oversight

Traffic Congestion: Road Pricing Can Help Reduce Congestion, but Equity Concerns May Grow

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-01-12.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

               United States Government Accountability Office

GAO            Report to the Subcommittee on
               Transportation, Housing, and Urban
               Development and Related Agencies,
               Committee on Appropriations, House of
               Representatives
January 2012
               TRAFFIC
               CONGESTION
               Road Pricing Can Help
               Reduce Congestion,
               but Equity Concerns
               May Grow




GAO-12-119
                                             January 2012

                                             TRAFFIC CONGESTION
                                             Road Pricing Can Help Reduce Congestion, but
                                             Equity Concerns May Grow
Highlights of GAO-12-119, a report to the
Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing,
and Urban Development and Related
Agencies, Committee on Appropriations,
House of Representatives


Why GAO Did This Study                       What GAO Found
Many Americans spend frustrating             DOT approves all congestion pricing projects on roadways that receive federal
hours each year stuck in traffic. While      funds and provides grants for project studies, implementation, and evaluation.
estimates vary, the Department of            Nearly all HOT lane projects and most peak-period pricing projects in operation
Transportation (DOT) estimates that          today received federal funds at one time or another. DOT’s largest programs for
traffic congestion costs the United          congestion relief, the Urban Partnership Agreement and Congestion Reduction
States $200 billion each year, and that      Demonstration programs, have provided grant funds totaling nearly $800 million
more than one-quarter of total annual        since 2006 to six metropolitan areas to implement pricing and other strategies.
travel time in metropolitan areas            DOT requires sponsors of congestion pricing projects to monitor and evaluate
occurs in congested conditions. Road
                                             performance and, for HOT lanes when applicable, ensure that a federal standard
pricing or congestion pricing—
                                             for minimum traffic speeds is met.
assessing tolls that vary with the level
of congestion or time of day—aims to         The 14 congestion pricing projects that have current and complete evaluations
motivate drivers to share rides, use         generally show that pricing can help reduce congestion, although other results
transit, travel at less congested times,     are mixed, and not all possible relevant impacts have been assessed. HOT lane
or pay to use tolled lanes. Since the        projects, which aim to reduce congestion by decreasing travel time and
first U.S. congestion pricing project        increasing speed and the number of vehicles using the lane, have reduced
opened in 1995, 19 project sponsors          congestion, but some HOT lane projects also added new lanes, and studies did
have 41 pricing projects in operation or     not distinguish the extent to which performance improvements were due to
under construction. About 400 miles of
                                             added lanes or pricing. In addition, although the number of cars using HOT lanes
priced highway lanes including nearly
                                             has risen, there were fewer people in those cars because of an increase in the
150 miles on the New Jersey Turnpike
are in operation today with current tolls    proportion of toll-paying solo drivers or a decrease in carpools. Peak-period
varying from 25 cents to $14.                pricing projects, which aim to reduce congestion by encouraging drivers to travel
                                             at off-peak times, have shifted some travel to those times. Other congestion
All U.S. projects in operation are either    pricing effects—such as equity income impacts—have not always been
High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes,             evaluated. Potential concerns include income equity (whether low-income drivers
which charge solo drivers to use newly       are disproportionately affected by congestion pricing) and geographic equity
constructed lanes or carpool lanes, or       (whether one geographic area is more negatively affected than another, such as
peak-period pricing projects, which          when traffic diversion occurs). These impacts are important to assess as they
charge a lower toll on already tolled
                                             address the public and elected officials’ concerns about the effects of pricing on
roads, bridges and tunnels during off-
                                             travelers and communities. Ongoing multi-year evaluations across six
peak periods. GAO examined (1) the
federal role in supporting congestion        metropolitan areas will assess the performance and effects of congestion pricing
pricing, (2) results of U.S. congestion      projects using a specific set of measures to assess the effectiveness of
pricing projects, and (3) emerging           congestion reduction strategies.
issues in congestion pricing. Eight          Concerns about equity may grow as pricing projects become more widespread.
project sponsors have current and            New projects are under construction, and several metropolitan areas have
completed evaluations on at least 1          networks of HOT lanes planned that will expand the relatively limited use of
project, for a total of 14 evaluated         pricing today. Equity concerns may become more acute where sponsors are
projects, all of which GAO reviewed.
                                             using pricing not only to manage congestion, but also to raise revenue to build
GAO interviewed officials about the
                                             new projects. Raising revenue can be at odds with managing congestion (e.g.,
performance of their pricing projects
and effects. DOT provided technical          increasing passenger throughput) if higher tolls can produce more revenue from
comments, which GAO incorporated as          fewer paying vehicles. Options to address equity issues include using a portion of
appropriate.                                 toll revenues to finance public transit service.



View GAO-12-119 or key components.
For more information, contact Phil Herr at
(202) 512-2834 or herrp@gao.gov.

                                                                                     United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                      1
               Background                                                                   2
               DOT Helps Facilitate Congestion Pricing through Project
                 Approvals and Funding for Implementation, Monitoring, and
                 Evaluation                                                                 8
               Project Evaluations Have Generally Shown Reduced Congestion,
                 but Other Effects Have Not Been Consistently Assessed                    15
               Greater Equity and Safety Issues Might Develop as New Projects
                 Are Implemented                                                          25
               Concluding Observations                                                    31
               Agency Comments                                                            33

Appendix I     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                         34



Appendix II    Congestion Pricing Projects Open to Traffic in the United States, 2011     40



Appendix III   DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999
               through 2010                                                               42



Appendix IV    Performance and Monitoring Requirements for Federal Programs for
               Congestion Pricing Projects                                                51



Appendix V     GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                      55



Tables
               Table 1: DOT Congestion Pricing Programs and Number of
                        Operational or Under Construction Congestion Pricing
                        Projects Authorized Under Each Program                              9
               Table 2: Five Common Performance Measures and Definitions
                        Used in Current and Completed Congestion Pricing
                        Project Evaluations                                               17
               Table 3: Evaluations and Surveys Used to Analyze the Performance
                        and Effects of Congestion Pricing Projects                        37


               Page i                                            GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Figures
          Figure 1: U.S. Congestion Pricing Projects in Operation or Under
                   Construction                                                                     5
          Figure 2: Project Sponsors That Have Current and Completed
                   Evaluations of Congestion Pricing Projects                                       16




          Abbreviations
          CRD                Congestion Reduction Demonstration
          DOT                Department of Transportation
          ELD                Express Lanes Demonstration
          FHWA               Federal Highway Administration
          HOT                High Occupancy Toll
          HOV                High Occupancy Vehicle
          NEPA               National Environmental Policy Act
          SAFETEA-LU         Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation
                             Equity Act—A Legacy for Users
          SR                 State Route
          UPA                Urban Partnership Agreement
          VPPP               Value Pricing Pilot Program


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          Page ii                                                     GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   January 12, 2012

                                   The Honorable Tom Latham
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable John Olver
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Subcommittee on Transportation,
                                     Housing, and Urban Development
                                     and Related Agencies
                                   Committee on Appropriations
                                   House of Representatives

                                   Many Americans spend frustrating hours each year stuck in congested
                                   traffic, a situation that costs the country billions of dollars annually and
                                   influences people’s decisions about where to live and work. As traffic has
                                   risen dramatically over the past 3 decades with population and economic
                                   growth, congestion now extends to more times of the day, more roads,
                                   and more cities and towns—thus affecting more people than ever before.
                                   Estimates of the cost of congestion vary; according to the Department of
                                   Transportation (DOT), congestion costs America an estimated $200
                                   billion each year in lost travel time and fuel, and drivers in metropolitan
                                   areas spent more than one-quarter of their total annual travel time in
                                   congested conditions.

                                   Metropolitan areas have undertaken several approaches to reduce
                                   congestion, but some approaches are becoming impractical and too
                                   costly. For example, metropolitan areas have widened or extended roads
                                   to add physical capacity, yet this option may not be feasible in some
                                   densely populated urban areas or could have significant social and
                                   environmental impacts. Furthermore, adding roadway capacity is costly at
                                   a time when governments at all levels are facing fiscal constraints.
                                   Metropolitan areas have also attempted to reduce congestion by
                                   managing existing infrastructure more efficiently, through traffic
                                   management strategies such as timed traffic signals, signs that warn
                                   drivers of congestion ahead, and improved responses to accidents. Other
                                   strategies, such as carpool or bus-only lanes, have been designed to
                                   reduce the number of vehicles on roadways by encouraging people not to
                                   drive alone.

                                   Another strategy to reduce congestion is road pricing or congestion
                                   pricing—assessing tolls that vary with the level of congestion and time of
                                   day. Since the first U.S. congestion pricing project opened in 1995, 19


                                   Page 1                                             GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
             project sponsors, generally state departments of transportation or local
             authorities, have 41 pricing projects either operational or under
             construction—primarily charging solo drivers to pay a toll on newly
             constructed lanes, existing carpool lanes, or charging a lower toll on tolled
             highways, bridges, and tunnels during off-peak periods. Concerns on the
             part of public and elected officials about the fairness of congestion pricing
             to all users have, however, been a challenge to instituting these projects.

             At your request, we examined (1) the federal role in supporting
             congestion pricing, (2) results of congestion pricing projects in the United
             States, and (3) emerging issues in congestion pricing projects. To
             address these objectives, we reviewed relevant legislation, literature,
             reports, and studies. We interviewed federal officials who oversee
             programs related to congestion pricing as well as experts in the field. We
             analyzed congestion pricing project performance from evaluations,
             related environmental and traffic diversion assessments, traveler surveys,
             and interviews with state and local transportation officials who have
             implemented and evaluated projects. See appendix I for our study
             objectives, scope, and methodology.

             We conducted this performance audit from October 2010 through January
             2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
             standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
             obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for
             our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe
             that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
             and conclusions based on our audit objectives.


             Traffic congestion is caused by more vehicles on a road than it is
Background   designed to accommodate, and it can be exacerbated by several factors.
             For example, bottlenecks at highway interchanges or on bridges and
             tunnels can worsen congestion. Vehicles traveling at different speeds can
             increase the average amount of space between cars, thus not efficiently
             using all space available in a lane. Stop-and-go traffic leads to increased
             queuing and periodic events such as traffic accidents and roadway
             construction can compound already congested conditions. Although a
             transportation system is designed to handle a certain number of vehicles,
             the flow of traffic can be improved at certain times and places such as
             during rush hours or at bottlenecks.




             Page 2                                             GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Congestion pricing is designed to improve the flow of traffic by charging
drivers a toll that can vary with the level of congestion or time of day.
Drivers pay a higher price for using a lane or roadway at times of heavy
traffic, and a lower price when and where traffic is light. To avoid toll
payment, drivers may choose to share rides, use transit, travel at less
congested (generally off-peak) times, or travel on less congested routes.
Drivers who place a high value on time may choose to pay the toll to use
the priced lane during congested times in return for a faster and more
reliable trip. Alternatively, drivers who wish to pay a discounted toll on an
already tolled roadway can travel at off-peak times.

Economists generally believe that congestion pricing has the potential to
alleviate congestion on roadways in an economically efficient way. Those
who value a fast and reliable trip will pay for the option. Drivers who place
a lower value on time will choose to stay in the unpriced and potentially
more congested roadways. Economists believe that congestion pricing
can also enhance economic efficiency by making drivers take into
account the external costs they impose on others when making their
travel choices. Any given driver’s highway use entails extra costs that the
driver does not bear, in the form of congestion, noise, and pollution. Thus,
paying a toll that reflects a driver’s value of time and covers external costs
can potentially reduce congestion and the demand for road space at peak
periods. We have reported that the existing infrastructure can be
managed more efficiently and that congestion pricing could be one
method to do so.1

All congestion pricing projects in the United States have used either (1)
High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes or (2) peak-period pricing on already
tolled facilities. HOT lanes have been created by constructing new lanes
or converting existing carpool or High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes,
some of which had been previously underused, and allowing solo drivers
to use these lanes if they pay a toll. Users of the prior HOV-only lanes,
such as carpools and express buses, generally continue to use the lanes
for free and are allowed to use newly constructed HOT lanes for free as
well. HOT lane operators seek to influence the number of vehicles in the
HOT lane and maintain 45- to 55-mile-per-hour travel speeds through


1
 GAO, Reducing Congestion: Congestion Pricing Has Promise for Improving Use of
Transportation Infrastructure, GAO-03-735T (Washington, D.C.: May 6, 2003); and
Surface Transportation: Strategies Are Available for Making Existing Road Infrastructure
Perform Better, GAO-07-920 (Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2007).




Page 3                                                      GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
“dynamic” pricing—that is, increasing or decreasing tolls in real time
depending on traffic in the HOT lane. Peak-period pricing on already
tolled highways, bridges, and tunnels or on new or planned replacement
facilities is another type of congestion pricing project in the United States.
In this type of pricing, tolls are fixed higher during peak travel times and
lower during off-peak times to encourage drivers to use the roadway off-
peak. Three HOT lane projects have used a hybrid approach to dynamic
and peak-period pricing called “variable” pricing. Variable pricing uses a
pre-set schedule of tolls that is periodically revised to account for changes
in congestion or other factors.

Since the first U.S. congestion pricing project was implemented in Orange
County, California, in 1995, 19 project sponsors have initiated 41 pricing
projects on highways, bridges, and tunnels. Projects operate in Georgia,
Utah, Colorado, Maryland, and New Jersey with multiple projects in
California, Florida, New York, Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, and
Washington State. Of the 41 pricing projects, 30 are completed and open
to traffic. The 30 opened projects include 12 HOT lane projects and 18
peak-period priced facilities, covering about 400 miles of priced lanes.
Projects range in length from 4.1 miles on the State Route (SR) 133 in
Orange County, California, to nearly 150 miles on the New Jersey
Turnpike, 2 and charge tolls varying from 25 cents to $14. Eleven HOT
lane projects are under construction; in addition, 2 of the 12 HOT lane
projects in operation are extending the length of their tolled lanes. Figure
1 shows congestion pricing projects in operation and under construction
including extensions to existing projects. Appendix II provides additional
details on congestion pricing projects and toll rates.




2
 The New Jersey Turnpike discontinued off-peak discounts to out-of-state vehicles as of
July 2011.




Page 4                                                     GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Figure 1: U.S. Congestion Pricing Projects in Operation or Under Construction




                                         More metropolitan areas across the country are using or plan to use
                                         pricing as a way to relieve congestion on highways and bridges, and
                                         some regions are planning to implement networks of HOT lanes. Dallas-
                                         Ft. Worth, Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle, and the San Francisco
                                         Bay Area have networks of HOT lanes in their long-term plans. For
                                         example, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission of the San
                                         Francisco Bay Area proposes to add a 570-mile HOT lane network by
                                         2025 as part of its 35-year regional plan. The Washington State
                                         Department of Transportation proposes to convert carpool lanes to HOT
                                         lanes on nearly 300 miles in the Seattle/Puget Sound area. Such


                                         Page 5                                           GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
networks are also being considered in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.,
and the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area.

