Skip navigation

USDOT Resources: Overcoming the Challenges of Congestion Pricing 2011
FHWA Webinar Series

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

Center for Innovative Finance Support
Federal Highway Administration

Ninth Part of a Webinar Series on Overcoming the Challenges of Congestion Pricing.

Session 9: Integrating Transit with Congestion Pricing and Increasing Congestion Pricing Acceptance - Transcript


  • Jennifer Symoun


  • Brian Pessaro, Senior Research Associate, University of South Florida Center for Urban Transportation,
  • Adam Harrington, Assistant Director of Route and System Planning, Metro Transit (Minneapolis, MN),
  • Chris Burke, I-15 Program Manager, San Diego Association of Governments,


Jennifer Symoun

Good afternoon or good morning to those of you to the West. Welcome to the Overcoming the Challenges of Congestion Pricing webinar series. My name is Jennifer Symoun and I will moderate today's webinar, which will focus Integrating Transit with Congestion Pricing and Increasing Congestion Pricing Acceptance. Please be advised that today's seminar is being recorded.

Before I go any further, I do want to let those of you who are calling into the teleconference for the audio know that you need to mute your computer speakers or else you will be hearing your audio over the computer as well.

Today we'll have three presenters - Brian Pessaro, Senior Research Associate at the University of South Florida Center for Urban Transportation; Adam Harrington, Assistant Director of Route and System Planning, for Metro Transit in Minneapolis, MN; and Chris Burke, I-15 Program Manager, for the San Diego Association of Governments. We'll always have a brief introduction from Myron Swisher of SAIC.

Today's webinar will last 90 minutes. We'll take questions following each presentation and then take questions at the end if time allows. If during the presentations you think of a question, you can type it into the chat area. Please make sure you send your question to "Everyone" and indicate which presenter your question is for. Presenters will be unable to answer your questions during their presentations, but I will start off the question and answer session with the questions typed into the chat box. If we are unable to get through all of the questions in the time allotted we will get written responses from the presenters and send them out with the follow up information.

The PowerPoint presentations used today are available for download from the file download box in the lower right corner of your screen. I would also like to remind you that this session is being recorded. The recording, presentations, and a transcript will be posted to the Tolling and Pricing web site within the next few weeks and I will send out a notice when they are available.

We'll now go ahead and get started with a brief introduction from Myron Swisher of SAIC. Just as a note, Myron does not have any slides.

Myron Swisher

Thank you for joining us today. We did have a good turnout on the line and we have three good speakers to talk about the subject area.

The early HOV to HOT lane conversions, many of them met with resistance from the transit community: that's both local transit agencies, where the project is taking place; environmental groups; federal transit administration; and going back urban mass transportation authority, some of those projects were built under full grant agreements with those US DOT agencies. They are concerned about a few things, primarily losing the travel time advantage that they had gained through adding HOV bus lanes. They doubted the ability of the HOT lanes to actually manage traffic once we allowed single occupancy vehicles on their lanes with a toll. They doubted our ability to manage those tolls properly to maintain full travel speeds. Their comment was, once we get cars filling up the lanes, we will not be able to get them off. The concept was difficult to describe in the abstract. It was met with a lot of resistance.

Today we will hear about a few projects that are 180 degrees from that experience and show some of the significant synergies between transit operations and manage lanes and congestion pricing projects. So with that, Jennifer, I'll turn it back to you.

Jennifer Symoun

Thank you for the intro. Now we will start with our first presenter, who is Brian Pessaro, Senior Research Associate at the University of South Florida Center for Urban Transportation. Brian, you can go ahead.

Brian Pessaro

Thank you for tuning in. As Jennifer and Myron mentioned, today's topic is on integrating transit with congestion pricing. I'm going to talk about two cities that have done just that: Miami and Minneapolis. Miami with its 1-95 express lanes and Minneapolis with its MnPass lanes on the 35W.

Both of these projects were funded by US DOT's Urban Partnership Agreement program. For those of you who are not familiar with this partnership agreement and its sister program, the Congestion Reduction Demonstration Program, it is a congestion relief program that is sponsored by the US DOT to the tune of $1.3 billion. In 2006, the US DOT sought applications from cities for congestion reduction strategies that used what they called the "Four T's": Tolling, Transit, Telecommuting, and Technology.

They made awards to six cities: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Miami. All of them, with the exception Seattle and San Francisco, implemented HOV to HOT lane conversion. In San Francisco, they are doing dynamic pricing for their downtown parking, and that program is called SF park. In Seattle, they are implementing tolls across all of the lanes on the state road 2025 bridge.

I want to focus on Minneapolis in Miami. These are the only two that have been operational for several years. Atlanta just began their toll lane in October and do not have enough data on it yet. Minneapolis in Miami have been in operation for a few years.

