have been set up in the state legislation and would have guaranteed the flow of funds to the for specified purposes -- to the MTA for specified purposes.

We were very attentive to this issue and we had. To guarantee the proper use of funds, I think we did everything and certainly thought hard about that. I think we did everything we could, but I reflected on earlier is that they were still public skepticism, to be perfectly candid. And it was based on what was perceived to be previous experiences with lockbox type of promises. And so, it was an issue. And it was also just an issue from, even if the money gets into the intended purpose, just in terms of the execution and implementation of the service improvements, would it be done well?

John Doan

And one other question related to the public involvement process and some perceptions that Mayor Bloomberg's approach with the legislature might have created tension - Mayor Bloomberg's approach created some friction in -- what role did politics play?

Bruce Schaller

Well, this is probably asking me to go a little beyond what I have real expertise in. There was a lot of, I guess I could make the observation, they were particularly in the media aftermath, there was a lot of sort of assessment of the role personalities and politics played. There had been a history of other major proposals that people felt the administration was heavy-handed on.

You know, I'm sure none of this is unfamiliar to people and it certainly played a role in this. I think you could probably get criticized if you come on too strong, you get criticized. The other side is you could get criticized for not having tried hard enough. So I think certainly personal relationships, certainly the predictable -- political situation at the moment, they were all important factors in this.

In talking about this, I've tried to highlight what I think are the more left of the political moment factors partly because I think it is a lot more relevant to a discussion like this.

And to think that in thinking about a next time, the people involved keep changing in various ways. The politics, who is in control of the Senate changed shortly after this vote, you have to tend to those things. Certainly, those are very important but you also have to think about, what is it that happened last time that is still applicable at this time? These are the more broad kind of factors.

John Doan

And, just for folks participating who have not seen the posting, Bruce has written an article on the subject titled, New York City's Congestion Pricing Experience and Implications for Road Pricing in the United States. Lee Munnich posted a link to the Toll Roads News article that features that story as well as, I believe the article was also sent out via email to preregistered participants

With that, I will have one last question and then you can rest your throat for a little while.

The question relates to the larger PLAN YC components and how dependent they were on the revenues from congestion charge. With those changes has it limited the ability of PLAN YC to move forward? What has been those funding sources, etc.?

Bruce Schaller

That is also a good question. So, plan NYC is a very broad ranging plan. It is not just transportation but land use, air quality, water quality, etc.

So, the transportation -- the pieces of plan NYC that were funded and in the state of good repair for the transit system and for road way conditions. And, they both have really suffered from the lack of congestion pricing as a funding source. A year after the congestion pricing debate, there was another big debate in Albany. They proposed a payroll tax and bridge tolls, East River and Harlem River bridge tolls as funding mechanisms for the MTA.

The legislature passed a 1/3% payroll tax in the New York region. That is raised on the order of $1 billion a year. It did not pass the bridge tolls and the MTA's capital program is only partially funded as a result of that and also the recession on the -- they have experienced severe budgeting problems over the last two years.

So, those parts of the plant NYC were very much impacted. The paving also has been impacted and we are not taking or repeating as many streets as they should for state of good repair.

The other parts of plan NYC which is another 120 initiatives did not rely on congestion pricing as a funding source in fact, most of those had preceded. They had either been implemented or are well underway.

So, I think there is a real good news as well as not good news in the picture.

John Doan

Great, thanks so much, Bruce for taking time out, especially with your cold to share that information with us. And good luck with future rollout of the rest of PLAN YC as well as other transportation pricing initiatives that you have underway. Most notably, -- with that, I'm going to move it to the interactive portion of our session. We have about 25 minutes left until 4 PM Eastern time. This is where we want to make sure that we engage you as participants in the process and in the learning of this mini-course.

Just to stir the pot a little bit, we've got one additional poll question that I wanted to present to the audience. It relates to, what type of road pricing is being considered in your region? The choices are, hot/express lanes, towing to pay for the construction of an existing facility like the 520 in Seattle. Fully tolling facilities using dynamic pricing for new capacity. Which, I would say as an enhancement to option number two but somewhat close to it.