Congestion pricing has raised equity concerns among the public and
elected officials. In general, an analysis of equity issues examines how
costs and benefits of projects are distributed among members of society. In
the transportation economics literature, four concepts of equity are cited.

•   The extent to which members of the same group are treated equally;
    for example, whether some people with the same income pay a larger
    amount in taxes or fees.

•   The extent to which those who benefit from a project, such as a new
    lane, pay for those benefits; for example, is the lane paid for by a toll
    on users or by a state sales tax paid in part by persons who may not
    use or benefit from the lane?

•   How the costs and benefits of a project are distributed across
    members of different groups such as high- and low-income people; for
    example, whether all groups pay in proportion to their income or
    whether low-income people pay proportionally more of their income
    for tolls than high-income people.

•   The extent to which those who impose social costs bear those costs;
    for example, whether polluters or drivers on crowded highways pay
    the full social cost of their driving, or, if a toll causes diversion from the
    tolled highway to adjacent neighborhoods, those neighborhoods incur
    the costs of pollution and crowding.

While recognizing that all of these concepts of equity cited in the literature
may be important, public and elected officials’ concerns regarding
congestion pricing have been primarily with the latter two concepts of
equity, in particular, what is termed income equity and geographic equity.

•   Income equity refers to whether the costs of congestion pricing that
    users incur are proportional to their incomes, or whether low-income
    drivers are disproportionately affected. For example, low-income
    drivers may spend a greater proportion of their income to pay to travel
    at preferred times or incur greater costs in travel time by choosing
    alternate unpriced routes. High-income drivers, who, economists
    generally believe, place a higher value on their time, may be more
    likely to pay the toll and benefit from a faster trip than low-income
    drivers, thus possibly generating income equity concerns.



Page 6                                                GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
•   Geographic equity refers to how equally the costs and benefits
    associated with congestion pricing are distributed within an affected
    metropolitan area. For example, if one corridor in a metropolitan area
    has congestion pricing and another does not, drivers in the tolled
    corridor may incur greater costs than drivers in the untolled corridor
    because of the tolls they pay or the increase in travel time they incur
    by choosing an alternate route. Furthermore, drivers who choose to
    avoid the tolls and take an alternate route may contribute to
    congestion on the alternate route. Such diversion of traffic from tolled
    routes within a corridor can reduce the performance of the alternate
    untolled routes and negatively affect surrounding neighborhoods.
    Issues of equity are further complicated if this traffic is diverted
    through low-income and minority communities.

The transportation economics literature also suggests that the equity
impacts of congestion pricing be assessed in comparison to
alternatives—namely the predominant sources of funding roadways, such
as motor fuel and sales taxes. Comparing these sources could address
whether those who benefit from a project, such as a new lane, pay for
those benefits; for example, is the lane paid for by users of the facility or
by persons who may not use or benefit from the lane? According to the
Transportation Research Board, it may be the case that tolling and pricing
provide a more equitable means of funding roadways than these other
alternatives. 3 We have reported that tolling is consistent with the “user
pay” principle because tolling a particular road and using the tolls
collected to build and maintain that road more closely link the costs with
the distribution of the benefits that users derive from it. 4




3
 The Transportation Research Board is part of the National Research Council and
provides expert advice on transportation policy and programs through task forces,
committees, and conferences among other activities. The board has reported that existing
transportation funding mechanisms such as sales taxes are not inherently equitable
because they can result in poorer households paying a larger share of their income than
wealthier households, are required by nonusers and users of the system alike, and make
no distinction between occasional or heavy users of the system. Thus, sales taxes are
less equitable than fuel taxes and tolls, which are paid by users of the system based on
their use. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, “Equity of Evolving
Transportation Finance Mechanisms,” Washington, D.C.: November 2011.
4
 GAO, Highway Finance: States’ Expanding Use of Tolling Illustrates Diverse Challenges
and Strategies, GAO-06-554 (Washington, D.C.: June 28, 2006).




Page 7                                                    GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                             As a general rule, charging tolls on highways constructed with federal
                             funds is prohibited. 5 However, Congress has enacted several exceptions
                             that authorize DOT to permit tolling in certain instances.


                             DOT approves all congestion pricing projects on any roadway that
DOT Helps Facilitate         receives federal funds. DOT approval grants the project sponsor
Congestion Pricing           permission to have congestion pricing on newly constructed roadways 6
through Project              and lanes and converted HOV lanes through three programs. DOT also
                             approves design exceptions and environmental reviews that allow for
Approvals and                pricing on federally funded roads. DOT awarded funding to study,
Funding for                  implement, and evaluate congestion pricing projects and DOT programs
                             require monitoring and evaluation of pricing projects, although the level of
Implementation,              detail varies by program. When applicable, DOT oversees projects and
Monitoring, and              certifies that program performance standards have been met.

Evaluation

DOT Approves Tolling,        Congress has authorized DOT to approve tolling, which can include
Project Design Exceptions,   congestion pricing, through three programs. 7 Table 1 provides a summary
and Environmental            of the three DOT congestion pricing programs and number of operational
                             or under construction congestion pricing projects authorized under each
Reviews on Federally
                             program.
Funded Highways




                             5
                                 23 U.S.C. § 301.
                             6
                                 SR 520 in Seattle is tolling the existing bridge to fund a replacement bridge.
                             7
                              DOT also provides tolling authority through three other programs—the Section 129
                             General Tolling program, the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Toll
                             Pilot Program, and the Interstate System Construction Toll Pilot Program—that are
                             focused on using toll revenues to pay for highway construction projects. While tolls may
                             be set in such a way as to manage congestion under these programs, this is not a
                             requirement.




                             Page 8                                                           GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Table 1: DOT Congestion Pricing Programs and Number of Operational or Under
Construction Congestion Pricing Projects Authorized Under Each Program

 •   Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP), authorized in the Transportation Equity Act for
     the 21st Century in 1998 (and preceded by the Congestion Pricing Pilot Program
     authorized in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991) is a pilot
     program for local transportation programs to determine the potential of different
     value pricing approaches to manage congestion, including projects that would use
     tolls on highway facilities. DOT can grant tolling authority to 15 state and local
     transportation agencies for this program. All but 1 of the HOT lane projects in
     operation and open to traffic and most peak-period pricing projects in the United
     States received VPPP funds at one time or another.
 •   Express Lanes Demonstration Program (ELD), authorized in Safe, Accountable,
     Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) in
     2005, allows 15 demonstration projects to use tolling to manage high congestion
     levels, reduce emissions to meet specific Clean Air Act requirements, or finance
     additional Interstate lanes to reduce congestion. Five projects—4 of which are in
     Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas, and the other in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida—have received
     tolling authority through this program, and 4 of these projects are under
     construction.
 •   High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Facilities (HOT Lanes), authorized in SAFETEA-LU
     in 2005, permits states to charge tolls to vehicles that do not meet occupancy
     requirements to use an HOV lane even if the lane is on an Interstate facility. Eleven
     of the 12 operational HOT lane projects in the United States received tolling
     authority as part of the HOV Facilities program or VPPP and its predecessor—the
     Congestion Pricing Pilot Program.

Source: FHWA.



DOT has also approved design exceptions for certain highway projects that
include congestion pricing. DOT has approved exceptions to highway
standards to allow for changes to highways to increase capacity within the
existing right of way or “footprint.” The Florida Department of
Transportation received design exceptions for I-95 in Miami to convert parts
of the median and shoulder lanes and to narrow other lanes from the
standard 12 feet to 11 feet to make two HOT lanes in each direction. The
Minnesota Department of Transportation has received design exceptions to
convert shoulder lanes for electronic tolling and bus service during peak
periods on I-35W in Minneapolis. This lane also serves as a HOT lane for
solo drivers who pay a toll during the same period. The Minnesota
Department of Transportation’s design exceptions included changes in lane
width and shoulder width as well as advisory speed limits.




Page 9                                                        GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as
amended (NEPA)8 and its implementing regulations as well as Executive
Order 12898, DOT reviews projects to assess their anticipated
environmental and socioeconomic impacts and to determine their need for
any additional reviews. Projects that are deemed to have significant
environmental impacts must prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.9
When it is unclear whether or not a significant environmental impact will
occur as a result of the project’s impacts, an Environmental Assessment
must be prepared. Environmental impacts may include effects on air, noise,
water quality, wildlife, and wetlands. Additionally, projects may be required to
undergo an environmental justice assessment to determine its impacts on
low-income and minority populations.10 Projects that a federal agency has
previously determined to have no significant environmental impacts may
receive a categorical exclusion, meaning that they do not have to complete
an Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment to comply
with NEPA.11 DOT has approved categorical exclusions for congestion
pricing projects that do not lead directly to construction and changes in the
facility’s “footprint” in accordance with NEPA implementing regulations, along
with projects that include new electronics and communications systems for
tolling. According to project sponsors that we interviewed, pricing projects
that have not changed a facility’s “footprint,” such as HOV to HOT lane
conversions or peak-period pricing on already tolled highways, bridges, and
tunnels, have received categorical exclusions. In addition, projects that have
narrowed the width of lanes and converted medians and shoulder lanes that
have not involved changing the “footprint” of the highway have received
categorical exclusions.



8
 Pub. L. No. 91-190, 83 Stat. 852 (Jan. 1, 1970).
9
 23 C.F.R. § 771.115.
10
  Executive Order 12898 directs agencies to identify and address “disproportionately high
and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities
on minority populations and low-income populations…” Executive Order 12898, Federal
Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income
Populations, 59 Fed. Reg. 7629 (Feb. 16, 1994).
11
  According to DOT regulations, a categorical exclusion can be granted where actions:
“do not induce significant impacts to planned growth or land use for the area; do not
require the relocation of significant numbers of people; do not have a significant impact on
any natural, cultural, recreational, historic or other resource; do not involve significant air,
noise, or water quality impacts; do not have significant impacts on travel patterns; or do
not otherwise, either individually or cumulatively, have any significant environmental
impacts.” 23 C.F.R. 771.117(a).




Page 10                                                         GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
DOT Has Provided Funds      DOT has provided funds to promote congestion pricing through several
for Studies,                programs that involve tolling—the Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA)
Implementation, and         and Congestion Reduction Demonstration (CRD) programs and the Value
                            Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP). UPA and CRD, the largest programs that
Evaluations of Congestion   involve tolling, advance congestion pricing through funding awards from
Pricing Projects            10 separate grant programs. 12 As part of one-time initiatives, the UPA and
                            CRD participants—Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California;
                            Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Los
                            Angeles, California; and Atlanta, Georgia—were provided approximately
                            $800 million through grant programs to implement tolling as well as
                            transit, technology, and telecommunications strategies to reduce
                            congestion. Funds have been used to build new HOT lanes, convert HOV
                            lanes to HOT lanes, establish electronic tolling systems, and purchase
                            buses for express bus service on HOT lanes.

                            In addition, DOT has provided about $100 million in grants for studies,
                            implementation, and some evaluations of congestion pricing projects
                            through VPPP since it was established in fiscal year 1998. Nearly all
                            congestion pricing projects in operation have received VPPP funds at one
                            time or another for these purposes. About a third of total VPPP grants
                            were awarded to fund three of the six UPA participants—Seattle in fiscal
                            year 2007 and Minnesota and San Francisco in fiscal year 2008. 13 Before
                            that, Congress authorized $11 million in fiscal year 2005 and $12 million
                            per year for fiscal years 2006 through 2009 for projects that involve
                            highway pricing, of which $3 million per year was set aside for nontolling
                            projects, such as parking and car sharing projects. See appendix III for a
                            list of VPPP grants and activities from fiscal years 1999 through 2010.


                            12
                              The UPA and CRD programs gave priority consideration to participants applying for
                            discretionary grants from DOT’s Federal Highway Administration’s Value Pricing Pilot
                            Program; Interstate Maintenance Discretionary; Transportation, Community and System
                            Preservation; Innovative Research and Bridge Deployment Program; Ferry Boat
                            Discretionary; and Public Lands Highways programs. Funds are also used from the
                            Federal Transit Administration’s Bus and Bus Facilities and Alternative Analysis programs;
                            as well as Research and Innovative Technology Administration’s Intelligent Transportation
                            Systems and Intelligent Transportation Systems Operational Testing to Mitigate
                            Congestion programs. Funds go to project elements that must meet eligibility criteria for
                            their respective grant program.
                            13
                              San Francisco’s SFPark uses congestion pricing by adjusting parking meter and garage
                            prices up or down based on the demand for parking. Drivers can receive real-time
                            information about where parking is available and at which price using personal mobile
                            devices such as iPhones. This “demand-responsive” pricing encourages drivers to park in
                            underused areas and garages, reducing demand for parking in overused areas.




                            Page 11                                                    GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
VPPP funds have been used to:

    •     Study the potential of pricing in a corridor or region or the
          feasibility of a particular pricing project. Studies have
          examined the benefits of implementing variable pricing on an
          already tolled facility such as the Florida Turnpike in Miami-Dade
          County and the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Pittsburgh and
          Philadelphia. VPPP-funded studies have also examined the
          feasibility of extending HOT Lanes such as I-15 in San Diego,
          California.

    •     Implement elements of projects. Lee County, Florida, used a
          grant to purchase transponder readers for electronic tolling on two
          of its bridges. The Washington State Department of
          Transportation used VPPP funds to install electronic tolling
          technology on the SR 520 bridge that determine changes in tolls
          based on congestion.

    •     Evaluate specific projects. Evaluations studied the results and
          challenges of implementing pricing projects including SR 91 in
          Orange County, California; I-15 in San Diego; California; I-394 in
          Minneapolis, Minnesota; and I-10 and U.S. 290 in Houston,
          Texas.

In addition to the funding provided through VPPP, federal funding is
available for congestion pricing projects through other programs. For
example, federal credit assistance available under the Transportation
Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program has been used to help
finance construction of HOT lanes for 7 projects including those on I-495
in Virginia, I-635/I-35E in Texas, and I-595 in Florida. 14 In addition, states
receive nearly $40 billion a year in federal funding for highways through a
series of grant programs collectively known as the Federal-Aid Highway
Program. These grant programs have also been used to help finance the
construction of congestion pricing projects.




14
   The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program provides federal
credit assistance in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, and standby lines of credit to
finance eligible surface transportation projects of national and regional significance.