Let's start with Miami. The Miami UPA involved converting the existing HOV lane on I-95 to an HOT lane as well as adding a second HOT lane. It was done in three phases. Phase 1A is in yellow. It opened up express lanes in the northbound direction from downtown Miami in December 2008. Then in January of 2010 Phase 1B opened, and that was in the northbound direction. The next phase is going to be Phase 2, shown in a red. It is scheduled to open up in mid-2014. It will extend the lanes 13 miles north up by I-595. There are two HOT lanes in each direction and they are barrier-separated from regular traffic by plastic poles. There is no intermediate access point; you can only enter at the termini. Prices change every 15 minutes based on traffic in the express lane. To use it for free, you have to be a registered three person or more carpool. Motorcycles and hybrid vehicles can also use express lanes for free.

Prior to the project, there was one express bus that used HOV lane on I-95. That was the Route 95X. During Phase 1 there were two additional routes added. They were the Pines Blvd. Express, and the Dade-Broward Express. Phase 1 also added 500 parking spaces at the Golden Glades Park-and-Ride Lot. They also added transit signal priority at 50 intersections along Pines Blvd. and Broward Blvd.

The Minneapolis UPA project is on Interstate 35W. It involved both an HOV to HOT conversion as well as the addition of new HOT lanes. It runs from Burnsville to downtown Minneapolis. The project opened in segments. The Northern and Southern segments opened in September 2009 and then this middle segment opened in November 2010. There is one HOT lane in each direction, with the exception of the Northern segment which is called a price dynamic shoulder lane of PDSL. These are northbound only. Unlike Miami, where the lanes are very separated, these lanes are separated by stripes. Like Miami, the tolls fluctuate based on traffic in the lanes. It has multiple entry and exit points. Unlike Miami, which has a 3+ HOV requirement, in Minneapolis it's only a 2+.

In the non-peak periods, the managed lanes are open to all lanes of traffic with the exception of PDSL segment. In the non-peak hours, that reverts to being a shoulder. The transit improvements included additional bus service on the 35W. That is both north and south of downtown. During the presentation you will hear me refer to 35W South and 35W North; 35W South is the portion that is south of downtown, and 35W North is the portion that is north of downtown.

The HOT lanes are in the 35W South portion. The UPA project also included six new or expanded park-and-ride lots. It included a transit bypass lane on Cedar Avenue. It included expansion of contra-flow bus-only lanes in downtown Minneapolis. It expanded from one bus lane to two bus lanes. It also included the provision of ITS technology. Specifically, real-time travel signs along 35W, next bus arrival signs in downtown, and a lane guidance system on Cedar Avenue.

Let's talk about the national evaluation. US DOT hired the Intel Institute to conduct the national evaluation if the six UPA sites. Where I work is part of the evaluation team. We look at the transit component of the evaluation. The four hypotheses you see on the screen go across all UPA sites. The first hypothesis is that the UPA project will enhance transit performance on the UPA corridors. We mean on-time performance, bus travel speed, and bus travel time. The second is that it will increase ridership and facilitate a mode shift to transit. In other words, some people will opt to take transit rather than pay the tolls or stay in the general purpose lane. The third hypothesis was that the transit mode shift and increased ridership will contribute to congestion mitigation. And the fourth hypothesis was asking what was the contribution of each UPA project to increased ridership and/or a mode shift to transit? If ridership went up, how much of that was due specifically to the HOT lanes?

I'm going to compare 2008 pre-deployment data to 2010 to post-deployment data. In regards to the first hypothesis that had to do with transit data, the results were very positive. The average travel time in the express lanes went from 25 to 8 minutes. Average travel speed improved from 18 to 57 mph. As a result of those improvements, they were able to shave time off the scheduled travel time for the buses. They were able to take 10 minutes off of the northbound trip and 7 minutes off of the southbound trip. On-time performance for the buses went up from 76 percent to 81 percent. We did a test or an evaluation of the transit signal priority on Pines Blvd. in December and we found that when this was turned on there was a 12 percent reduction in travel time for the buses on Pines Boulevard. In regards to transit ridership and mode shift to transit, the results are mixed. On a positive note, combined ridership for all the 95 express buses went up 57 percent. Boarding for every mile went down 14 percent. The reason for the drop was because when the two express buses were added, that doubled the revenue miles for the 95 express bus service. At the time of data collection, those routes were still new. Since then, the boarding per mile revenue has gotten better. It is better than what it was in 2008.

Average vehicle occupancy and transit mode share both declined. The reason is the same for both. It was due to the large influx of toll-paying customers into the express lanes. The transit ridership increases were diminished by the even larger influx of toll-paying single occupancy vehicles.

I want to share an observation about the increase in ridership. During the evaluation, unemployment in Miami-Dade County rose from 4.9 percent to 11.4 percent. I do not show it on the screen, but it is similar for Broward County as well. If you take the unemployment rate, which is in red, and overlay that with system-wide ridership for Miami-Dade transit, you can see how that when unemployment rose, the ridership went down. If you take the same slide and overlay it for just the 95 express bus, the ridership went up even though unemployment went up. In December 2008, the project began. So ridership went up, and then it went up even more when new service was added in January 2010. The slide carries us through almost to the present. In April 2011 at the end of the Phase 1 evaluation, ridership continued to go up. In January 2011 a fourth route was added, the Miramar Express, and ridership continued to go up even more. The 95 Express bus carries 4400 riders a day.