The third would-be cordon or area wide road pricing and the fourth is pricing the whole darn thing. Why not just price every existing facility in the region which is akin to mileage-based user fee example or what they did on a limited basis on the autobahn system in Germany for all trucks and the same in Czechoslovakia and in Switzerland.

And, yes, we do have a question here. This is limited to a one-vote process. But if you are trying to choose between two, choose the most aggressive one that you think is being considered in your region.

It looks like about two thirds of folks are mainly looking at express lanes of some -- We have a note from North Carolina which says that they are considering going to pay for construction of new facilities and this is where we're going to open up the lines so that participants can ask their questions and get feedback from the panelists. Press *1 and then you can be queued up so you can speak.

Hopefully will connect with Loretta here. Let me just follow up with a few questions. One with regard to getting into more detail about the public involvement process and I believe Lee covered this in the first session, when he talked about the five or six public outreach steps. While we are getting Loretta on the line, Lee - could you give everyone a quick refresher on the public involvement step with regard to a public road process?

Lee Munnich

I don't know if this question was directed to Bruce or more of an open ended question but I will talk about it. I think there are sort of different levels where you need to be involved with the public. I think one of the issues is to engage the key stakeholder groups early on in the process. It is very difficult to involve all of the public all of the time, it is not possible. So you have to have the key stakeholder groups.

One of the early things that you need to do is to put together a task force which is, we found in Minnesota, has been important. We have sort of multiple task forces at various phases along the way, either for asking the broader questions about, should we go forward with congestion pricing and how we might approach it and where we might do it, to more specific issues, once we get down to making a specific decision.

So, I think this sort of task force and that involvement for an incredible group of people is an important part of that public involvement. So that when the public looks at this, they can have more confidence. As people have pointed out along the way, there is always sort of a level of suspense and doubt as to whether the government will be able to deliver on these things. And different organizations have different levels of credibility but I think in today's environment, sort of all government agencies are under suspicion. So, having groups that can represent other tips -- that can represent other perspectives that can do that is an important part of it.

Again, some of the things I highlighted last week, it is important for this kind of thing to be bipartisan. You know, it becomes difficult when it tends to be identified with one party or the other. So, once you have a political leader out there, the tendency is for the other party to sort of go on the other side.

We have found that the proposals that have strong support from either the right or the left but once you have that sort of political leadership, I think that it's important part of this thing, too.

The broader public involvement, the other part of this, I think there needs to be a number of different forms in which you are able to present what is going on so that you keep this in the public eye but you are also able to answer questions as they come along.

We have done something in Minnesota which we call rethinking transportation finance where we engage and invite a broad group of people to come in and learn about what is going on and also make sure that we publicize things in the newspaper as it occurs.

You know, probably the worst approach is just to go out and hold a big public forum on this. Usually, those have a good success -- those have not been successful. You need to structure it around some key things that people are interested in.

So, the answer is that you need to do a lot of different things with regard to this but I think engaging key stakeholders early in the process, you know, is an important part of that and that is what Bruce's comment was as you go forward with these kinds of projects.

John Doan

Thank you, Lee.

Just checking with Loretta, if you can hear us, please talk about the situation you are experiencing in North Carolina.


Yes, I am on the line but I'm not at the point where we are experiencing any issues. I just gave you the other responses because I cannot click more than once. But, we're in the process of looking at tolling I-95 to do some improvement as far as 25 to 30 miles out. We are getting public opinion as we start that process and we have several others under way in some other regions of the state.

John Doan

And, Loretta, currently, what would you say is your biggest challenge with regard to public outreach and engagement?


I would say getting the public to come out to the meetings, particularly as we get further away from sitting right next to the project. I think people want to see something done and at this point I think they're probably saying "I've already pay for it with my taxes, why should I have to pay for this too?" I also think they think that there would be a lot of diversion from the interstate if we tend to do it because we have legislation saying we need to provide a on-toll facility nearby.

John Doan

Great, thank you. I heard a radio story on the I-95 corridor coalition saying it is quite active on this front on Sunday, there was a story on National Public Radio and I will find that and post it to give it to Lee to post on his blog. The story talked about that corridor and the things that are being done jointly along the multi state corridor, the partner state to help address congestion. Patrick, do you have anything to add to that? I know you have been engaged in some of those discussion at the national level.