Page 12                                                       GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
DOT Requires                The HOV Facilities program requires project sponsors to annually monitor
Performance Monitoring      and report HOT lane traffic speeds and is the only DOT tolling program
for All Its Toll Programs   that requires project sponsors to meet an annual performance standard.
                            In the case of an HOV facility with a speed limit greater than 50 miles per
and Compliance with         hour, vehicles must be able to travel at least 45 miles per hour 90 percent
Performance Standard        of the time during weekday morning and evening peak hours over a 180-
for Its HOV Facilities      day period. 15 If this standard is not met, the road operator must make
Program                     changes to bring the facility back into compliance. Such changes could
                            include raising tolls on paying cars or changing carpooling requirements
                            to achieve the standard. DOT established this speed requirement
                            because HOV lanes, by law, are transit “fixed guideway” facilities that
                            encourage transit use and thus traffic must maintain speeds compatible
                            with express bus service. Nearly all HOV to HOT lane conversions in
                            operation have been authorized under either the HOV Facilities program
                            or VPPP (and its predecessor, the Congestion Pricing Pilot Program).
                            Projects that were authorized under HOV Facilities have this performance
                            requirement. DOT monitors the reported performance of HOT lanes
                            authorized under the HOV Facilities program. According to DOT officials,
                            there has not been a case in which a HOT lane has not met the standard.

                            For the Express Lanes Demonstration (ELD) program, project sponsors
                            monitor and evaluate their projects’ performance and are required to
                            report annually to DOT. DOT then reports to Congress on the
                            performance of the ELD projects. Performance goals are in four
                            categories—(1) travel, traffic, and air quality; (2) distribution of benefits
                            and burdens on users of the facility; (3) use of alternative transportation
                            modes; and (4) use of revenue to meet transportation or impact mitigation
                            needs. 16 Performance measures include changes in traffic volumes and
                            traffic speed; average tolls charged for the year compared with the
                            previous year; number of carpools and express bus ridership; and use of
                            toll revenues, including the percentage of revenues used to mitigate
                            impacts. Unlike HOV Facilities program projects, ELD program projects
                            are not required by statute to meet specific performance standards.
                            Because four of the five existing ELD projects are currently under




                            15
                              Pub. L. No. 109-59, § 1121(d) (Aug. 5, 2005). In the case of an HOV facility with a
                            speed limit of less than 50 miles per hour, the minimum operating speed must not be more
                            than 10 miles per hour below the speed limit.
                            16
                             Pub. L. No. 109-59, § 1604(b)(7)(A).




                            Page 13                                                   GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
construction and construction has not begun on the fifth, no performance
reporting for completed ELD projects currently exists.

DOT also requires project sponsors that receive VPPP funds to monitor
and evaluate the performance of their projects so that the agency can
report results biannually to Congress as required by statute. 17 Project
sponsors report five categories of effects—(1) driver behavior, traffic
volumes, and travel speeds; (2) transit ridership; (3) air quality; (4) equity
for low-income individuals; and (5) availability of funds for transportation
programs. As with the ELD program, projects that receive VPPP grants
are not required to meet specific performance standards.

Under the UPA and CRD programs, DOT has provided funds to the
Battelle Memorial Institute to conduct an independent national evaluation
of the effectiveness of the program’s four congestion reduction
strategies—tolling, transit, technology, and telecommuting. Projects will
be assessed individually and results compared across all projects in the
six metropolitan areas according to specific metrics. These metrics
include reductions in congestion delay and duration; increases in the
number of cars and people in cars (i.e., vehicle and passenger
throughput), and shifts to travel during off-peak times, among other
factors. 18

See appendix IV for list of performance and monitoring requirements for
federal programs for congestion pricing projects.




17
  Pub. L. No. 102-240, § 1012(b)(5), 105 Stat. 1914 (Dec. 18, 1991), as amended by Pub.
L. No. 109-59, § 1604.
18
  Urban Partnership Agreement and Congestion Reduction Demonstration: National
Evaluation Framework, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C.: November
21, 2008.




Page 14                                                   GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                        Evaluations of 14 congestion pricing projects in the United States have
Project Evaluations     generally shown reduced congestion, although other results are mixed, and
Have Generally          not all possible relevant effects have been assessed. HOT lane projects,
                        which aim to improve the flow of traffic and throughput with increased
Shown Reduced           speeds and decreased travel times, have reduced congestion by
Congestion, but Other   increasing vehicle throughput, and have generally shown reduced
Effects Have Not        congestion, increased speeds, and decreased travel times in the priced
                        and unpriced lanes. Some HOT lane projects have added new lanes and
Been Consistently       thus, for these projects, the effects of pricing on performance have not
Assessed                been distinguished from the effects of the added lane. In addition, although
                        the number of cars using HOT lanes has risen, there were fewer people in
                        the cars—a fact attributed to an increase in the share of toll-paying solo
                        drivers or a decrease in carpooling on HOT lanes. Peak-period pricing
                        projects that aim to reduce congestion by encouraging drivers to travel at
                        off-peak times have shifted some drivers to travel during those times. Other
                        effects of congestion pricing projects, such as equity income impacts, have
                        not always been evaluated. Evaluating these impacts is important to
                        address public and elected officials’ concerns about the effects of pricing
                        on travelers and communities. Not evaluating these effects leads to an
                        incomplete understanding of the full effects of pricing.

                        Of the project sponsors that have operational congestion pricing, 8 have a
                        current and completed evaluation of at least one of their projects, for a
                        total of 14 evaluated projects. These eight evaluations assess five HOT
                        lane projects and nine peak-period pricing projects, as shown in figure 2.
                        For a description of our objectives, scope, and methodology in analyzing
                        the congestion pricing projects, see appendix I.




                        Page 15                                           GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Figure 2: Project Sponsors That Have Current and Completed Evaluations of Congestion Pricing Projects




                                        Because of differences in project objectives and in DOT’s monitoring and
                                        evaluation requirements, the completed evaluations vary in which aspects
                                        of performance they report. No evaluation has assessed the performance
                                        of congestion pricing across projects. In addition, the evaluations
                                        represent an assessment of the results of the projects at specific points in
                                        time. Were the evaluations on-going or repeated at different time
                                        intervals, it is possible that the results would differ. The most common
                                        measures used across the evaluations have been travel time and speed,
                                        throughput, off-peak travel, transit ridership, and equity. Table 2 lists and




                                        Page 16                                              GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                             defines these five common performance measures and definitions used in
                             congestion pricing project evaluations.

                             Table 2: Five Common Performance Measures and Definitions Used in Current and
                             Completed Congestion Pricing Project Evaluations

                              Performance
                              measure                     Definitions
                              Travel time and             How fast vehicles travel and how long it takes for the vehicles to drive
                              speed                       from one end of the HOT lane to the other.
                              Throughput                  How many vehicles move through the HOT lanes and/or the corridor
                                                          (vehicle throughput).
                                                          How many people move through the HOT lanes and/or the corridor
                                                          (passenger throughput).
                                                          The average number of people in a vehicle (buses and cars) on the
                                                          HOT lanes and/or in the corridor (average vehicle occupancy).
                              Off-peak travel             Whether drivers change their behavior to travel during off-peak times.
                              Transit ridership           Whether drivers change their behavior to take transit.
                              Equity                      Income Equity: How the distribution of benefits from tolling are
                                                          spread among commuters of all incomes in the corridor.
                                                          Geographic Equity: Whether drivers change their behavior to drive on
                                                          alternative unpriced roadways within the same corridor as the priced
                                                          roadway.
                             Source: GAO analysis of performance measures and definitions used in the assessed project evaluations.




Projects Improved
Performance in Certain
Areas According to Certain
Measures, but Results for
Other Measures Were
Mixed and Varied by
Project Type

Travel Time and Speed        Evaluations of HOT lane projects, which are designed to improve travel
                             time and speed, have shown improvements. Both travel time and travel
                             speed improved on at least some sections of all five HOT lane projects
                             that were evaluated. Sometimes the improved travel times in the HOT
                             lanes also led to improved travel times in the adjacent unpriced lanes
                             because solo drivers paid to switch to the HOT lanes. For example, on
                             SR 167 in Seattle, peak-hour travel speeds on the adjacent unpriced
                             lanes increased as much as 19 percent compared with travel speeds in
                             2007 while speeds on the HOT lanes remained about the same,


                             Page 17                                                                               GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                     averaging the speed limit of 60 miles per hour. 19 According to the
                     evaluation of I-15 in San Diego, drivers in the HOT lanes reportedly saved
                     up to 20 minutes more than drivers in the adjacent unpriced lanes during
                     the most congested times. Neither project included a new lane. Two other
                     HOT lane projects—on I-95 in Miami and SR 91 in Orange County —
                     included two new lanes in each direction, which also helped improve
                     travel times and speed. On I-95, for example, which Florida Department
                     of Transportation officials identified as the most heavily congested
                     highway in the state before pricing began in 2008, the evaluation reported
                     that drivers have reportedly saved about 14 minutes in the HOT lanes
                     and 11 minutes in the adjacent unpriced lanes per trip. Evaluations of the
                     I-95 and SR 91 projects did not, however, isolate the effects of the added
                     lane and pricing on performance. Isolating such effects is challenging
                     because even if a study accounts for the increased vehicle throughput on
                     the new lanes, it may then understate the throughput the other lanes
                     could have handled if the new lanes had not been added.

                     Evaluations of the nine peak-period pricing projects with completed
                     evaluations reported no effects on travel time and speed. Two of these
                     evaluations—of the New Jersey Turnpike and Lee County bridges—
                     analyzed these effects. Although travel times on the New Jersey Turnpike
                     improved from 2000 to 2001 when electronic tolling and peak-period
                     pricing were introduced at the same time, the project evaluation attributed
                     the improvement mostly to electronic tolling and not to pricing.

Traffic Throughput   Evaluations of all five HOT lane projects reported an increase in vehicle
                     throughput—as measured by traffic volumes—on the HOT lanes and
                     sometimes on the adjacent unpriced lanes and attributed this increase to
                     both congestion pricing and the addition of new lanes. For example,
                     according to a 2006 evaluation of the I-394 project in Minneapolis, vehicle
                     throughput in the HOT lanes increased by 9 to 13 percent and by 5
                     percent in the adjacent unpriced lanes after the lanes opened. A 2000
                     evaluation of the SR 91 project in Orange County estimated that vehicle
                     throughput increased 21 percent on the entire roadway.




                     19
                       The performance evaluation for SR 167 did not report the specific speeds for before and
                     after implementation. It only reported the percentage increase between them. A graphic in
                     the evaluation shows the increase from around 40 miles per hour in 2007 to about 50
                     miles per hour in 2010 for the adjacent unpriced lanes while the HOT lanes stayed the
                     same at 60 miles per hour.




                     Page 18                                                    GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                         Four of the five HOT lane project evaluations that tracked the average
                         number of people in a car (known as average vehicle occupancy) showed
                         a decrease in the number of passengers per car. Thus, while there were
                         more cars using the HOT lanes, there were, on average, fewer people in
                         the cars, which project sponsors attributed to an increase of the share of
                         toll-paying solo drivers or a decrease in carpooling in the HOT lanes. In
                         addition, evaluations of two projects assessed passenger throughput
                         which takes into account the number of people riding buses as well as the
                         average vehicle occupancy rate to estimate the total number of people
                         moved through the roadway. According to the evaluations, passenger
                         throughput on I-15 in San Diego increased slightly between 1997 and
                         1998, and then decreased between 1998 and 1999, and passenger
                         throughput on I-95 in Miami increased 42 percent between 2008 and
                         2010 on the HOT lanes—a result the evaluation attributed to an increase
                         in toll-paying solo drivers, transit ridership, and the addition of two HOT
                         lanes.

                         Evaluations of peak-period pricing projects found no increase in
                         throughput due to congestion pricing. Specifically, evaluations of the New
                         Jersey Turnpike and Lee County bridges assessed the impact of pricing
                         on traffic volume and found no changes in vehicle throughput or average
                         vehicle occupancy due to pricing that differed from overall traffic trends.

Encouraging a Shift to   To evaluate two of the five HOT lane projects—I-15 in San Diego and SR
Off-Peak Travel          91 in Orange County—project sponsors surveyed drivers to determine
                         whether they changed their trips to travel at off-peak times. According to
                         the I-15 survey results, some traffic shifted from the middle of the peak
                         rush hour to the “peak-shoulder” times—the times directly before and
                         after peak periods. However, the sponsors did not explain why this shift
                         occurred. Drivers surveyed for the SR 91 evaluation said that the level of
                         congestion affected their travel time decisions more than the presence of
                         the toll. Project sponsors that did not study shifts to off-peak travel times
                         said they did not do so because, in one case, the sponsor did not see the
                         HOT lanes as offering incentives that would encourage peak-period
                         travelers to shift their travel to off-peak periods, and, in another case, the
                         sponsor was not required to study shifts to off-peak travel but would
                         consider doing so in the future.

                         Sponsors of peak-period pricing projects conducted more robust studies
                         of off-peak travel because it was a more explicit goal of their projects.
                         These studies showed some success in reducing congestion during peak
                         times. Evaluations for two of the three peak-period pricing projects
                         showed that drivers chose to take trips at off-peak times on highways,


                         Page 19                                             GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                               bridges, and tunnels to take advantage of discounted tolls. For example,
                               according to a 2005 performance evaluation of traffic on bridges and
                               tunnels into New York City conducted by the City University of New York
                               for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, car and truck traffic
                               increased in off-peak periods for most crossings. 20 The evaluation
                               reported more significant improvements in the morning before the peak
                               periods than after the peak periods at the end of the day, which the
                               evaluation attributed to drivers finding it easier to arrive at work early than
                               to arrive at work later. According to this survey, a majority of drivers had
                               little flexibility to change their schedule to travel at off-peak times. For
                               example, truck drivers said that they could not adjust their delivery
                               schedules to travel at off-peak times. Furthermore, drivers said that the
                               toll difference of $1 was not great enough to influence them to change
                               their travel time. Despite this, a significant minority could alter their travel
                               departure times between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Thirty-five of the 505
                               surveyed drivers representing 7.4 percent of passenger trips said that
                               they changed their travel behavior as a result of the project. According to
                               the Port Authority, the 7.4 percent change in passenger trips to off-peak
                               times is significant, since small changes can have exponential effects
                               because of traffic queuing.

                               An evaluation of peak-period pricing on the New Jersey Turnpike based
                               on a driver survey found that work schedules or a desire to avoid traffic
                               created a greater incentive for determining when to travel than a slightly
                               lower toll for off-peak travel. Thus, it appears that drivers chose to travel
                               at off-peak times because of congestion and not because of modest
                               differences in price.