The third hypothesis was that the increase in ridership would reduce congestion. The way this was measured was the number of people transported in the express lanes as opposed to vehicles (person throughput). Between 2008 and 2010 there was a 42 percent increase in person throughput for the express lanes, for both the morning and the evening. Most of that increase came from the added capacity because we added a second HOT lane, and a lot of it came from the influx of toll-paying single occupancy vehicles. However person throughput from transit in the express lanes increased 23 percent in the AM and 36 percent in the PM. This occurred all the while person throughput in the HOV lanes decreased.

The fourth hypothesis is a question: How much did the express lane influence people to take transit? This info is gleaned mostly from the on-board transit surveys. In the survey, 53 percent of the new riders (riders who only began taking transit after the express lanes opened) on the 95 Express Bus said the express lanes influenced their decision to take transit. Of those same new riders, 38 percent said they used to drive alone, and another 34 percent switched from Tri-Rail and/or Metrorail to the bus. These are choice riders taking these routes: the vast majority of them - 86 percent - have access to their vehicle a majority of the time.

Let's see what we see in Minneapolis. The final report has not been written. What I am going to show you is preliminary.

Let's start with the first hypothesis, which had to do with transit performance. In downtown Minneapolis there are contra-flow bus lanes on Marquette and Second Avenue. They opened in December 2009. Prior to the UPA project, it was single bus lane on each avenue. In December 2009 they were expanded to two bus lanes.

The target speed was 8 miles per hour. Although the buses have not hit that target yet, adding the second bus lanes has increased the bus speed, meaning the buses are getting in and out of downtown faster. Another measure of performance is bus speed in the HOT lanes. We split out the speed data according to the three 3-HOT segments. This slide shows the northern most segment, the priced dynamic shoulder lanes. The April 2009 speed is the pre-deployment speed, and April 2011 is post-deployment.

The data shows a 16 mph decrease. There are several explanations for this. Traffic has increased in the northern section in both the MnPass and general service lanes. We have heard that congestion has moved north, from the middle section closer to downtown.

Another explanation for the decrease has to do with where the buses enter. A lot of the buses enter that part of the 35W that's south of Lake St. Prior to the PDSL lanes going in, when the buses entered I-35W, they were on the right shoulder lane and moving faster than general traffic. With the PDSL lanes, they have to cross four lanes of traffic to get into the PDSL, and that may be slowing them down.

I want to jump down to the southern section. That also opened in September 2009. Prior to the UPA project, this segment was an HOV lane. In the Northbound direction, speed dropped from 61 to 52 mph. In the Southbound direction they stayed the same. The posted speed limit for that section is 55 mph north of 82nd St.; south of that, it's 65 mph. In general the buses are not far off what the speed limit is. In the middle section, we have seen significant improvement with bus speeds. This is a new HOT lane. Prior to the UPA project, there was no HOV lane in this segment and it was notorious for congestion. It improved dramatically, particularly northbound. There was much more involved here than adding an HOT lane. There was an entire reconstruction project that went on to untangle a lot of the weaving movements that were going on between 35W and highway 62.

Another thing we looked at was on-time performance. The on-time performance stayed roughly the same; it was 90 percent in March 2009 versus 89 percent by March of 2011. In between was a bumpy ride, but that was due to construction at the Crosstown Commons. Once construction was complete and the middle section opened in November 2010, you can see on-time performance improved greatly, and then they got hit with winter weather.

In terms of ridership, the weekday ridership in the I-35W South corridor increased to 9 percent from 2009 to 2011. North of downtown, it increased by 7 percent. Compare that to the I-394 and I-94 North corridor, they had increases as well, but not as high as the UPA corridors.

This slide overlays average weekday ridership in the I-35W South corridor with the unemployment rate. This is for Minneapolis, St. Paul. In Miami, unemployment rose during the evaluation. In Minneapolis, the unemployment dropped from 8.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Did it impact transit usage? It certainly did not hurt having more people employed. It showed that the vast majority express riders on 35W are taking it to go to work.

This slide overlays average weekday ridership on 35W with the average cost per gallon of gas. You can see that as gas prices went up, so did ridership.

We have done one on board survey so far in June 2010. We are going to do one later this month or in November. The June survey showed that the vast majority of riders are taking the bus to work. Of those, 32 percent can be classified as new riders (riding for a year or less), and 26 percent of new riders used to drive alone. On time performance and travel times received high marks. About half say it's the same now as before the HOT lanes began.

We asked riders if they have seen the next bus arrival signs downtown; 86 percent said they have seen the signs, 8 percent said they were influenced by them. They like it, it's a nice feature, but it wasn't a deal-maker for them in terms of their decision to take the bus. We asked riders about their perceptions on the changes to the MARQ2 lanes; roughly half said the service was faster and more reliable. This last slide compares the demographics of riders on the express lanes of 35W to Metro transit riders system-wide. Riders on the 35W tend to be over 35, Caucasian, and female. They tend to have higher annual household income and greater access to personal vehicles. Coincidentally, these demographics are very close to what we saw with Miami riders.

That concludes my presentation, are there any questions?

Jennifer Symoun

Alright, thank you. Well I see one question here: Was the Miami HOT speed improvement due to raising the HOV threshold and adding a lane?

