Investigating the Impact of Tolls on High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes Using Managed Lanes

For nearly 40 years, high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes have been used to combat congestion. These lanes allow only vehicles with multiple occupants and generally offer a free-flow trip, unlike adjacent general purpose lanes. In theory, this encourages additional carpooling, reduces overall vehicle miles of travel, and improves the commute trip. However, as a result of the underutilization of some of these lanes, some HOV lanes are migrating to high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lanes, where HOVs may travel free of charge but lower-occupancy vehicles can pay a toll to use the lane. This research investigated the impacts of offering preferential treatment for HOVs on these lanes. To determine the impact of different HOT lane operating strategies on their travel behavior, freeway travelers in the Houston and Dallas metropolitan areas of Texas were surveyed. A nested logit model was developed to estimate the mode choice for travelers. This model was used to predict the impact of converting an HOV lane to a HOT lane on which all travelers pay a toll. It was found that the overall percentage of HOV2 and HOV3+ vehicles in the traffic stream decreased by only a small amount when a toll was required for them to use the HOV lane. However, that decrease did represent a significant portion of those modes (more than 9%) and resulted in more than a 10% increase in HOT lane revenue. Therefore, elimination of preferential treatment for these vehicle types has significant implications and becomes a difficult policy decision-not just a straightforward choice.


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