Changes in Transit Ridership   Evaluations of four of the five HOT lane projects assessed changes in
                               transit ridership, but results were mixed. I-95 in Miami was the only one
                               with demonstrated increases in transit ridership. Between 2008 and 2010,
                               the average weekday ridership on the I-95 express bus increased by 57
                               percent, from about 1,800 riders in 2008 to more than 2,800 in 2010.
                               About 38 percent of these riders reported in a transit rider survey that


                               20
                                 While the performance evaluation for the Port Authority crossings did not report the
                               specific increases and decreases in traffic, it reported and measured the statistical
                               significance of these changes. The evaluation stated that results indicated statistically
                               significant increases in the percent share of off-peak period car and truck traffic for most
                               crossings. Morning pre-peak increases were significant on more crossings than post-peak
                               increases. Peak-period truck traffic decreased significantly on all crossings. Car traffic also
                               decreased for peak-period crossings, but these results were not statistically significant.




                               Page 20                                                        GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
         they used to drive alone. The other three HOT lane project evaluations
         found no increase in transit ridership on buses using the HOT lanes as a
         result of the project. While transit ridership reportedly increased on I-15 in
         San Diego, the evaluation stated that this increase was not linked to the
         project. Evaluations of all three peak-period pricing projects assessed
         whether drivers shifted to transit, but none found evidence of any
         changes in transit ridership. 21

Equity   Many efforts have been made to assess the effects of congestion pricing
         projects on equity, including income equity (the distribution of costs and
         benefits of congestion pricing between low- and high-income drivers) and
         geographic equity (the relative effects of congestion pricing on two
         geographic areas, including the effects of any traffic diversion). Three of
         the eight evaluations, covering one HOT lane project and three peak-
         period projects, attempted to assess both income and geographic equity,
         and none attempted to assess other effects on equity, such as whether
         members of the same group are treated differently or to what extent the
         beneficiaries of a project, such as a new lane, pay for those benefits.

         Income Equity
         Evaluations for four of the five HOT lane projects attempted to assess
         equity through surveys or focus groups of travelers concerning their use
         of congestion pricing projects; however, different elements of equity were
         evaluated. For example, three of the four HOT lane project evaluations
         that assessed equity did so by considering the effects of congestion
         pricing on drivers of different income levels. Results for these three
         projects—SR 91 in Orange County, I-394 in Minneapolis, and SR 167 in
         Seattle—indicated that drivers of all incomes used the HOT lanes, but
         high-income drivers used them more often than low-income drivers. 22 In
         addition, evaluations for all four HOT lane projects—SR 91 in Orange
         County, I-394 in Minneapolis, SR 167 in Seattle, and I-15 in San Diego—
         found that drivers liked having the option of using the HOT lanes and thus
         were supportive of them. The fifth HOT lane project—I-95 in Miami—has
         not undergone an assessment of the effect of congestion pricing on low-


         21
           Many factors determine whether a driver will shift to transit including availability and
         accessibility of transit options. While transit was available in the locations studied, we did
         not independently determine the robustness of that service during the time that the
         evaluation was conducted.
         22
           The definitions of low- and high-income populations varied by study.




         Page 21                                                        GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
income drivers because, according to the project sponsor, the benefits of
congestion pricing—including increased travel speeds—accrue to all
users.

Evaluations of the nine peak-period pricing projects considered different
elements of equity and found few impacts. However, all three projects
were previously tolled and toll discounts were offered for travel at off-peak
times. Thus, no tolls, including those for peak periods, were raised. The
New Jersey Turnpike Authority evaluated the income and ethnicity of
those who shifted to the off-peak times, while the Lee County Department
of Transportation assessed the age, gender, and work schedules of those
who shifted to the off-peak times. Both project sponsors also surveyed
drivers, who said they thought the off-peak discounts were equitable and
the pricing program fair. However, the sample sizes for both these
surveys were small; thus, the results may not provide reliable estimates
for the various subgroups they measured.

Geographic Equity
Evaluating geographic equity—or the effects of any traffic diverted from
HOT lanes or from peak-period priced highways, bridges and tunnels
onto unpriced lanes and roads—would provide decision makers with
information about potential negative effects, such as whether traffic on the
unpriced alternatives increased. The sponsor of one of the five HOT lanes
projects—SR 91 in Orange County—studied diversion and reported that
traffic was drawn to the roadway and its HOT lanes because the priced
lanes were new and added capacity. Sponsors of the other four HOT lane
projects did not evaluate traffic diversion for several reasons, according to
the sponsors. First, drivers can choose to drive in the unpriced lanes and
none of the projects took away an unpriced lane—only HOV lanes were
converted. Furthermore, two of the HOT lane projects added a lane to the
roadway and allowed solo drivers to use a previously underused HOV
lane. As a result, the sponsors said they expected drivers to be diverted
to the HOT lanes, not away from them. Second, even if they had
anticipated traffic diversion to alternative roads, the sponsors said they
would not have surveyed drivers or asked them to maintain travel diaries
because these methods were expensive and challenging to implement.
They added that electronic data collection methods, such as GPS
tracking in vehicles, transponder tracking, and license plate tracking, can
be expensive and raise privacy issues.

Two peak-period pricing project sponsors—the New Jersey Turnpike
Authority and the Lee County Department of Transportation—studied



Page 22                                            GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
traffic diversion to adjacent unpriced roads and found no evidence of
diversion. According to the studies, such diversion would not be likely for
these roadways because there are no comparable alternative routes. 23
Furthermore, the projects were previously tolled and congestion pricing
was implemented with off-peak discounts. As for the HOT lane projects,
traffic diversion may be less of a concern if a highway, bridge, or tunnel
was previously priced than if it was previously unpriced.

Other Equity and Environmental Concerns
Sponsors of one HOT lane project—SR 167 in Seattle—and one peak-
period pricing project—the New Jersey Turnpike—evaluated the impact of
pricing on minorities. An environmental justice assessment for SR 167
found that there would not be a disproportionate effect on minorities
because there was a small minority population in the area, the project
was limited to 9 miles southbound and 11 miles northbound, and there
were unpriced alternatives—adjacent lanes and roads—that could be
used. 24 The 2005 New Jersey Turnpike evaluation found that there would
be no disproportionate effect on minority populations; however, as
mentioned before, the survey sample size was small and therefore its
results cannot be generalized to all users.

Evaluations of three HOT lane projects—I-15 in San Diego, SR 91 in
Orange County, and I-394 in Minneapolis—and one peak-period pricing
project—the New Jersey Turnpike—assessed environmental effects. All
four evaluations assessed the impacts of pricing on air quality, and one
HOT lane project—I-394—also assessed noise impacts. The air quality
assessments, designed to test whether air quality improved as experts said
it could with fewer cars idling in traffic, showed mixed results: minimal air
quality improvements were reported on I-15, I-394, and the New Jersey
Turnpike, but no effects on SR 91. The noise impact assessment on I-394
found that there would be no significant noise impacts resulting from
pricing.




23
  The New Jersey Turnpike parallels I-295 in the southern part of the state and other
roadways parallel the turnpike in the northern part of the state, but no roadway runs the
entire length of the state to form a parallel alternative route.
24
  SR 167 HOT Lanes: Social, Economic and Environmental Justice Report, Washington
State Department of Transportation, January 2007.




Page 23                                                      GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
UPA Evaluations Should     The completed performance evaluations provide some information as to
Improve Understanding of   the effectiveness of congestion pricing, but the UPA and CRD evaluation
the Performance and        framework has the potential to provide decision makers with a more
                           consistent and comprehensive picture of the effects of pricing. The UPA
Impacts of Congestion      and CRD evaluations which began in 2009 will collect data on UPA and
Pricing                    CRD projects in the six metropolitan areas for 1 year before a project is
                           implemented and then for another year after it has been implemented to
                           assess its effects. The evaluation framework will provide standard
                           performance measures such as travel times and vehicle throughput and
                           help develop a more comprehensive study of congestion pricing,
                           including increased monitoring of passenger throughput and socio-
                           economic information of HOT lane users. Performance measures and
                           detailed metrics will be used to assess individual projects and across
                           projects, which has not been consistently done so far. The evaluation
                           framework will also assess the impacts of pricing on low-income drivers
                           and changes in their travel time and distance traveled as a result of
                           pricing. Travel diary surveys will be conducted at two of the UPA sites,
                           which may provide some basis to study equity impacts including whether
                           driver behavior changes based on income, such as diverting traffic to
                           adjacent unpriced roads. In addition, the evaluation framework will include
                           surveys to assess transit ridership for all projects that have a transit
                           element. Despite the potential for greater understanding of the effects of
                           congestion pricing as part of the UPA and CRD evaluation framework,
                           evaluations have only been completed in one of the six metropolitan
                           areas—and this was for its first phase. 25 Thus we cannot assess the
                           evaluation framework or surveys’ effectiveness until they are completed.
                           DOT expects to have all of the UPA project evaluations completed by
                           2014.




                           25
                              The Florida Department of Transportation completed an evaluation of the first phase of
                           its HOT lanes project. The UPA National evaluation team—consisting of the Battelle
                           Memorial Institute, the Texas Transportation Institute, and the Volpe National
                           Transportation Systems Center—coordinated with the Florida Department of
                           Transportation’s evaluation. The national evaluation team will conduct the evaluations for
                           the other five localities. The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center is conducting
                           the travel diaries study.




                           Page 24                                                     GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Greater Equity and
Safety Issues Might
Develop as New
Projects Are
Implemented

Expanded Use of Pricing   Income and geographic equity concerns may become more prevalent as
Could Raise Equity        congestion pricing becomes more widespread. Such concerns could be
Concerns                  particularly relevant for HOT lane projects with a potential for large toll
                          increases, such as projects that must meet HOV Facilities program
                          performance requirements to maintain traffic speeds of 45 to 55 miles per
                          hour. Tolls on pricing projects in operation are relatively low, but can be as
                          high as a dollar per mile. Though currently capped, these tolls could be
                          raised if necessary to maintain the required traffic speeds. In turn, higher
                          toll rates could lead to more traffic diversion if drivers chose not to pay for
                          HOT lanes and took adjacent unpriced lanes or roads instead.

                          These concerns may be particularly acute in the future for projects
                          designed to use pricing not only to manage congestion but also to meet
                          toll revenue targets. SR 520 in Seattle, which began pricing in December
                          2011, will generate toll revenues to pay for bonds to build a replacement
                          bridge. All cars, including carpools, pay a toll that varies up to $5.00.
                          Registered vanpools, express buses, and emergency vehicles have free
                          use. Because this is the first project to toll a previously untolled bridge
                          and there are parallel alternative routes, traffic diversion may become a
                          concern. According to traffic models from the area’s transportation
                          planning council, traffic could increase on the parallel Interstate route by 5
                          to 8 percent and on an alternative state road by 5 percent. Geographic
                          equity concerns could be minimized by introducing tolling on both the
                          Interstate and state road because drivers on all three routes would then
                          pay a toll and diversion from tolled routes to untolled routes would be less
                          of a concern. However, according to officials in the Seattle metropolitan
                          area, the public and elected officials are opposed to tolling these other
                          routes.

                          Several other projects under construction involve public-private
                          partnerships that plan to use toll revenues to pay for construction debt,
                          operations, maintenance, and provide a return to private investors.
                          However, meeting revenue targets can be at odds with policies to



                          Page 25                                              GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
increase throughput on highways and bridges by encouraging more
people to use carpools and express bus service. According to one expert,
project sponsors seeking to maximize revenue could in theory charge a
higher toll and make more money off of fewer paying vehicles. Raising
revenue could be at odds with managing congestion (e.g., increasing
passenger throughput) if higher tolls can produce more revenue from
fewer paying vehicles. In addition, as we have previously reported, tolls
on roadways operated by private concessionaires can be expected to be
higher than on comparable facilities operated by public agencies. 26 Three
projects—I-495 in Northern Virginia and the LBJ Express (I-635/I-35E)
and North Tarrant Express (I-820-SH 121/183) in Dallas-Ft. Worth—are
public-private partnerships in which the private operator sets the toll rate.
I-595 project in Broward County, Florida, is also a public-private
partnership, but the state department of transportation has retained the
authority to set the toll rate.

Greater equity concerns could also be raised as decision makers
consider introducing tolling and pricing into previously untolled facilities.
For example, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is
conducting a study to assess the potential for improving throughput by
converting an unpriced lane to a HOT lane on the approach to the Lincoln
Tunnel during peak periods. Under the proposal, buses and carpools with
three or more passengers would continue to have free access, but solo
drivers would pay a toll. According to project sponsors, such switching
would be positive because it would increase the number of people going
through the tunnel at peak times. 27 However, converting an unpriced lane
to a priced one does not have much public or political support. According
to DOT officials, no pricing project to date has involved the conversion of
an unpriced lane to a HOT lane—all projects thus far have involved the




26
  GAO, Highway Public-Private Partnerships: More Rigorous Up-front Analysis Could
Better Secure Potential Benefits and Protect the Public Interest, GAO-08-44 (Washington,
D.C.: Feb. 8, 2008).
27
  In addition, I-95 in Miami has raised its carpool occupancy requirements for free use
from two to three passengers. Thus, two-passenger carpools pay a toll to use the HOT
lanes or use the adjacent unpriced lanes. According to the Florida Department of
Transportation, it has not studied the impact of pricing on two-passenger carpools and
therefore does not know how many people have been affected.




Page 26                                                     GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
conversion of HOV lanes or the addition of new lanes. 28 The SR 520
bridge in Seattle is the only previously unpriced facility to be fully priced.
According to experts, pricing existing unpriced lanes and roadways could
lead to geographic equity concerns as drivers divert to alternate routes to
avoid tolls.

While future pricing projects may raise equity concerns, these concerns
should be weighed against the potential benefits, including enhancing
economic efficiency, increasing throughput, and reducing congestion. For
example, greater use of pricing could enhance economic efficiency by
discouraging solo driving and making alternatives such as carpooling or
taking transit more appealing, thus resulting in more efficient use of existing
roadways. Such changes in drivers’ behavior could also improve
throughput and reduce congestion. In addition, as previously discussed,
the equity impacts of congestion pricing can also be assessed in
comparison to the equity concerns raised by the alternatives—namely the
prevalent sources of funding roadways such as motor fuel and sales taxes.

A number of options are also available to address equity issues. One
such option is to use a portion of toll revenues for alternative
transportation modes in the highway corridor, such as express bus
service on HOT lanes. In general, bus riders are disproportionately lower-
income individuals who would benefit from both reduced congestion on
the HOT lanes and increased transit investments from toll revenues. In a
survey of Seattle residents, public support for tolling the SR 520 bridge
grew substantially if a portion of the toll revenue was dedicated to transit,
even if tolls had to be significantly higher to pay for transit service. As part
of its UPA program funding, Seattle has received grant funds for new
buses to begin service on the SR 520 bridge. Other UPA program
participants, including Minnesota and Miami, have received DOT grants
for express bus service on HOT lanes. Under the ELD program, Federal
law permits the use of excess toll revenue for eligible highway and/or




28
  A proposal to charge a toll for vehicles entering lower Manhattan though supported by
the city’s mayor and approved by the City Council, was not adopted by the state
legislature. This would have been the first project that charged a toll to access an area
that was free before, known as cordon pricing.