Brian Pessaro

I don't think we go into what was the actual cause of the increase. I think it would not be unreasonable that added capacity contributed to the speed increase because there's more room. I think adding the plastic poles between the express and general purpose lanes has cut down on weaving in and out of the lanes which has allowed people to travel faster.

Jennifer Symoun

We have a comment. It says it is refreshing to see attention to state of economy and gas prices as possible influences in project outcomes. This is often neglected in such evaluations.

Brian Pessaro

The data we have on Minnesota is fairly recent. I've known the unemployment data from Miami for a few years now. When I've given presentations before, one thing I like to point out is that you have this tremendous increase in unemployment, and yet the 95 express route was able to withstand that and I think is a testament to what a good service it is.

Myron Swisher

I have one question for Brian. Back to the issue of speeds increasing, I think it is important to explain better on the improved speeds on the general-purpose lanes because capacity was not added, it was only diversion to the HOT lanes

Brian Pessaro

Yes, and if you give me a second I can probably go through the report. It wasn't just that speed went up in the express lanes. I believe speed went up in the general-purpose lanes as well. I am going to try to pull up the report on my computer, to confirm that.

The general purpose lanes speed went from 18 to 42 mph. So not as high as the express lanes, but still there were benefits accrued to the general purpose lanes, not just the HOV lanes. One other thing I want to talk about in terms of its impact on traffic, the level of service also improved. LOS in the express lanes went from F to C. And in the general service lanes, LOS went from F to D.

Myron Swisher

Yes. It was not just a token increase; it more than doubled the speeds, which is significant improvement.

Jennifer Symoun

We have one more question. What were the challenges in achieving the desired objectives?

Brian Pessaro

As an evaluator, I think that would be more a question for those local partners. I am not trying to pass the buck on that one.

Jennifer Symoun

Sure. Let's get into the other two presentations, which are going to talk more about specific projects and maybe we can come back to that.

Brian Pessaro

Okay. If you are interested in reading the full Miami report, we do have it posted on CUTR's webpage.

Jennifer Symoun

Great. Please type your web address into the chat box, that might be helpful.

We are going to move on to Adam Harrington, assistant director of route and system planning for Metro Transit in Minneapolis.

Adam Harrington

Great. Thank you for having the session today. I'm going to dovetail off of Brian's presentation and maybe give a broader context. I can speak to the challenges of this. I will be talking about the UPA as well. I would say the challenge was the constrained time schedule. It was a short timeline to spend the money and implant the project, so there were very aggressive schedules from a policy perspective as well as construction and design perspective. That was a big challenge.

For Minneapolis, we had some of the groundwork laid out from work we've done with the city of Minneapolis. We've looked at the corridor for a number of years trying to think about how we might advance bus transit and how we might improve global service transit downtown. We have a high volume of express routes that come to the downtown area. This slide shows all the regions. We have 70 local bus routes, about 181,000 rides a day. We have one operating LRT line that carries about 31,000 lines day. Our commuter rail carries about 2,200 rides; Suburban local routes, 13,000 a day.

And then our express and park-and-ride service, where we carry about 16 percent of our global ridership. On this map you can see the letter P and these are our park-and-rides, and they all collect from suburban communities and can end up anywhere downtown. It is a significant component of our overall system, and we have a strong network of park-and-ride. This map shows where all of the customers are coming from. We do the best to understand the market and make sure that when we make a facility investment, we are doing it in a cost-effective manner.

We do a customer survey every other year. This is system-wide; it is not just for express. We are keen on understanding the employment market and its effects on transit ridership. We've got 95% of all customers taking transit to work, that's their trip purpose. It is something we want to focus on, as well as fuel cost and parking availability and costs of parking. Downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul and University of Minnesota are the only areas that charge for parking. That is a main driving factor for why it makes sense to take transit into the downtown environment.

On the slide, it shows the Twin Cities region. You can see the darker columns that represent large number of employees at any location. It is not the number, but that density of where they are that really matters. That is where you see downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul pop up. You tie that up with the congestion to get in, limited parking availability and parking cost, and it really motivates mode transit. In downtown Minneapolis we carry about 40 percent of the employees into downtown each day. It is about 140,000 jobs. In downtown St. Paul, it's less but still a significant commuter express market. In downtown Minneapolis, this shows a slide of where our customers are coming from. On the 35W South corridor it's about 14,000 ride each day and more than 450 bus trips coming in. One problem we had before we had the double bus lane was we had service on multiple streets on downtown and on Marquette and Second we did have a contra-flow bus lane, but buses couldn't pass each other. So we had buses operating nose to tail for the peak hour and a half and going is slow as the slowest bus goes. That contributes to the four mile an hour average speed through downtown that you saw. Being able to double that is a significant improvement. The challenge is to connect these benefits so we do not lose any benefits in between.

Downtown Minneapolis transit, when you look at the boardings on any of the streets downtown, Marquette and Second is still head and shoulders above everything else because it's such a concentrated area - 22,500 boardings each week day. Many of our partners would probably point to Hiawatha LRT but it's really only 11,000. What we are after in the context of this is how do we compete with a single occupant vehicle? We look at time and speed, which our customers desire as well as reliability and convenience of access. We think the UPA project greatly enhanced these features.