Well, you know, the state of Virginia is also looking at tolling I-95 to pay for reconstruction work. And in Louisville, Kentucky, there is a proposal to put tolls on existing free bridges to pay for rehabilitation and to construct new bridges. We have had a long-standing proposal from Missouri to toll Interstate 70 to pay for reconstruction of that facility.

There are many such proposals that FHWA has not yet received applications for. But we see a lot of interest around the country on tolling to pay for reconstruction and rehabilitation of existing facilities.

John Doan

Great. I want to ask if Heidi is on the line.

Please press star one (*1) so that your line may be opened.

Your line is open.

Hello, Heidi.


Hello. I just want to make sure that we are clear about terms that we are using. Public involvement is where you go into a project really looking to the public to help them shape with the project looks like. And public outreach and education typically takes place after the major elements of a project have been already determined.

And for the most part, at least what I have seen in the project that I've looked at and projects I have been a part of, when it comes to pricing, the major elements already are defined. And it is usually because there are a certain amount of dollars that need to be collected in order to make sure that the project can come close to paying for itself.

It may be that the division for what kinds of cars and how many cars can use the facility have already been decided. And so, that as well, those technical aspect have already been decided and from what I've seen, we are not doing public involvement. We're doing education about a project that has already been pretty much decided upon with regard to how it is going to operate.


This is Lee. It seems like you need to do a combination of both. We need to do it early on before we get to the specifications of a specific project. And again, you can do that with a good task force that includes a variety of different perspectives which also seeks public input as part of this process. Maybe before you get into the details of the project. And then, once you get into a project you need to involve the people that are most affected by it because they may not be paying as much attention to the broader views.

So, it seems to me that there needs to be a certain amount of education that goes along with public involvement, however.


I totally agree with you. I think that what happens is that in some cases, states or regions apply for a grant or some kind of funding. And as part of this grant application, they kind of outline what it is they're going to do.

And so, then when they get the grant, they are kind of stuck with it. And it is difficult for them to go back and make any kind of substantive changes to that because the money they got to do the project in the first place is based on a predetermined set of values.

Great. Thank you, Heidi.

I would be interested if others want to weigh in on this. I see some comments coming in. I think this is kind of a critical element of engaging the public but at the same time sort of combining that with education along the way.

You know, I think in the case of Mayor Bloomberg, he had the opportunity to go out to a particular funding source and there was a lot of activity that went on in conjunction with that. Eventually, you have to have a plan and move forward with something.


Let me just chime in, here and make a couple of points. One is, in terms of the process in New York City, I did not really talk about this little bit in the paper. There was a real process that led up to the event -- there was an advisory committee that included a number of key people from the civic community across the city.

This really helps to achieve buy in a very positive reception from what it is formally announced.

And I think that is a really critical piece when we are doing the pricing cuts that we have been doing. We begin with literally having coffee with some key people in the neighborhood and saying, we have this program and we are thinking about it and think it might accent here. We would like to talk to about it.

We could talk about what we have done elsewhere in earlier pilots, we could talk about what our objectives are and what we see as the issues but there is no program going in. There are no specifics for that particular neighborhood going in and I think it is particularly with pricing, which tends to elicit a negative response upon first encounter.

I think it is important to have the preprogram discussion where you're talking about the problem, the issues, the system -- this situation and just having a conversation about that with key people. Key stakeholder citywide in the key stakeholders who are most likely going to be affected.

You don't want to have good conversation with one set of people and then it turns out when he put together a proposal, --

And so, it is sort of starting with those sorts of conversations that has been a really good approach on the parking pricing piece.

The other thing I want to say about that is that education is really a two-way street. We think about, we're from the government and are going to educate you. Well, it turns out that the people out there have a lot to educate us on to.

That is really what the engagement is. Having bet I would like to think -- having a conversation back and forth that we come to understand each other and build some trust and start to share what we are moving forward with.


Thank you, Bruce. We've got time for one last question before we close it out with a few evaluation steps.

I would like to shift the conversation back to hot lanes. Cheryl Donahue has a question that she has been burning to ask us for a little while. Cheryl, if you can press a star one we'll get you on the line.