Page 27                                                     GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
transit service; 29 however, pricing projects generally have not had excess
revenues. 30 Officials with the transportation planning council for the
Minneapolis-St. Paul area told us that revenues from the I-394 project
have generally not exceeded the project’s operational costs and therefore
local transit funds are being used, as they were before the project was
initiated, to provide express bus service on the HOT lanes. The San
Diego Association of Governments also has used bus fare revenue to
fund express bus service on I-15 in San Diego because the HOT lanes
have not generated enough toll revenues to pay for bus service. In
addition to the availability of revenues, the effectiveness of providing
revenues to transit to address equity also depends on the availability of
transit service and traveler commuting patterns. Transit may not be an
option for some travelers given the location of homes, jobs, and other
travel destinations.

I-25 in Denver has taken steps to address equity among passengers and
drivers on the HOT lanes by setting its peak period toll rate based on the
fare charged to express bus passengers on the HOT lanes. Thus, as the
fare for express bus passengers increases, the toll rate for drivers to use
the HOT lanes also increases.

An additional option to address equity issues would be to use toll
revenues to reimburse low-income drivers, whether by exempting them
from paying tolls or by providing them with a tax credit for the difference
between the toll and transit fares. However, such reimbursement
programs would involve complex efforts to determine and verify drivers’
low-income status. Nonetheless, some states such as California offer
discounted utility rates for eligible households and in these states,
transportation agencies have considered whether to use these preexisting
mechanisms for eligibility and enforcement to provide discounted toll
rates. However, no pricing project has used this option. Some experts
have noted that discounts on tolls for low-income drivers would
counteract the goal of reducing congestion because the discounts would


29
   Pub. L. No. 109-59, § 1604, at 23 U.S.C. § 129. Depending on the program, the ability
to use toll revenue for transit and other such purposes may be limited. The ELD program
permits use of excess toll revenue for eligible highway or transit projects after revenues
have been used for repayment of debt, reasonable return on investment of any private
financing, and maintenance of facility.
30
  According to DOT, I-95 in Miami, SR 91 in Orange County, and I-25 in Denver have
generated excess revenues.




Page 28                                                      GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                           encourage continued driving. Instead, they propose charging the same
                           tolls to all users, but returning revenues to affected groups, such as
                           groups of vehicle owners or a class of residents. VPPP federal funds
                           were used to study the potential of providing credits for low-income
                           highway users in Alameda County, California but no pricing project has
                           used this option.

                           To provide insight on environmental justice issues, DOT approved two
                           VPPP grants for fiscal year 2010-2011 to assess the impacts of pricing on
                           low-income drivers. One grant, for I-30 in Dallas-Ft. Worth is to examine
                           environmental justice issues related to pricing I-30 through the use of
                           Intelligent Transportation Systems technology. According to DOT, “the
                           project is important because it will provide more data on environmental
                           justice and pricing, given that there is little experience with strategies
                           designed to address these issues related to the introduction of pricing.”
                           The other grant, for a pricing project in Hartford, Connecticut, is to study
                           the application of pricing and the impacts of environmental justice issues
                           that resulted from the original construction of a project.


Potential Safety Issues    Many highway projects increase the capacity of a roadway by converting
May Occur with Pricing     shoulders or narrowing lanes which has the advantage of eliminating the
Converted Shoulder Lanes   need to widen highway and acquire additional property—of particular
                           advantage in urban areas. Several congestion pricing projects have
and Narrowing Lanes        employed this strategy. For example, the Minnesota Department of
                           Transportation has converted bus-only shoulder lanes on I-35W in
                           Minneapolis to serve as HOT lanes during peak periods and has
                           narrowed traffic lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet. In addition, as previously
                           noted, the Florida Department of Transportation has incorporated portions
                           of its medians and shoulders and narrowed traffic lanes from 12 feet to 11
                           feet to create two HOT lanes on I-95 in Miami. Moreover, two new
                           projects—Loop 1 31 in Austin and I-94 in Minneapolis—will create new
                           capacity by using shoulders and narrowing traffic lanes. The Loop 1
                           project will reduce shoulder width and incorporate parts of the shoulders
                           to create an express lane, while the I-94 project may, if implemented, use
                           shoulders and narrowed traffic lanes to create a HOT lane between




                           31
                             Also known as Mopac (Missouri Pacific) Expressway; it is one of two major existing
                           north-south controlled-access highways in the Austin area.




                           Page 29                                                    GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Minneapolis and St. Paul. According to the project sponsor, I-94 does not
have the space to build new HOT lanes if shoulders are not incorporated.

Projects that convert shoulders and narrow lanes to create new lanes,
including congestion pricing projects, raise concerns about driver safety
and highway operations that transportation planners must address.
Additional lanes on converted shoulders remove the safety refuge areas
for motorists during vehicle breakdowns and emergencies and must be
approved by DOT. According to the American Association of State
Highway Transportation Officials, highways with paved shoulders have
lower accident rates. Paved shoulders provide space to make evasive
maneuvers; accommodate driver error; and add a recovery area to regain
control of a vehicle, among other things. In addition, an analysis by the
Highway Safety Information System 32 sponsored by DOT reported that
narrowing lanes or using shoulders to expand urban highways increased
accidents by 10 percent. With traffic moving faster in the additional (or
HOT) lane and slower in the unpriced lanes, the potential for sideswiping
and lane-changing accidents increases. Another study conducted by the
Texas Transportation Institute found that maintaining a shoulder and a
wider HOV lane than adjacent unpriced lanes can help mitigate safety
concerns. 33

FHWA officials in Florida suggested that some of these safety issues
could be mitigated using an incident management system, such as the
one the Florida Department of Transportation has used on I-95 since
2008. As a condition of approving several design exceptions, FHWA
required the Florida Department of Transportation to implement Intelligent
Transportation Systems to mitigate safety issues related to incorporating
a shoulder and narrowing lanes on I-95 in Miami. While using an incident
management system does not prevent incidents from occurring, cameras
can survey highways and detect incidents such as accidents, debris, and
stalled vehicles. Highway message signs then convey information to
drivers about the incidents and traffic conditions. Florida Department of


32
  The Highway Safety Information System is a multi-state database that contains crash,
roadway inventory, and traffic volume data for a select group of states and is managed by
the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center under contract with the
Federal Highway Administration.
33
  Texas Transportation Institute, Guidance for Future Design of Freeways with High-
Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) Lanes Based on an Analysis of Crash Data from Dallas,
Texas (College Station, Texas: September 2003).




Page 30                                                    GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
               Transportation staff can summon emergency, police, and tow truck crews
               to resolve problems and direct traffic. Thus, in the event of an incident on
               the HOT lanes, the lanes can be closed and, because there are no
               permanent barriers between the HOT lanes and the adjacent unpriced
               lanes, traffic can be diverted to the adjacent unpriced lanes. In the event
               of an accident in the unpriced lanes, the lanes can be closed and traffic
               diverted to the HOT lanes and tolls temporarily lifted.

               Since the HOT lanes on I-95 opened for traffic in December 2008,
               preliminary safety data found that the number of reported incidents
               involving accidents, debris, and stalled vehicles in the northbound
               express lanes increased from 132 in fiscal year 2009 to 209 in fiscal year
               2010. 34 Florida Department of Transportation officials have suggested,
               however, that the actual number of incidents may not have increased but
               that incidents are now tracked more accurately. In addition, according to
               FHWA officials in Florida, the number and severity of crashes declined
               after the I-95 HOT lanes became operational. In their view, the HOT lanes
               decreased congestion, and as a result, fewer rear-end crashes occurred.
               Additionally, FHWA officials stated that they have not seen evidence of
               more sideswiping since the traffic lanes were narrowed to form the HOT
               lanes. The UPA and CRD National Evaluation will assess the safety
               impacts of pricing, including the number of accidents and their severity
               and any change in the perception of safety by travelers and emergency
               personnel since pricing began.


               Although traffic congestion has declined recently in many metropolitan
Concluding     areas, future demand for travel during peak times is expected to increase
Observations   as the population grows and the economy recovers. Fiscal and
               environmental concerns prevent building new capacity in many
               metropolitan areas. Transportation decision makers have a variety of traffic
               demand management tools, including road or congestion pricing, to more
               efficiently operate and manage their infrastructure. Pricing has the potential
               to reduce congestion by influencing drivers to carpool, use transit, or drive
               at off-peak travel times. Congestion pricing has, where evaluated, helped
               reduce congestion. However, it is difficult to draw overall conclusions about


               34
                 As multiple years of safety data are needed to make conclusions, the current level of
               data is inconclusive. The UPA and CRD National Evaluation Framework will measure
               safety implications of pricing projects. As I-95 is a UPA site, data is being collected to
               evaluate safety changes due to the project.




               Page 31                                                       GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
the effectiveness of pricing because only half the sponsors with projects
now open to traffic have evaluated their projects. Other results, where
available, are mixed, as project sponsors have used different measures to
assess performance and little has been done to compare performance
across projects. Where congestion pricing projects have also added lanes,
the results of pricing have not been distinguished from the results of adding
capacity. Finally, congestion pricing’s impact on traveler behavior and
equity has yet to be fully explored.

Congestion pricing in the United States is in its relative infancy. With
about 400 miles of priced lanes in operation, which includes 150 miles of
the New Jersey Turnpike, pricing has not been implemented beyond a
limited number of locations. However, its popularity is growing. New
projects under construction and in planning will not only increase the
number of roadway miles that use congestion pricing, they will also
change the character of pricing in the United States, as some will be
operated privately and some will add congestion-priced tolls to previously
nontolled roadways. The changing character of congestion pricing and
the new challenges it brings make improving the understanding of
congestion pricing even more important.

While a more complete understanding of the potential benefits and effects
of congestion pricing is needed, we are not making a recommendation in
this report because the evaluations conducted through the UPA and CRD
programs are an important step to furthering understanding of the
relevant benefits and effects of pricing. These evaluations of pricing
projects address reservations we have about gaps in knowledge about
such projects—for example, these evaluations will compare results
across projects to assess the effectiveness of congestion reduction
strategies and assess several measures of equity. In addition, monitoring
and reporting on the five ELD projects could also provide better
information about the performance of pricing and its effects. However,
only one of the six UPA and CRD metropolitan sites has been evaluated
and only for its first phase and four of the five ELD projects are under
construction. As such, we cannot assess the evaluation framework or
their results until projects and their evaluations are complete.




Page 32                                            GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                  DOT provided technical comments, which we incorporated as
Agency Comments   appropriate.


                  As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly announce the contents of
                  this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days from the
                  report date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to
                  congressional subcommittees with responsibilities for surface
                  transportation issues and the Secretary of Transportation. In addition, this
                  report will be available at no charge on GAO’s website at
                  http://www.gao.gov.

                  If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
                  me at (202) 512-2834 or herrp@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of
                  Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page
                  of this report. GAO staff that made significant contributions to this report
                  are listed in appendix V.




                  Phillip R. Herr
                  Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues




                  Page 33                                           GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Methodology



Methodology

              Our work was focused on the performance of congestion pricing projects
              on highways, bridges and tunnels in the United States and issues
              associated with developing and implementing pricing projects. We
              examined (1) the federal role in supporting congestion pricing, (2) results
              of congestion pricing projects in the United States, and (3) emerging
              issues in congestion pricing projects. Our scope was limited to assessing
              congestion pricing projects in the United States that involved passenger
              vehicles. We did not review other types of congestion pricing such as
              priced parking facilities. We collected information on pricing projects
              directly from the 19 project sponsors of the 41 operational or under
              construction congestion pricing projects and received comments and
              validation of data from project sponsors.

              To address the federal role in supporting congestion pricing, we reviewed
              pertinent legislation and regulations; prior GAO reports and testimonies; and
              relevant documents from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), state
              departments of transportation, and metropolitan planning organizations
              (MPO). This included policy documents from the Federal Highway
              Administration (FHWA) and various public presentations made by FHWA
              officials. We interviewed FHWA and Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
              officials, officials from state DOTs and MPOs, experts from academia and
              policy institutions, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), and the
              Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Our discussions with FHWA included
              DOT’s programs that involve tolling—Value Pricing Pilot Program (VPPP),
              High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Facilities, Express Lanes Demonstration,
              Section 129 program, the Interstate System Reconstruction and
              Rehabilitation Toll Pilot Program, and the Interstate System Construction Toll
              Pilot Program. We also discussed the Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA)
              and Congestion Reduction Demonstration (CRD) programs—one-time
              initiatives that were established with 10 separate federal grant programs. We
              discussed the eligibility and performance monitoring requirements of the
              federal programs and associated projects and verified this information with
              DOT documents. We also collected data of VPPP and UPA and CRD
              program funding from DOT and corroborated the status of the project data in
              interviews with FHWA. We analyzed the VPPP and UPA and CRD program
              funding to assess how federal funds are used to support congestion pricing
              projects. We interviewed sponsors of pricing projects that received federal
              funds on how the funds were used and with what results. We reviewed
              relevant FHWA environmental assessment manuals and interviewed FHWA
              officials about the environmental review process. We also interviewed FHWA
              field staff and project sponsors regarding their individual project’s
              environmental review process.



              Page 34                                            GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




To determine the results of congestion pricing projects in the United States,
we reviewed performance evaluation reports from eight project sponsors that
covered 14 of the 30 operational pricing projects. The remaining project
sponsors did not have current and completed evaluations because their
projects had opened too recently for sponsors to have evaluated them or
because projects had changed significantly in character since they were
studied and thus the original evaluations are no longer relevant. In addition,
one project evaluation did not use pre- and post-data to measure
performance and thus the impact of pricing could not be measured. Two
project sponsors (one sponsor of the SR 261, SR 241, and SR 133 in
Orange County, California and one sponsor of the SR 73 in Orange County,
California) did not perform evaluations of their peak-period priced highways.
Two project sponsors (one for I-15 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and one for I-10
and US 290 in Houston, Texas) completed performance evaluations,
however these three highways have significantly changed in character since
then and thus the original evaluations are no longer relevant. For example, I-
15 in Salt Lake City currently uses electronic tolling with dynamic pricing
whereas when the project was evaluated a monthly decal with a static toll
was used. I-10 was evaluated as one HOT lane with free access of carpools
of 3 passengers but is now 2 HOT lanes with free access for carpools of 2
passengers. In addition, although US 290 was assessed in the I-10
evaluation, no pre- and post-data were used to measure the impact of pricing
on performance. The project sponsor of I-25 in Denver, Colorado reported on
monthly counts of traffic volumes and other measures but did not do so
before and after pricing was introduced; therefore, we were unable to use the
data to compare with other projects. Three project sponsors (I-680 in
Alameda County, California; the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in
California; and MD-200 in Montgomery County, Maryland) implemented
projects recently and have not had adequate time to evaluate the projects. 1
Three other projects—I-35 W in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has the
same project sponsor as I-394; SR 520 in Seattle, Washington, which has
the same project sponsor as SR 167; and I-85 in Atlanta, Georgia—became
operational recently and have also not been evaluated. I-35W, SR 520, and
I-85 will be assessed as part of the UPA evaluations.