This is what we started out with before UPA. Each red line represents a bus only shoulder lane. We have the ability to operate on the shoulders of highways in a great partnership with MNDOT. We can operate to 15 miles an hour faster than the adjacent traffic in the lane but not faster than 35 mph. We have been able to do that for the last 15 years. It has been very successful in getting around congested choke points. The challenge is how do you get that next level of competitiveness. That's where being able to take advantage of an HOV/HOT lane makes sense.

Here is a cross section of I-35W South before we had the managed lanes in the center. This is a standard bus only shoulder lane. You will see more of that in the upcoming slides. This was our first cut on how we can get an advantage over people driving alone.

We have more than 2,200 daily bus trips that come into downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul. It's been a significant improvement for us, but we want to get beyond that because if you can't go faster than 35 mph, we're really missing out. This is the next generation of managed lanes and the UPA really helped us get there.

On this slide are the three different cross-sections that we have as far as highway transit advantages in the Twin Cities. The middle slide is I-394 which goes from downtown Minneapolis to the West. This is the only exclusive HOT lane that is separated by a barrier. This lane actually is reversible. It will change direction in the afternoon to accommodate outgoing traffic.

The picture on the right is a priced managed lane in the center of 35W heading into downtown. The advantage is that we are able to posted speeds. The other component to this is that on 35W we had this eye to developing bus rapid transit. We have a lot of express services, a lot of park-and-rides. This shows a new Lakeville park-and-ride that was also built as part of UPA. We added 750 spaces. We have the MnPass express lanes that bring everything into alignment.

We have a vision for quality stations that aren't there in all cases. We were able to develop the 46th St. station. As Brian said earlier, the greater construction project that was going on with the Highway 62 Crosstown was a major rebuild the interchange. This happened to be in the extent to the interchange. The managed lane project dovetailed well with a center transit lane to access local cross transit lanes and the freeway traffic flow.

Our goal is to enhance station-to-station service in all stops and in all directions. They key is having that managed lane, and being able to develop the stations in the center for the right of way to facilitate that.

We were able to fit all of these components together for an integrated service. We ended up in downtown Minneapolis. This is another shot of Marquette and Second. This is how we operate there. All of our bus operators go through special training because there are four stop groups and each route has an assignment. Buses pass each other and need to fall into sequence on who has the right away at each intersection.

We are able to provide 180 buses per hour which is 3 times a single line. That eases up our operation; that can free up our service. We get our speed advantage here. A strong partnership with the city made this happen. It was a big component of our UPA project.

This is an image by I-35W and 46th Street station which opened in December 2010. It's a unique operation because it's actually a crossover operation for those buses on 35W. In the red paved area you can see signal lights. Buses actually have to cross paths to get the door on the correct side of the platform as their going to and from the station.

That was another concern that FHWA in terms of the safety of bus operation but also what happens if a bus crashes in there. We do have gate arms that go up and down so that only transit vehicles can get through. This has been a good improvement. We have seen an increase of ridership on the route that serves the station.

Another big component of UPA was the Cedar Avenue BRT. Our partners at Dakota County and Minnesota Valley Transit Authority are developing a plan and infrastructure to support the bus rapid transit to open in 2012. There are a number of components listed here, including the Cedar Grove park-and-ride. It may seem minor, but a big advantage is a bypass lane on Highway 52, which is a shortcut to get across the highway where there was not a crossing before and buses had to go through a cloverleaf interchange.

The MnPass lane corridors have similar features and differences as well. We talked about I-394 having a center managed lane that exclusive by direction in AM and PM. It covers 25 to 50 percent of the length and then it ends up being a center managed lane similar to I-35W. We've got brand and pricing algorithms that MNDOT uses for these corridors are the same. The hours are the same, off-peak are open to anyone. Carpools are free. Road design differences, active traffic management in the 35W corridor is new. We have the ability to manage the lane, and the priced dynamic shoulder lane as well.

Change in violation rates before and after MnPass. MnPass allows a detection system that can assist the highway patrol to find out who is violating. That has improved since MnPass. On I-35W, there was an HOV lane that was south of 66 that was in operation. This enhances the adherence to the MnPass and HOV policy in these lanes.

We talked about the satisfaction rate of the overall congestion pricing. We did a partnership promotion with MnPass and our transit pass at the beginning. We tried to get the crossover from those users since many of them are going to the same place. We did have a little bit of crossover.

MnPass customer distribution trips per account. Phase 1, before November 2010, we had 24 once-per-week users. Now we are up to 65 once-per-week users. This allows more flexibility in people making discretionary choices about people using this lane. This is one of the features we like as a pricing feature because it always manages the throughput in this lane and we're not in danger of degradation of transit speed because it's being managed by price.

This is a snapshot of revenue. A lot of this growth has to do with the completion of the facility as much as anything else. We have come to completion of the full corridor by mid-2010, that's where you start to see some growth.

Active transponders. On I-35W at the end of 2010, we had fewer users after the first six months on 35W. It has grown; it has more to do with the phasing of implementation than anything else.