Your line is open.

Cheryl Donahue

Hello, there. This is Cheryl Donahue calling from California. I have a question. We are working through the environmental document on a project which would replace an existing carpool lane with one new general-purpose lane and two toll express lanes.

We are developing our message points and have come up with a lot of things about the statistics and testimonials and the value of having reduced congestion and reliability. I wanted to make sure that we weren't missing anything critical because we know that the taking away of the carpool lane and replacing it with express lanes can be kind of a tough sell.

I was hoping to benefit from the expertise of all of these hundred and 20 folks and see if they have gone through something similar and if they have any ideas.


Do you have transit improvements that are coming along with that?

Cheryl Donahue

Unfortunately not.


That would be another selling point, obviously.

Cheryl Donahue

Yes. We are putting the money back into the corridors but not necessarily for transit. There is a possibility in the future that the express lanes will be able to be used by express buses but there isn't a service that is proposed at this time. So, that is a little far out to be able to use that as a selling point.

So I have kind of thought to that transit component.


I think you have hit most of the key points. One thing I would -- I think there is a lot of benefit for transit by these hot lanes but has not really been capitalized on. It is one thing when we talked about the 35 the project in Minnesota. It went to improvements that were really capitalizing on the hot lanes as a us a transit route. So, if you could combine transit investments with the hot lanes, I think you could get a lot more out of it.

It is not just a matter of allocating revenue to those -- from the hot lane revenue, but perhaps the steering your transit investments. I know that does not help you much if you're not having the transit investments.

Cheryl Donahue

Well, we could in the future. The other thing is, we have talked about a discount for carpoolers to use the lanes. The current lanes are 2+ and the thought is changed to 3+. That is another tricky sell.


That is a great segue there. As we are planning our session 3, there will be a case study on US 36, Cheryl, and others out there who were interested in having a conversation about moving from HOV 2 or some sort of designation from a two-person occupancy at the carpool or who currently uses a carpool lane and does not have to pay anything and transitioning to a situation where you would have an express lane or a hot lane that would have a higher occupancy requirement. We will be exploring issues related to that subject in the next session.

Cheryl Donahue

Great, thanks.


With that, I want to thank all of our presenters. And then also let you know that when you download the slide, that all of the presenters contact information is available on there as well as information on three very useful and informative websites. The first for the FHWA office of innovative of program delivery and the second for FHWA office of operations and the third for this particular minicourse webinar. All of the information from the presentations as well as the transcript and recording will be posted on those websites as soon as we can get those together.

So, you can always go back to these recordings or our written transcript of this webinar for your edification.

Last play, -- lastly, we are very interested in getting your feedback and improving these sessions. Particularly for the third session but also for the future. So, we have a number of evaluation questions that we would like for everyone to just take a moment and walk through it with us. Because it is important to making sure that these webinars stay relevant and are useful. The first relates to our number of the four questions. Please answer them at your leisure. And I will just give you a few seconds to do that.

We have about 10 questions here. So, it may just take a few more minutes while people are keying them in. Michael, if you could proceed to the next question.

Actually, folks can do that on their own. They will have their own screen that will proceed for them.

Great. And that will be available after the webinar is completed. But please take the time to do this evaluation as it will help us to improve in the future.

I also wanted to mention, excuse me, that for the September 28 session that we will be focusing on the Puget Sound region and the Seattle and Washington case study and how they have made some broad policy and planning decisions to having more road pricing in those regions into the future.

And how they're going to roll that out. We are interested in hearing how they have come to their current experience thus far. We've also got a great volunteer from Colorado DOT who will provide a participant case study on the US 36 project which is currently just a two-lane direction facility and hoping to expand it as a corridor with an express lane as a part of the expanded project.

So, interested in hearing from Colorado DOT on the project. With that, I appreciate everybody in attendance on this session. It looks like we are brought to a max of almost 150 participants, I will call that a great participation. And, interest from those throughout the country, we are definitely interested in getting your feedback. Please complete the valuation and feel free to contact any of the speakers if you have any further questions beyond this webinar. We would love to hear from you.

We look forward to you joining us on September 28 for the third and final webinar. Thanks.

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