1
 According to the project sponsor, preliminary analysis comparing traffic counts between
July and September 2009 and July and September 2010 found reduced traffic volumes.
Traffic volume decreased by 8.4 percent in July and 7.3 percent in September during the
a.m. and p.m. peak periods respectively. In September, traffic volume decreased by 6
percent and 3.9 percent during the a.m. and p.m. peak periods respectively. A
comprehensive evaluation study is under way.




Page 35                                                    GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




The eight project sponsors with current and completed evaluations we
reviewed were I-95 in Miami, Florida; I-15 in San Diego, California; SR 91
in Orange County, California; SR 167 in Seattle, Washington; I-394 in
Minneapolis, Minnesota; the New Jersey Turnpike, New Jersey; two
bridges in Lee County, Florida; and four bridges and two tunnels
managed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, New York.
For each, we assessed the studies’ methodology to determine whether or
not the data reported was valid and sufficient for our analysis. However,
we did not conduct a thorough assessment of the quality of the
evaluations’ methods as our objective was to assess the projects’
performance results where available. Once we determined which data
was sufficiently reliable for our uses, we summarized the results reported
in each performance evaluation for each project. The eight performance
evaluations assessed various performance measures such as traffic
speed, travel time, throughput, and transit ridership. The performance
measures we focused our analysis on were: travel time and speed,
throughput, off-peak travel, transit ridership, and equity. As a basis for
assessing what performance measures we should review, we used a list
of performance measures, some of which are outlined in the DOT’s UPA
and CRD National Evaluation Framework. We chose these measurement
areas because they were the most commonly reported in the evaluations
and because they are the most commonly required measures for projects
with federal monitoring requirements. We corroborated our choice of
measures with FHWA and the Battelle Memorial Institute which is
conducting the UPA evaluations using similar measures. We then
compared the projects by qualitatively assessing the results for the five
performance measures listed above and counting how many of the
projects reported positive or negative results in each performance
measurement category. We could not quantitatively compare results
across projects because they did not use the same metrics and thus were
assessed and reported differently according to project sponsor preference
and resources. Project evaluations covered specific time periods and thus
performance results are only for those time periods. Projects’
performance results may have changed since evaluations were
completed.




Page 36                                          GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                          Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                                          Methodology




Table 3: Evaluations and Surveys Used to Analyze the Performance and Effects of Congestion Pricing Projects

Project name                   Location                                Evaluation
I-95                           Miami, Florida                          95 Express Midyear Report: Project Status for Urban Partnership
                                                                       Agreement. Florida Department of Transportation, October 30, 2009
                                                                       Miami Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) Project: Phase 1 Transit
                                                                       Evaluation Report Final. Florida Department of Transportation,
                                                                       January 2011
                                                                       95 Express Annual Report: Project Status for Urban Partnership
                                                                       Agreement (Phase 1 Complete). Florida Department of
                                                                       Transportation, January 21, 2011
I-15                           San Diego, California                   I-15 Congestion Pricing Project Monitoring and Evaluation
                                                                       Services—Task 13 Phase II Year Three Overall Report. San Diego
                                                                       Association of Governments, September 24, 2001
SR 91                          Orange County, California               Evaluating the Impacts of the SR 91 Variable-Toll Express Lane
                                                                       Facility: Final Report. State of California Department of
                                                                       Transportation, May 1998
                                                                       Continuation Study to Evaluate the Impacts of the SR 91 Value-
                                                                       Priced Express Lanes Final Report. State of California Department of
                                                                       Transportation, December 2000
Lee County Bridges             Lee County, Florida                     Lee County Variable Pricing Project: Evaluation Report. Lee County
                                                                       Variable Pricing Team, January 2001
I-394                          Minneapolis, Minnesota                  I-394 MnPASS Technical Evaluation Final Report. Minnesota
                                                                       Department of Transportation, November 2006
                                                                       MnPASS Evaluation Attitudinal Panel Survey Wave 3 Final Report.
                                                                       Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, August
                                                                       2006
Bridges and Tunnel Crossings   New York-New Jersey                     Evaluation Study of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Time
                                                                       of Day Pricing Initiative. New Jersey State Department of
                                                                       Transportation, March 2005
New Jersey Turnpike            New Jersey                              Evaluation Study of New Jersey Turnpike Authority’s Time of Day
                                                                       Pricing Initiative Final Report. New Jersey Department of
                                                                       Transportation, May 31, 2005
SR 167                         Seattle, Washington                     SR 167 HOT Lanes Pilot Project: Second Annual Performance
                                                                       Summary. Washington State Department of Transportation, May
                                                                       2008-April 2010
                                                                       SR 167 HOT Lanes Social, Economic and Environmental Justice
                                                                       Report. Washington State Department of Transportation, January
                                                                       2007
                                                                       SR 167 High Occupancy Toll Lanes January 2009 Focus Groups
                                                                       Final Report. Washington State Department of Transportation,
                                                                       March 4, 2009
                                                                       SR 167 HOT Lanes Pilot Project Online User Survey. Washington
                                                                       State Department of Transportation, May 2009
                                          Source: GAO analysis of current and completed evaluations of congestion pricing projects confirmed by project sponsors.




                                          Page 37                                                                                 GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




We discussed with Battelle Memorial Institute, Texas Transportation
Institute, and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center the UPA
and CRD evaluation framework including its performance measures and
metrics as well as challenges of conducting an evaluation across multiple
projects.

We also conducted site visits for the SR 167 and SR 520 projects in
Seattle, Washington; I-95 project in Miami, Florida; and I-394 and I-35W
in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. We selected our site visits based on
a judgmental sample of projects with completed evaluations; these sites
included both HOT lanes and peak-period priced projects in different
geographical areas of the United States. For each site visit, we met with
relevant officials from state DOT, officials from the FHWA division office,
project sponsors, and officials from local agencies such as the MPO and
transit agencies. Discussion with project sponsors included clarifying the
goal of the pricing projects and evaluations of the project performance. In
addition to conducting interviews, we collected relevant documents,
including environmental analyses, performance evaluations, and traveler
surveys, and analyzed these documents as necessary. Where
appropriate, we corroborated the interviews with documents obtained
from project sponsors and FHWA.

To identify the emerging issues in congestion pricing projects, we
reviewed literature on congestion pricing, equity, environmental justice,
traffic diversion, safety and other topics related to the benefits, costs, and
trade-offs associated with congestion pricing. We reviewed prior GAO
reports and analyses and reports from the FHWA, CRS, CBO, and
industry experts and organizations that have evaluated the impacts of
congestion pricing projects. We discussed our review of the reports with
FHWA and FTA officials, officials from state DOTs and MPOs, and
transportation experts from academia and think-tanks. We identified and
interviewed experts with published work on congestion pricing and its
impacts. Discussions with officials and experts included the costs and
benefits of congestion pricing projects, trends in pricing designs and
implementation, and methods to mitigate negative impacts. We also
provided a copy of the draft report to a group of experts for an
independent review. We selected these experts because they have
published numerous studies analyzing the benefits and challenges of
congestion pricing and its effects that are prominent in the transportation
literature, and come from a cross section of institutions including
academia, research organizations, and the private sector. We considered
and incorporated their comments into the final report as appropriate.



Page 38                                             GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




 Group of Experts that Reviewed Draft Congestion Pricing Report
 Tod Litman, Researcher, Victoria Transport Policy Institute
 Lee Munnich, Professor, Senior Fellow and Director, State and Local
 Policy Program, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs,
 University of Minnesota
 Robert Poole, Jr., Director of Transportation Policy, Reason Foundation
 Joseph L. Schofer, Professor, Northwestern University
 Brian Taylor, Professor of Urban Planning/Director, Institute of
 Transportation Studies, Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA
 David Ungemah, Senior Planning Manager, Parsons Brinckeroff
 Martin Wachs, Senior Principal Researcher, RAND Corporation

We conducted this performance audit from October 2010 to January 2012
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.




Page 39                                           GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Appendix II: Congestion Pricing Projects
                                            Appendix II: Congestion Pricing Projects Open
                                            to Traffic in the United States, 2011



Open to Traffic in the United States, 2011


                                              Number of facilities    Type of                                            Date pricing
Name                Location                  or miles                project       Type of pricing Toll rates           operational
SR 91               Orange County,            10 miles                HOT lane      Variable pricing   $1.30-$9.75       December
                    California                                                                                           1995
I-15                San Diego County,         16- miles (4-mile       HOT lane      Variable pricing   $0.50-$8.00       December
                    California                extension under                                                            1996
                                              construction)
I-10                Houston, Texas            12 miles                HOT lane      Dynamic pricing $0.30-$1.60          January
                                                                                                                         1998
Lee County          Lee County, Florida       2 bridges               Bridge        Peak-period        $1.50-$6.00 (+    August 1998
Bridges                                                                             pricing            charge by axle)
New Jersey          New Jersey                148 miles               Highway       Peak-period        $0.90-$9.05       September
        a
Turnpike                                                                            pricing                              2000
US 290              Houston, Texas            15 miles                HOT lane      Peak-period        $2.00 for HOV2    November
                                                                                    pricing            users             2000
Bridge and Tunnel   New York-New Jersey       4 bridges and 2         Bridge and    Peak-period        $4.00-$8.00       March 2001
Crossings                                     tunnels                 Tunnel        pricing
SR 73               Orange County,            15 miles                Highway       Peak-period        $3.95-$5.75       February
                    California                                                      pricing                              2002
SR 261              Orange County,            6.6 miles               Highway       Peak-period        $1.30-$2.25       February
                    California                                                      pricing                              2002
SR 241              Orange County,            22.2 miles              Highway       Peak-period        $2.10-$3.00       February
                    California                                                      pricing                              2002
SR 133              Orange County,            4.1 miles               Highway       Peak-period        $1.60-$2.25       February
                    California                                                      pricing                              2002
I-394               Minneapolis-St. Paul,     11-miles                HOT lane      Dynamic pricing $0.25-$8.00          May 2005
                    Minnesota
I-25                Denver, Colorado          7-miles                 HOT lane      Variable pricing   $0.50-$4.00       June 2006
I-15                Salt Lake City, Utah      40 miles (11-mile       HOT lane      Dynamic pricing $0.25-$1.00          September
                                              extension under                                                            2006
                                              construction)
SR 167              Seattle, Washington       9 miles southbound      HOT lane      Dynamic pricing $0.50-$9.00          May 2008
                                              11 miles northbound
I-95                Miami-Ft. Lauderdale,     7 miles (15-mile        HOT lane      Dynamic pricing $0.25-$7.00          December
                    Florida                   extension under                                                            2008
                                              construction)
I-35W               Minneapolis-St. Paul,     16 miles                HOT lane      Dynamic pricing $0.25-$8.00          September
                    Minnesota                                                                                            2009
Dulles Greenway     Loudoun County,           14 miles                Highway       Peak-period        $3.70-$4.50       January
                    Virginia                                                        pricing                              2009
Pocahontas          Richmond, Virginia        8.8 miles               Highway       Peak-period        $2.75-$3.00       January
Parkway                                                                             pricing                              2011




                                            Page 40                                                      GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                       Appendix II: Congestion Pricing Projects Open
                                       to Traffic in the United States, 2011




                                           Number of facilities     Type of                                                Date pricing
Name             Location                  or miles                 project       Type of pricing Toll rates               operational
San Francisco-   San Francisco Bay         8 miles                  Bridge        Peak-period         $2.50-$6.00          July 2010
Oakland Bay      Area, California                                                 pricing
Bridge
I-680            Alameda and Santa         14 miles                 HOT lane      Dynamic pricing $0.30-$1.75              September
                 Clara Counties                                                                                            2010
I-85             Atlanta, GA               15.5 miles               HOT lane      Dynamic pricing $1.55-                   October
                                                                                                  $13.95                   2011
MD-200b          Montgomery County,        7 miles (in operation,   Highway       Peak-period         $0.60-$1.45          November
                 MD                        11 are under                           pricing                                  2011
                                           construction)
SR 520           Seattle, Washington       Bridge                   Bridge        Variable pricing    $0-$5.00             December
                                                                                                                           2011
                                       Source: GAO analysis.
                                       a
                                       The New Jersey Turnpike discontinued off-peak discounts to out-of-state vehicles as of July 2011.
                                       b
                                       As of September 2011, 1 mile of MD 200 extension is under procurement.