The distribution of our MnPass customers. You can see how far they're coming to use these facilities. Many are going to downtown Minneapolis, but many are using for short trips as well.

Some of the results for I-35W South. We have 750 new parking spaces and a new bus route that extended the length of the project from Lakeville to downtown Minneapolis. This is where we saw a large chunk of our growth. This last bullet says I-35W South ridership should be up to 15 percent over the past year, when you average it, it ends up being about 9.

Our operating speeds are improving, but, as we talked about earlier, they are not better in the northern section. We have a number of routes that stop at the Lake Street transit station on the right shoulder. If you stop at the transit station, you have to cross two or three lanes of traffic to get into the correct lane to get downtown. We've seen a significant challenge there as the congestion that was down at Highway 62 and 35W moved north once that congestion point was freed up by this project.

We have made some accommodations at Lake Street. We do not stop buses in the northbound direction during rush hour. We are also working with our partners to secure a center Lake Street 35W station not dissimilar from what we have at 46th Street. Here is the distribution of our park-and-ride on these corridors. We have a wide distribution of where people are driving from to get to a park-and-ride.

In summary, we are pleased with the results of the MnPass Lanes and greatly appreciate the availability of the UPA funds. We have seen improvements, and we want to continue to work on those within the I-35W corridor. We do have a number of components that we are looking at. From a MnPass perspective: policy, pricing, congestion and trying to find the right balance for all of these components. MNDOT is continuing to look at those. The network effect is revenue increases faster than operating cost as the system expands.

Lastly, we have identified what the next projects should be in the Twin Cities region. This is a list of them. Some are underway right now. Between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, we are designing and implementing improvements to move the next managed lane. I-35E: this is another opportunity; there is another road construction project in the works. For here, there are a number of bridge replacements. It would be better to have them handled in-tandem then stand-alone. We're studying I-35W on the north corridor for a managed lane.

This is an overview on what we look at managed lanes in Twin Cities. I'd be happy to take any questions.

Jennifer Symoun

Alright, thank you. Let's see. Are there any issues in the bus only shoulder lanes of cars following buses?

Adam Harrington

There are not issues with cars following buses, but there are occasionally issues with cars nudging in front of buses to prevent them from going by. Compliance from the public has been very good. It has been successful where we have implemented them.

Jennifer Symoun

From a transit operator's perspective, was there a positive synergy between congestion pricing and transit operations?

Adam Harrington

There definitely was a synergy between metro transit and MNDOT in developing this as a way to improve capacity, improve the advantage for transit from a speed and reliability perspective. Get it built in the center of right of way and not add lane capacity.

Jennifer Symoun

Was the pavement on the shoulders modified to accommodate the impact of heavy vehicle such as the buses?

Adam Harrington

We did where it was needed. We do upgrade the pavement where it's needed. When we started this program, the typical cross section had storm water catch basins that were depressed. Those had to be reconstructed to be at grade with the pavement surface. The shoulders had to be reinforced or widened in some cases.

Jennifer Symoun

Do shoulder lanes for buses also work as car breakdown lanes?

Adam Harrington

They do. We do have to go around them. It's generally not too big of a problem. That is why the speed is lower from a safety perspective. We do not have such a problem that it impacts our reliability of using those lanes.

Jennifer Symoun

How do buses navigate through interchanges when they are using right shoulder?

Adam Harrington

It depends on the interchange. In some the bus only shoulder lane ends. There's also operator discretion. If it is a diamond interchange, we do operate with those standard mergers, but the buses do have the right of way. It is more about bus operator training than anything else.

Jennifer Symoun

Any idea if parking prices faced by commuters are picked up by employers, in all or part?

Adam Harrington

There are two cost elements to think about. One is parking considerations picked up by employers, but we also have a transit pass called a Metro Pass, which can also be picked up by employers. They can subsidize or split the difference with the employee. We have encouraged them to encourage the employee to use transit through this Metro Pass program.

Jennifer Symoun

Myron? Is there anything you want to ask?

Actually, we do have one more question. It appears that some shoulder lanes have significant hillside slopes next to them. How do you handle snow plowing?

Adam Harrington

MNDOT has done a very good job of clearing the snow. They do clear past the shoulder lane. Within 24 hours it should be clear all across

Jennifer Symoun

Thank you, Adam. We are going to move to our final presentation. This is Chris Burke, the I-15 program manager for the San Diego Association of Governments.

Chris Burke

Thanks, Jennifer. I oversee the I-15 Value Pricing Program here. I'm going to present on SANDAG is using managed lanes to manage transit in the region. I'm going to touch on how bus rapid transit is really the key to make transit attractive to commuters.

This map highlights the I-15 express lanes corridor, which is our project area in the San Diego region. It starts in the Escondido region, and moves to the split of the 15 and the 163. This is more of the employment region of downtown San Diego. Or if you go west, that is also a big employment region. People start funneling in at the top, and then congestion gets bigger the further South you go. The middle segment opened in 2009. This is a four lane facility with multiple entry and exit locations. We opened three bus rapid transit stations with direct access ramps. This allows vehicles to access the express lanes from transit centers or park-and-ride lots adjacent to the freeway.