                                       Page 41                                                           GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                         Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                         Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
                                         2010


Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
2010

Fiscal year   Funding recipients   State Project type     Project                        Status                   Grant Amount
1999          Orange County        CA    Managed          Implementation of peak         Study Completed                $190,400
                                         Facility         pricing on the SJHTC /
                                                          SR 73
              Orange County        CA    Managed          SR 91 evaluation               Study Completed                $314,762
                                         Lanes
              Statewide            MD    Regional         Feasibility of value pricing   Study completed                $687,536
                                                          at 10 locations
              Twin Cities          MN    Regional         Regional study and             Study and outreach             $778,800
                                                          outreach                       completed
2000          San Diego            CA    Managed          Extension of I-15 HOT          Study completed                $932,000
                                         Lanes            lanes
              San Francisco        CA    Car Sharing      Implementation and             Implementation                 $742,000
                                                          evaluation of car sharing      completed
              Santa Cruz           CA    Managed          HOT lanes on median of         Study completed                $264,000
                                         Lanes            Route 1
              Lee County           FL    Managed          Variable pricing of heavy      Study completed                $604,000
                                         Facility         vehicles
              Lee County           FL    Managed          Priced queue jumps             Study completed                $309,280
                                         Facility
              Miami-Dade Co.       FL    Managed          Pricing options on Florida     Study completed                $696,320
                                         Facility         Turnpike
              Houston              TX    Managed          HOT lanes on three radial      Implementation               $2,436,000
                                         Lanes            corridors                      completed
              Seattle              WA    Parking          Parking cash-out               Study completed                $419,500
2001          Orange County        CA    Managed          Variable tolls on SJHTC/       Implementation                 $344,800
                                         Lanes            SR 73                          completed
              San Diego            CA    Managed          Extension of I-15 HOT          Study completed and             $28,000
                                         Lanes            lanes                          project implemented
              San Francisco        CA    Car Sharing      Carsharing                     Evaluation completed           $378,186
              Denver               CO    Managed          HOT lane on C-470              Study completed                $500,000
                                         Lanes
              Ft. Myers Beach      FL    Cordon Pricing   Cordon pricing                 Study completed and            $545,600
                                                                                         implemented
              Lee County           FL    Managed          Variable tolls for heavy       Implementation                 $428,000
                                         Facility         vehicles                       completed
              Atlanta              GA    Insurance        Mileage-based insurance/       Implementation               $1,035,465
                                                          FAIR lanes                     completed
              Statewide            MN    Variable Auto    Variablization of fixed        Implementation               $1,050,931
                                         Costs            auto costs                     completed
              New York metro       NJ    Managed          Variable tolls on river        Evaluation completed           $594,673
              area                       Facility         crossings




                                         Page 42                                                     GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                         Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                         Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
                                         2010




Fiscal year   Funding recipients   State Project type     Project                    Status                   Grant Amount
              Statewide            NJ    Managed          Variable tolls on N.J.     Evaluation completed           $477,468
                                         Facility         Turnpike
              Statewide            OR    Regional         Financing infrastructure   Study completed                $320,000
                                                          with value pricing
              Philadelphia         PA    Managed          Variable tolls on PA       Study completed                $776,000
                                         Facility         Turnpike
              Seattle              WA    Parking          Parking cash-out and       Implementation                 $499,280
                                                          pricing                    completed
              Seattle              WA    Cash-out of      Cash-out of cars           Implementation                  $98,832
                                         Cars                                        completed
2002          Alameda County       CA    Dynamic          Highway pricing with       Study and                      $595,250
                                         Ridesharing      dynamic ridesharing        implementation
                                                                                     completed
              Denver               CO    Managed          HOT lane on I-25           Implementation               $1,721,526
                                         Lanes                                       completed
              Broward County       FL    Managed          Variable tolls with open   Study completed                $320,000
                                         Lanes            road tolling
              Ft. Myers Beach      FL    Cordon Pricing   Cordon pricing             Study completed                $500,000
              Statewide            FL    Regional         Sharing of technology on   Study completed                $210,000
                                                          pricing
              Statewide            MN    Regional         Project development        Study completed                $950,000
                                                          outreach
              Raleigh/Piedmont     NC    Managed          HOT lanes on I-40          Study completed                $402,400
                                         Lanes
              Portland             OR    Managed          HOT lanes on Hwy. 217      Study                          $400,000
                                         Lanes
              Statewide            OR    Regional         Financing infrastructure   Study/Implemented              $900,000
                                                          with value pricing
              Philadelphia         PA    Managed          Variable tolls on PA       Implementation                 $800,000
                                         Facility         Turnpike
              Dallas-Ft. Worth     TX    Managed          HOT lanes on I-30          Study                          $152,000
                                         Lanes            /region-wide study
              Seattle              WA    GPS-Based        GPS-based pricing          Implementation               $1,880,000
                                         Pricing
2003          Denver               CO    Managed          HOT lane on I-25           Implementation               $1,078,474
                                         Lanes
              Lee County           FL    Managed          Priced queue jumps         Design                       $1,069,120
                                         Facility
              Miami-Dade Co.       FL    Managed          HOT lanes on I-95          Study                          $508,000
                                         Lanes
              Chicago              IL    Managed          Variable tolls on          Study                          $360,000
                                         Facility         Northwest Tollway
              New York metro       NJ    Regional         Express bus/HOT lane       Study                          $670,033
              area                                        study




                                         Page 43                                                 GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                         Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                         Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
                                         2010




Fiscal year   Funding recipients   State Project type     Project                     Status                     Grant Amount
              Statewide            OH    Regional         Truck toll pricing study    Study                            $200,000
              San Antonio          TX    Managed          I-35 HOT lane study         Study                            $160,000
                                         Lanes
              Northern Virginia    VA    Regional         HOT lanes regionwide        Study                            $500,741
2004          Alameda Co           CA    Managed          I-680 SMART Carpool         Study completed and              $714,000
                                         Lanes            Lanes                       project implemented
              San Diego            CA    Managed          Violation Enforcement on    Study ongoing and                $699,772
                                         Lanes            I-15 HOT Lanes              technology not
                                                                                      introduced
              Miami                FL    Managed          I-95 Managed Lanes          Study completed and              $208,000
                                         Lanes            Research and                early phase of 95
                                                          Educational Outreach        Express 1st phase
                                                                                      completed
              Orlando              FL    Managed          Express Lanes on I-4        Study cancelled                  $400,000
                                         Lanes
              Atlanta              GA    Regional         Pricing Atlanta’s           Study completed and            $1,180,863
                                                          Interstate System           early phase of Atlanta
                                                                                      CRD project though not
                                                                                      implemented yet
              Atlanta              GA    Managed          Value Pricing on the I-75   Study completed and              $400,000
                                         Lanes            HOV/BRT Project             pursuing
                                                                                      implementation
              Minneapolis          MN    Managed          I-394 Pricing-Planning,     Study completed and              $925,000
                                         Lanes            Outreach and Education      project implemented
              New York             NY    Managed          Express Bus/HOT Lane        Study completed and              $416,000
                                         Lanes            in Lincoln Tunnel           considering
                                                                                      implementation
              Statewide            OR    Mileage-Based    Mileage-based Road          Feasibility study                $943,949
                                         Fee              User Fee                    completed
              Dallas-Ft. Worth     TX    Managed          I-30 Managed Facility       Study completed                 $472, 416
                                         Facility         Operational Plan            executed ELDP toll
                                                                                      agreement thus
                                                                                      pursuing
              Houston              TX    Managed          Houston HOT Network         Study completed and              $460,000
                                         Lanes                                        seeking toll authority
                                                                                      thus pursuing
              Seattle              WA    Managed          SR 167 HOT Lanes            Study completed and            $1,180,000
                                         Lanes                                        project implemented
2005          Alameda Co           CA    Managed          I-680 SMART Carpool         Study completed and              $950,000
                                         Lanes            Lane in Alameda County      project implemented
              San Francisco        CA    Cordon Pricing   Area Road Charging and      Study completed but            $1,040,000
                                                          Parking Pricing             not pursuing
                                                                                      implementation
              San Diego            CA    Managed          Violation Enforcement       Study completed and              $568,678
                                         Lanes            System on I-15 HOT          project implemented
                                                          Lanes




                                         Page 44                                                    GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                         Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                         Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
                                         2010




Fiscal year   Funding recipients   State Project type     Project                      Status                     Grant Amount
              Atlanta              GA    Managed          I -75 South Feasibility of   Feasibility study                $242,388
                                         Facility         HOT/Truck-Only Toll          completed but not
                                                          (TOT) Implementation         pursuing
                                                                                       implementation
              Washington           DC    Managed          Regional Network of          Feasibility study;               $240,000
                                         Lanes            Value Priced Lanes           elements being
                                                                                       pursued for
                                                                                       implementation
              Seattle              WA    Managed          State Route 167 HOT          Study completed and              $880,000
                                         Lanes            Lane Pilot                   project implemented
              Orange               CA    Managed          Implementation of            Study withdrawn                  $588,000
                                         Lanes            Dynamic Pricing on SR
                                                          91
              Savannah             GA    Managed          Northwest Truck Tollway      Study completed but              $472,000
                                         Facility                                      not pursuing
                                                                                       implementation
              Austin               TX    Managed          Loop 1 HOT Lane              Study completed and              $172,000
                                         Lanes                                         pursuing
              Austin               TX    Managed          Deliberative Polling-Loop    Study completed                  $160,000
                                         Lanes            I Corridor
              San Antonio          TX    Managed          IH-10 Value Priced           Study completed but              $129,600
                                         Lanes            Express Lanes                not pursuing
                                                                                       implementation
              Waco                 TX    Managed          I-35 Value Priced            Study complete                   $440,000
                                         Lanes            Express Lanes                executed ELDP toll
                                                                                       agreement and
                                                                                       pursuing
              Lee County           FL    Managed          Expansion of Value           Study cancelled                  $200,000
                                         Facility         Pricing to the Sanibel
                                                          Bridge and Causeway
              Atlanta              GA    Managed          GA-400 Variable Pricing      Study completed and              $444,000
                                         Lanes            Institutional Study          project implemented
              Austin               TX    Managed          Truck Traffic Diversion      Study withdrawn                  $148,000
                                         Lanes            Using Variable Tolls
              Seattle              WA    GPS-Based        Global Positioning           Feasibility study                $600,000
                                         Fee              System (GPS) Based           completed
                                                          Pricing Pilot Program
2006          NE Illinois          IL    Managed          Comprehensive Pricing in     Study completed and              $750,000
                                         Facilities       NE Illinois                  considering pricing in 2
                                                                                       corridors
              Santa Clara County   CA    Managed          Investigation of Pricing     Study completed                  $760,000
                                         Lanes            Strategies                   pursuing VPPP toll
                                                                                       agreement
              San Diego            CA    Parking          Priced Smart Parking         Study completed                  $640,000
                                                          Field Test




                                         Page 45                                                     GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                           Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                           Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
                                           2010




Fiscal year   Funding recipients     State Project type     Project                      Status                     Grant Amount
              San Francisco          CA    Car Share        City Car Share Pricing       Study completed                  $436,000
                                                            Innovations
              Riverside County       CA    Managed          Analysis of Environmental    Study completed                  $118,311
                                           Lanes            Effects of Pier Pass
              Tampa                  FL    Car Share        Dynamically-Priced           Study completed                  $331,289
                                                            Carsharing
2007          Port Authority of      NJ    Managed          Upgrade of Electronic Toll   Study withdrawn                  $988,000
              New York and New             Facilities       Collection Technology
              Jersey
              Puget Sound/Seattle WA       Managed          Puget Sound Tolling          Study completed but              $935,000
              Area                         Lanes and        Strategies                   not pursuing
                                           Facilities                                    implementation
              Twin Cities            MN    Managed          FAST Miles                   Study completed and               $60,000
                                           Lanes                                         project implemented
              Twin Cities            MN    Parking          Parking Pricing              Study completed                  $580,000
                                                            Demonstration
              Twin Cities            MN    Mileage-Based    Mileage-Based User Fee       Study completed                  $230,000
                                           Fee              Regional Outreach
              Puget Sound/Seattle WA       Insurance        Pilot Implementation of      Study completed                $1,900,000
              Area                                          PAYD Insurance with
                                                            King County, Washington
                                                            and Unigard Insurance
                                                            Group
2007-2008a    San Francisco Bay      CA    Parking          SFPark Urban                 Feasibility study             $10,000,000
              Area                                          Partnership                  completed
              Minnesota              MN    UPA              MN Innovative Choices        Study completed and            $5,000,000
              Department of                                 for Congestion Relief        project implemented
              Transportation                                UPA
              Washington State       WA    UPA              Seattle/Lake Washington      Study completed and           $10,000,000
              Department of                                 Corridor Tolling and         project will be
              Transportation /King                          Transit UPA                  implemented in April
              county/Puget Sound                                                         2011
2009          Caltrans/Valley        CA    Managed          Implement Roadway            Pursuing toll authority        $3,200,000
              Transportation               Lanes            Pricing on SR 237            to implement
              Authority                                     Express Connectors
              Twin Cities Area       MN    Managed          Feasibility Study on         Study withdrawn                  $540,000
                                           Facilities       Pricing Innovative Lane
                                                            Additions on Trunk
                                                            Highway 77
              Twin Cities Area       MN    Managed          Pre-Implementation           Study just started               $400,000
                                           Lanes            Study of Priced Managed
                                                            Lane on I-94
              Greater Buffalo        NY    GPS-Based        Pre-implementation of        Study completed                  $717,000
              Niagra Regional              Fee              Study of GPS-Based
              Authority                                     Truck Pricing System




                                           Page 46                                                     GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                           Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                           Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
                                           2010




Fiscal year   Funding recipients    State Project type      Project                       Status                     Grant Amount
              Puget Sound/Seattle WA       Managed          Express Lanes System          Study underway                 $1,280,000
              Area                         Lanes            Concept Study
2009-2010     Caltrans / Santa      CA     Parking          Strategies to Manage          Feasibility study              $2,358,000
              Clara County                                  Traffic and Parking           underway
              Caltrans / City of    CA     Parking          Strategies to Manage On-      Feasibility study              $1,800,000
              Berkeley                                      Street Parking and            underway
                                                            Reduce Congestion From
                                                            Circling Vehicles.
              Caltrans / Santa      CA     Carpool          Testing of carpooling         Feasibility study                $158,400
              Barbara County                                system that uses              underway
                                                            participation incentives
              Florida Department    FL     Managed          Initiative for a Regional     Feasibility study                $900,000
              of Transportation            Lanes            Priced Managed Lane           underway
                                                            Network that Can Serve
                                                            as a Model for Other
                                                            Regions
              Tampa-Hillsboro       FL     Managed          Advancement of First          Feasibility study                $800,000
              Expressway                   Lanes            Regional Network of Bus       underway
              Authority                                     Toll Lanes in the Tampa
                                                            Area
              North Carolina        NC     Managed          Advancement of First          Feasibility study                $400,000
              Department of                Lanes            Regional Network of           underway
              Transportation and                            Priced Lanes in the
              Charlotte                                     Charlotte Area
              Metropolitan
              Planning
              Organization
              Minnesota             MN     Parking          Expansion of Project to       Feasibility study                 $24,800
              Department of                                 Test Incentive                underway
              Transportation                                Alternatives to Monthly
                                                            Parking Passes and
                                                            Discourage Daily Driving
              Texas Department of TX       Insurance        Usage-Based Insurance         Feasibility study              $1,948,000
              Transportation                                Pricing and Additional        underway
                                                            Incentives for Efficient
                                                            Travel Choices
              Virginia Department   VA     Managed          Advancement of Regional       Feasibility study                $320,000
              of Transportation            Lanes            Pricing in DC Including       underway
              and Washington                                Pricing Existing Facilities
              Council Of
              Governments
              Washington State      WA     Parking          Implementation of             Feasibility study              $1,024,000
              Department of                                 Incentives as Alternatives    underway
              Transportation and                            to Parking
              King County
Total awarded for Fiscal years 1999-2010                                                                                $92,702,843




                                           Page 47                                                      GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                         Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                         Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
                                         2010




Fiscal year   Funding recipients   State Project type     Project                           Status                   Grant Amount
2010-2011     California           CA    Managed          Evaluate the application          Approved for Funding         $3,200,000
              Department of              Lanes            of cordon/area pricing
              Transportation                              within major activity
                                                          centers in the downtown
                                                          Los Angeles core and
                                                          build out a network of
                                                          HOT lanes
              Connecticut          CT    Managed          Study the application of          Approved for Funding           $644,000
              Department of              Lanes            pricing on the I-84
              Transportation                              Viaduct, Hartford, CT
                                                          including assessing the
                                                          impacts of environmental
                                                          justice issues that
                                                          resulted from the original
                                                          construction of the
                                                          viaduct
              Connecticut          CT    Managed          Study the application of          Approved for Funding         $1,120,000
              Department of              Facility         full facility pricing to the I-
              Transportation                              95 Corridor from New
                                                          York to New Haven, CT
                                                          and identify how toll
                                                          revenues would be
                                                          applied to provide strong
                                                          support for transit
              Florida Turnpike     FL    Managed          Evaluate a two-tiered             Approved for Funding           $600,000
              Enterprise                 Facility         pricing on an existing toll
                                                          facility and develop
                                                          performance measures to
                                                          track the changes in
                                                          congestion, air quality,
                                                          safety, livability and other
                                                          factors that would result.
              Illinois State       IL    Managed          Study will look at the            Approved for Funding           $528,840
              Highway Tollway            Facility         application of pricing on
              Authority                                   an existing toll road and
                                                          will evaluate steps to
                                                          mitigate equity concerns
                                                          for potential low income
                                                          users. The project will
                                                          also evaluate how transit
                                                          could be integrated and
                                                          financed through priced
                                                          managed lanes




                                         Page 48                                                        GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                         Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                         Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
                                         2010




Fiscal year   Funding recipients   State Project type     Project                          Status                   Grant Amount
              Dallas Area Rapid    TX    Managed          Study will look at a transit     Approved for Funding           $160,000
              Transit                    Lanes            credit program designed
                                                          to provide occasional free
                                                          use of the HOT lane for
                                                          regular transit users when
                                                          they need to drive, and a
                                                          parking pricing program
                                                          at a park and ride lot with
                                                          free parking and shuttle
                                                          services added from a
                                                          more distant lot.
              Texas Department of TX     Managed          Influencing Travel               Approved for Funding           $588,301
              Transportation and         Lanes            Behavior and Considering
              North Central Texan                         Environmental Justice.
              Council of                                  Would examine important
              Governments                                 environmental justice
                                                          issues related to pricing I-
                                                          30, through the use of
                                                          innovative Intelligent
                                                          Transportation Systems
                                                          (ITS) technology. The
                                                          project is important
                                                          because it will provide
                                                          more data on
                                                          environmental justice and
                                                          pricing, given that there is
                                                          little experience with
                                                          strategies designed to
                                                          address environmental
                                                          justice issues related to
                                                          the introduction of pricing.
                                                          This project was selected
                                                          because it met the
                                                          statutory eligibility criteria
                                                          and was highly qualified
                                                          for the above stated
                                                          reasons. Therefore, this
                                                          project meets the
                                                          evaluation criteria for
                                                          innovation, equity, and
                                                          congestion reduction.




                                         Page 49                                                       GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                         Appendix III: DOT’s Value Pricing Pilot
                                         Program Grants, Fiscal Years 1999 through
                                         2010




Fiscal year   Funding recipients   State Project type              Project                      Status                      Grant Amount
              Texas Department of TX     Managed                   183A Turnpike Pilot          Approved for Funding            $1,220,424
              Transportation and         Facility                  Downstream Impacts.
              Central Texas                                        Pilot implements a peak
              Regional Mobility                                    period toll in conjunction
              Authority                                            with dynamic ridesharing
                                                                   on an existing congested
                                                                   toll road. Would explore
                                                                   applying dynamic
                                                                   ridesharing as an equity
                                                                   mitigation strategy. An
                                                                   actual field trial is
                                                                   included as part of
                                                                   project. The road opens
                                                                   in 2012. The local
                                                                   agencies are contributing
                                                                   their own funds to support
                                                                   the project. Therefore,
                                                                   this project meets the
                                                                   evaluation criteria for
                                                                   innovation, livability,
                                                                   sustainability, equity,
                                                                   congestion reduction,
                                                                   safety and state of good
                                                                   repair.
Total approved for funding for Fiscal year 2010-2011                                                                            $8,061,565
Total awarded and approved for Fiscal years 1999-2011                                                                         $10,764,408
                                         Source: U.S. Department of Transportation.
                                         a
                                          Fiscal year 2008-2009 grants were part of the one-time Urban Partnership Agreement initiative.




                                         Page 50                                                            GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Appendix IV: Performance and Monitoring
                                               Appendix IV: Performance and Monitoring
                                               Requirements for Federal Programs for
                                               Congestion Pricing Projects


Requirements for Federal Programs for
Congestion Pricing Projects

                                                                                                                           Performance
                                                                                                                           and monitoring
Federal program   Performance measure              Performance metric                                                      requirement
Express Lanes     Travel-time reliability in       •   Report percentage of time facility is operating at a                Annual reporting
Demonstration     priced lanes                         minimum average speed of 50 mph broken down by daily                to U.S. DOT
                                                       averages a.m. peak, off-peak, and p.m. peak hours.                  required.
                                                   •   Report 95th percent travel times for the managed lanes
                                                       broken down by daily averages during a.m. peak, off-peak,
                                                       and p.m. peak hours. The 95th percentile represents the
                                                       slowest traffic day in each month and is reported in
                                                       minutes. For the I-30 and I-35E projects in Texas, projects
                                                       must also report the 80th percentile.
                                                   •   Report “Buffer Index” calculated to demonstrate
                                                       performance in the managed lanes broken down by daily
                                                       averages during a.m. peak, off-peak, and p.m. peak hours.
                                                       The Buffer Index is the extra time that travelers must add
                                                       to their average travel time when planning trips to ensure
                                                       on-time arrival.
                                                   •   Report travel volumes and traffic volume changes on a
                                                       total and percentage-change basis annually broken into
                                                       daily averages for daily total by a.m. peak, off-peak, and
                                                       p.m. peak hours for the managed lanes by direction
                                                   •   Traffic speeds and traffic speed differences from the
                                                       previous year on a total and percentage-change basis
                                                       annually broken into daily averages for daily total by a.m.
                                                       peak, off-peak, and p.m. peak hours for the managed
                                                       lanes by direction.
                                                   •   Report actual number of incidents and identify the effect
                                                       on lane availability for the managed lanes during this time,
                                                       including the length of time each such lane was
                                                       unavailable.
                  Changes in mode                  •     Report number of declared High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV)
                  split/ridership/vehicle                for the year and differences from the previous year (on a total
                  occupancies of priced                  and percentage-change basis) broken into daily averages by
                  versus general purpose                 a.m. peak and p.m. peak for the managed lanes.
                  (or adjacent free) lanes         •     Report number of buses (i.e., registered non-revenue
                                                         accounts) for the year and differences from the previous
                                                         year on a total and percentage-change basis) broken into
                                                         daily averages by a.m. peak, off-peak, and p.m. peak for
                                                         the managed lanes.
                                                   •     Report average toll charged for the year and differences
                                                         from the previous year (on a total and percentage-change
                                                         basis), broken into daily averages, by a.m. peak, off-peak,
                                                         and p.m. peak for managed lanes.




                                               Page 51                                                          GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                           Appendix IV: Performance and Monitoring
                                           Requirements for Federal Programs for
                                           Congestion Pricing Projects




                                                                                                                      Performance
                                                                                                                      and monitoring
Federal program   Performance measure          Performance metric                                                     requirement
                                               •   Report average toll charged for the year and differences
                                                   from the previous year (on a total and percentage-change
                                                   basis), broken into daily averages, by a.m. peak, off-peak,
                                                   and p.m. peak for managed lanes.
                                               •   If reasonably available, report ridership volumes for the
                                                   year and differences from the previous year (on a total and
                                                   percentage-change basis), by vehicle type: single
                                                   occupancy vehicle, HOV2+, HOV3+, bus, vanpool and
                                                   other, broken into daily averages by a.m. peak, off-peak,
                                                   and p.m. peak for the general purpose lanes, managed
                                                   lanes, and parallel access roads as applicable.
                                               •   Report on the amount of vehicle miles traveled for the year
                                                   and differences from the previous year (on a total and
                                                   percentage-change basis) by vehicle type: single
                                                   occupancy vehicle, HOV2+, HOV3+, bus, vanpool and
                                                   other, broken into daily averages by a.m. peak, off-peak,
                                                   and p.m. peak on the managed lanes.
                                               •   Report Metropolitan Planning Organization rideshare
                                                   payments, HOV subsidy and other disbursements.
                  Transit schedule             •     To the extent the information is reasonably available,
                  adherence                          report on transit service reliability—percentage of on-time
                                                     performance of transit service.
                                               •     To the extent the information is reasonably available,
                                                     report on any existing bus transit routes or sanctioned
                                                     vanpool accounts utilizing the corridor in advance of
                                                     opening the project for tolling. This is to be used as a
                                                     benchmark for added bus transit routes or sanctioned
                                                     vanpool accounts utilizing the corridor after tolling begins.
                  Application of revenue       •     Report breakdown of the use of revenue.
                  reinvestment                 •     Report percentage of revenue used to mitigate impacts.
                  Change in criteria           •     Report on the concentrations of six criteria pollutants
                  pollutant emissions at the         (particle pollution, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide,
                  regional level                     sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and lead) during the current
                                                     year and differences from the previous year (on a total and
                                                     percentage-change basis) utilizing reasonably available
                                                     and reliable air quality reporting tolls and mechanisms.
HOV Facilities    Traffic speed on priced      •     Report a minimum average operating speed of 45 mph on            Annual
(HOT Lanes)       lane to maintain express           the HOV lanes with a speed limit of over 50 mph or not           certification
                  bus service                        more than 10 mph below the speed limit for HOV lanes             required by U.S.
                                                     with a speed limit less than 50 mph. This speed must be          DOT. If
                                                     maintained for 90 percent of the time over 180 days during       performance
                                                     morning or evening weekday peak.                                 standards not
                                                                                                                      met, actions must
                                                                                                                      be taken to
                                                                                                                      comply.




                                           Page 52                                                         GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                                 Appendix IV: Performance and Monitoring
                                                 Requirements for Federal Programs for
                                                 Congestion Pricing Projects




                                                                                                                          Performance
                                                                                                                          and monitoring
Federal program       Performance measure            Performance metric                                                   requirement
Value Pricing Pilot   Driver behavior, traffic       •   No specific metric required                                      No certification
                      volumes, and travel                                                                                 required by U.S.
                      speeds                                                                                              DOT as no
                                                           No specific metric required                                    specific
                      Transit ridership              •
                                                                                                                          performance
                      Air quality                    •     No specific metric required                                    standards must
                      Equity for low-income          •     No specific metric required                                    be met. However,
                      people                                                                                              participants are
                                                                                                                          required to report
                      Transportation revenues        •     No specific metric required                                    on “value pricing”
                                                                                                                          elements up to 10
                                                                                                                          years.
Urban Partnership     Congestion Analysis            •     Percent change in route/corridor travel time by time of day    Multi-year
Agreement and                                        •     Percent change in the travel time index for comparisons        project-specific
Congestion                                                 across sites (having corridors of differing lengths)           and national
Reduction                                                                                                                 evaluations which
                                                     •     Percent change in number of hours of the day with
Demonstrationa                                                                                                            U.S. DOT is
                                                           congested conditions and the number of congested travel
                                                                                                                          overseeing.
                                                           links per day
                                                     •     Percent change in average travel speeds by hour of the
                                                           day
                                                     •     Percent change in travel time reliability and planning time
                                                           index
                                                     •     Percent change in vehicle and person trips by time of day
                                                           and person and vehicle throughput
                                                     •     Change in traveler perceptions about congestion after
                                                           deployment of strategies
                      Tolling Analysis               •     Level of service in tolled lanes
                                                     •     Travel-time reliability in tolled lanes
                                                     •     Average occupants per vehicle of tolled lanes versus
                                                           general purpose lanes
                                                     •     Use of tolling options
                                                     •     Traffic density in tolled lanes
                                                     •     Travel-time reliability (seasonally controlled)
                                                     •     Days exceeding reliability and performance thresholds
                      Transit Analysis               •     End-to-end travel time
                                                     •     Service reliability
                                                     •     Maximum/unconstrained travel-time ratio
                                                     •     Schedule adherence
                                                     •     User ratings of service performance
                                                     •     Corridor ridership
                                                     •     Boardings/deboardings
                                                     •     Service load factors
                                                     •     Corridor mode split (%)
                                                     •     Park-and-ride utilization factors




                                                 Page 53                                                       GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
                                       Appendix IV: Performance and Monitoring
                                       Requirements for Federal Programs for
                                       Congestion Pricing Projects




                                                                                                                      Performance
                                                                                                                      and monitoring
Federal program   Performance measure       Performance metric                                                        requirement
                  Equity Analysis           •   Socio-economic and geographic distribution of benefits
                                                including: tolls paid and adaptation costs; change in travel
                                                time and distance by group; total transportation cost;
                                                environmental impacts
                                            •   Public perception of the individualized equity impacts of
                                                pricing
                                            •   Spatial distribution of revenue reinvestment
                  Environmental Analysis    •   Reduction in criteria pollutants
                                            •   Reduction in noise
                                            •   Reduction in vehicle miles traveled
                                            •     Qualitative assessment of perceived benefits of the
                                                  environment
                                            •     Reductions in estimated fuel use
                                            •     Use and impact of alternative fuel vehicles for transit
                                                  improvements
                  Safety Analysis           •     Percentage change in crash rate by type and severity
                                            •     Percentage change in time to clear accidents
                                            •     Change in the perception of safety by service patrol
                                                  operators, state patrol officers, medical first responders,
                                                  and bus operators
                                            •     Change in the perception of safety by travelers
                                       Source: GAO analysis.
                                       a
                                        This is a sample of UPA and CRD performance analyses that include measures and metrics related
                                       to the effects of congestion pricing. Other UPA and CRD analyses will look at telecommuting/travel
                                       demand management and technology as well as impacts on businesses, goods movement, and
                                       nontechnical success factors.




                                       Page 54                                                           GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
Appendix V: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix V: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Phil Herr, (202) 512-2834 or herrp@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact named above, Steve Cohen (Assistant Director),
Staff             Maureen Luna-Long, Sarah Jones, Thanh Lu, Michael Kendix, Sara Ann
Acknowledgments   Moessbauer, James Wozny, Elizabeth Eisenstadt, Crystal Wesco, and
                  Josh Ormond made key contributions to this report.




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                  Page 55                                         GAO-12-119 Traffic Congestion
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