I-15 south was the original project. It was a two lane, barrier separated reversible facility. We closed down in June of this year and re-opened with the four lane facility.

The Mira Mesa/Miramar College BRT Station is not built at this time. We should start construction early next year and into 2013.

The north segment will be opening early 2012. That will be the final four miles reaching to Escondido. It will be the connector to the Escondido transit station, which is already in operation.

Going to the beginning of the project, we started out on the I-15 express lanes with an HOV facility that opened in 1987. That was the original eight mile facility. It was two lanes going in a reversible fashion. It was set for southbound in the morning, and northbound in the afternoon. We had a politician on I-15 who looked over at the HOV and decided it was underused. He challenged SANDAG to maximize and better utilize this facility. In 1996, we kicked off our value pricing program where we converted this HOV into a HOT lane. We started using dynamic pricing, and it fluctuated with traffic. We didn't want to lose that advantage for HOV usage, so we basically allowed single occupancy vehicles to pay a toll and we use dynamic pricing to moderate congestion if there was excess capacity, and to allow people to enter that facility.

SANDAG committed to support transit through toll revenue. Revenue beyond our operating cost goes to supporting transit within the corridor. That was our enabling legislation. We basically provide some pass through for the entire project length to our regional transit operator provides service into those managed lanes. The project was well received by commuters. We conducted a study in 2002 that showed broad support for this express lanes concept. Pricing was considered effective and fair. Internally we believe a lot o that has to do with the fact that we used tolls to moderate congestion, and also the tolls that were collected were put back into transit.

The success of the overall project was the increase use of HOV lanes. We were getting an increased use in carpooling and increased use in the facility. We provided more travel choices, like transit, carpooling FasTrak option. For the first decade of operations we generated over $7 million to offset the cost of transit in the corridor.

Looking at the lessons we learned from the original I-15 express lanes project, we look to further expand and improve on the concept. At a high level we know we cannot build our way out of congestion. Our goal is to find ways to move more people through the lanes. We need to provide options to the commuters and make travel times competitive and reliable. Reliability and speed are key factors in people taking advantage of transit options. And then by offering single occupancy vehicles a toll to use these lanes we can utilize the capacity of the lanes and generate revenue to fund transit.

This is an artistic rendering of a BRT station. This is from the initial map I showed. This shows how buses can quickly access the BRT station from the managed lanes, quickly pick people up, and get back onto the managed lanes. People could access these transit facilities form regional arterials. There are park-and-ride lots. It also serves as an entrance for toll-paying vehicles. We've realized our parking is limited. We envisioned a shuttle service to bring people from residential communities into these transit centers, but most are driving and parking in this facility, so we're looking at ways to expand parking. This station is in a commercial area, so it is more of a drop-off service. We are looking at parking garages in some areas and potentially pricing as well.

These are more design elements of our express lanes. As people are driving on the facility, they can enter either as a carpool or a single occupant. The tolling price would be displayed and people would make a decision on whether to enter the facility. The only people that are paying are carpoolers, not HOVs. The carpoolers would make a decision to enter the facility and would be charged shortly after entering the managed lanes. The 3+1 configuration diagram shows how we have a movable barrier that we can move to the center of our facility in a 3+1 configuration to address heavy congestion. Or if there's an incident, we can move that barrier and 60 miles can actually create more capacity to take some of the burden off the general purpose lanes. This provides an overview of the express lanes design.

On the I-15 express lanes we have both a premium express coach bus service and the regional arterial bus service. Looking at this chart, FY 08 is the baseline before the express facility was opened. 2009 was the first year of having the full 16 miles and getting that reliability in travel times. You see a big bump from FY 08 to FY 09, and a decrease in FY 11. This year we closed down the south segment to convert it from two lanes to four lanes and we're doing some construction at the BRTs, so we were playing with the routes more this year. That's one reason why ridership numbers have dropped.

These coach buses are a premium service, so there's a higher fare, but they typically only stop at a couple locations before heading into downtown San Diego. These aren't your typical routes.

What is bus rapid transit (BRT)? It is a high frequency rapid transit system of buses that will operate in the express lanes, connecting people to the job centers. As we heard from our local meters, the idea of a bus is not as attractive as light rail. The topography of the I-15 is such that we couldn't go light rail, but we wanted to make the bus service as much like light rail as possible, so these are low floor entry buses. There will be another technology as well. It will help people gravitate towards those transit services. Right now, the express services are really only peak period services. It will also have an all day service as well and will service a wider population. We want to address the concern that I take transit to work, how do I get home in the event of an emergency? This is something we are going to address with our BRT service.

This shows the transit routes. I included a link to a bigger version of this. We expect to start this in 2013. This is a 35 mile long corridor. It will go from Escondido to downtown San Diego. It could also go to the north to Riverside. There will be five freeway BRT stations with direct access ramps. The only one that is not open right now is Mira Mesa/Miramar station.

These BRT buses will also use arterial streets. The route highlighted in red goes through business sections and will use ITS technology like priority light synchronization to make sure that those buses get through the residential areas as quickly as possible. It's about reliable travel times and moving as many people as possible and getting them to their destination as quickly and as reliably as possible.

This last slide is what we are going to do regionally. We do not have robust HOV network of highways. Currently we have about 20 miles of HOV main lane and managed lane facilities. Our primary freeways - Interstates 5, 15, and 805 - the regional transportation that we're working on for 2050 will continue to work on these managed lanes facilities. It includes four-lane managed lanes and it will be more extensive on the I-5, 15, and 805. We are also looking at two lane facilities. We're also looking at HOV to HOV connectors. HOV's will intersect and bring our entire network together.

Going back to our primary goals: we want to move the most people possible through the lanes, and transit plays a key role in this. Making transit look attractive is something we are trying to do and we think that if we can couple our managed lanes' reliability, consistency, etc. we can make this more attractive to the commuter. We want to reduce congestion and make the transit system more appealing to the commuter and get them to convert.

Right now, our premium bus service runs about $2 million a year. You can see by the yellow box, as we begin to build out this managed lane concept, in 2020 we are looking at an expenditure of $80 million, and in 2050 $530 million. This funding isn't solely on FasTrak or our tolling. We also have a half-cent sales tax in this region that will provide operation funding.

With that, I will pass it back to Jennifer. If their bus-specific, I did include Barrow Emerson's contact information. He's our senior regional planner.

Jennifer Symoun

Alright. Thank you, Chris. We'll get to the questions now. How often is the movable barrier moved?

Chris Burke

Right now there isn't the demand to move the barrier. With the improvements we've made, there isn't significant congestion on the I-15 express lanes, so the barrier is only moved during major incidents (over 2 hours in duration to clear). We don't move the barrier on a daily basis.

Jennifer Symoun

What are the current tolls on the facility and who operates the barrier machines, or is it contracted?

Chris Burke

It is run by California DOT Caltrans. It is their decision when and where to move the barrier. SANDAG is the regional toll authority. We are pricing right now between a minimum of $.50, to a max of $8.

Jennifer Symoun

When the I-15 express bus service first began, I recall that most of the ridership was in the reverse commute direction. Is that still the case or is most of the ridership now in the peak direction?

Chris Burke

Most of the ridership is in the peak period. I don't know the breakdown between northbound and southbound. If someone wants to send an e-mail, I can follow up.

Jennifer Symoun

Actually, that question came from Brian. So Brian, I'll let you clarify if you want to.

Brian Pessaro

The reason I asked is because I used to work on this project at SANDAG and I recall we were surprised that when we checked the ridership, most of the people were going northbound in the morning, which is reverse commute. I'm just curious if that's changed now that you've added new routes.

Chris Burke

I don't have that information off-hand, but you would think they would want it to work and take it back home. That's interesting.

Jennifer Symoun

I think someone's asking for clarification on what you said about you could not do LRT due to corridor characteristics.

Chris Burke

Cost is a factor, but really the topography in that area is hills and valleys and some tight turns that didn't pencil out for transit. From my understanding, the reason we went with rapid transit versus light rail is due to the change in elevations and turns.

Jennifer Symoun

Since the I-15 Managed Lanes will be 35 miles at build-out, will MTS be using coach buses?

Chris Burke

Coach buses are what MTS currently uses, and they'll be moving to the new BRT design that I was showing, but I think that the coach buses have steps to get up and into the seating area. The new buses will be low floor entry to load people quickly. That's my understanding of why they're moving the new design.

Jennifer Symoun

What is the length of the system, what is the maximum toll charged in peak periods and what is the ratio of HOV to SOV traffic

Chris Burke

When we had the initial facility, it was a 75 percent HOV to 25 percent SOV. Now it's 80 percent HOV, 20 percent SOV. The average toll rate is tough to be held to because there are so many variations on ways people can travel. If you take the total revenue, it is between $ 1.15 and $1.75 on average. The average distance traveled is 8 to 9 miles. Toll price can vary from $.50 to $8 dollars. It is dictated by our board policy.

Myron Swisher

Jennifer, I'll ask the last question. Do the BRT buses originate at the transit stations or do some of them run local and get in on the HOT lanes?

Chris Burke

Right now the I-15 originates at the Escondido transit center. They will terminate at the employment centers. That's the morning direction. Afternoon they would start at employment centers, and terminate at the Escondido centers, making stops along the way. That's the way our current routes works. The BRT will provide all day service to support regional commuter

travel patterns.

Myron Swisher

Is there any consideration of running local into the neighborhoods at the Escondido end?

Chris Burke

Not at the Escondido end. There is a BRT project being evaluated in our mid-city area. It goes from a dense area or residential housing to the downtown area. They're looking at light priorities, etc. to make that an attractive offer. Not a significant overhaul of the current arterial bus system.

Jennifer Symoun

Alright, thank you, we are out of time today. I want to thank Myron for the introduction and our three presenters for three informative presentations. I also want to thank everyone for attending and for the great questions.

The next webinar will be on November 10th, that's two weeks from today. It will be on Best Practice of Parking Pricing. Please note that it's being held a little earlier in the month than usual. You can register for this webinar on the website on this screen. I will send out an email in a week or so with a link to the recording and transcript. You can download the presentations from the screen you are on right now. It will also be on our website.

Thank you everybody, and enjoy your day.

back to top
back to top