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Effective outreach is an essential element of HOT lane planning and implementation. Basic public awareness of HOT lanes in general, as well as political and popular support for the particular proposal in question can facilitate efforts to implement HOT projects. Tolled high-occupancy facilities are a very new concept in transportation. Steps to familiarize the general public as well as local elected officials with HOT facilities and the specific rationale for proposing them may assist those outside transportation planning and engineering circles to evaluate a local HOT proposal. Without such outreach, the public may greet the introduction of a HOT facility with indifference or caution.
Carefully planned and executed public outreach can play a critical role in helping the public (1) to understand how a proposed HOT facility would work, (2) to evaluate the advantages it might offer, and (3) to accept the HOT facility as a new travel option.
An Overview of Outreach
Public outreach has long functioned as an integral part of the transportation planning process in the United States. The process is well known among DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations. Following mandates initially established under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in the 1970s and strengthened under the Statewide and Metropolitan Joint Planning Regulations of October 1993, departments of transportation around the country must provide the public with information on transportation improvements under consideration in their jurisdictions. The feedback they receive from the public is used to refine their plans and ultimately implement more effective projects. Information and feedback are exchanged through a variety of ways, including public meetings, focus groups, newsletters, websites, and formal hearings. Both FHWA and FTA have performance measures to track the effectiveness of outreach efforts.
Existing Public Outreach Resources
Many resources discussing public outreach for transportation projects are readily available, including an existing body of literature addressing public outreach for HOV facilities. Some of these materials include:
While they will utilize many of the same techniques to exchange information, public outreach activities designed for HOT lane initiatives need to be different from those designed for more conventional transportation improvements.
First, HOT lanes themselves are a new concept in most places, and public outreach for HOT proposals will necessarily involve a larger educational component than do traditional transportation projects. HOT lanes are unlike conventional road improvements such as roadway resurfacing or reconfiguring an interchange where the public may readily understand the future benefits. HOT lanes market-oriented approach to allocating roadway space may be a new concept to the public, and education is needed to distinguish HOT facility user fees from ordinary tolls. Where the public knows that HOT facility tolls purchase premium traffic service, reliable trip times and time savings, support for HOT facilities may be greater. Therefore, effective public outreach efforts for HOT projects will communicate the critical function of user fees, how and by whom tolls will be collected, and how toll revenues will be spent.
Second, because HOT lanes provide paying drivers the opportunity to bypass congestion, some critics have asserted that HOT facilities favor higher income individuals. In spite of this concern, HOT lane usage data show that drivers in all income brackets use and support the facilities.
Local political support plays a key role in building consensus for HOT lane initiatives among the public. Where local constituents are concerned about equity, it is especially important to address in outreach efforts how the proposed HOT project may impact people in different income ranges. Local officials and public figures who can defuse equity debates with usage data may be more successful project champions.
For example, in June 2001 Governor Parris Glendening of Maryland backed away from efforts to study or implement HOT facilities in Maryland, maintaining that it was unfair to link an easier commute with a person's ability to pay; our goal is to ease congestion for all. The Governors decision demonstrates the vulnerability of HOT lane projects to political decision making and underscores the importance of communicating the facts about HOT lanes early and effectively to politicians and other stakeholders.
Section 4.3.6 discusses equity aspects in greater detail.
A prominent project champion can be one of the most instrumental factors in garnering support for a HOT facility proposal or its implementation. A public champion may be an elected official, a community leader, or private sector leader who effectively communicates an individual or organizational rationale for supporting the project. Although local departments of transportation, transportation authorities, MPOs will likely serve as HOT lane sponsors, respected public figures who are not transportation professionals can play a critical role by supporting the project.
Public champions may guide the development of HOT lane projects during critical public outreach processes. In some cases, a project champion may also be influential in political processes if the HOT project requires legislative action or if it is debated in public elections. Project champions also act as effective coalition builders for a project, building consensus among different interest groups.
Because HOT lanes often must receive approval at various stages and at various levels of government, it can be advantageous if several individuals champion the project. Some may be successful at building support for the initiative locally, and others may help to make a case for the project to governors, mayors, U.S. representatives and senators.
Elected officials may emerge as important project champions, making the inclusion of elected officials in outreach efforts important for project planning. When formulating a position on the lane, politicians may consider the project from numerous angles, including its impact on constituents and its effect on local governance and finance. Outreach to elected officials should discuss an array of issues about the proposed initiative, including any impacts that local constituents may experience as a result of the project. Other issues that elected officials may consider when deciding whether to back the project include:
Early involvement by a project champion can be advantageous. A particular group or individual may step forward to express initial interest in and support of the proposal, or project sponsors may seek proactively to identify potential project champions early in the public involvement process. In some cases, champions may come from organizations and interest groups that are non-traditional supporters of roadway projects. For instance, if a HOT lane project promises to deliver environmental benefits, groups like the Sierra Club or Environmental Defense may lend their support.
Identifying Potential Champions
Table 2 highlights some groups whose leaders may play the role of champion, depending on the circumstances of the project. When anticipating responses from different stakeholder groups, it is important to recognize that support for or opposition to a HOT project may depend on project circumstances. For example, a HOT operation proposed to regulate over- or under-utilization of an existing HOV lane may be received differently by different groups than a proposed new lane addition.7
|Group||Why they may support|
|Newspaper Editorial Boards and Local Media||Media support may come where the project rationale is well understood and where editorial boards believe the project benefits and deserves support of their readers.|
Politicians may support if they favor the HOT lanes market-oriented approach HOT facility benefits, if they want an innovative project in their district, or if their constituents support the proposal.
|American Automobile Association (AAA)||
HOT facilities may promise better mobility for their members.
|Environmental Advocates||If a HOT project converts an existing general-purpose lane, it could make single-occupant auto travel less attractive.|
|Taxi Associations||Taxis that use a HOT lane may be able to generate more fares in less time during peak periods.|
|Transit Agencies; Transit Advocates||In corridors without preferential lane treatment for HOVs or transit, transit operators may support HOT lanes due to transit time savings.|
|Emergency Medical Service/Police and Fire Departments||A HOT facility may enable emergency services to respond more quickly to incidents.|
|Rideshare Agencies, Transportation Management Associations||For an over utilized HOV lane changing from 2+ to 3+ HOT operation, HOT lane tolling may enable the facility to recapture operational benefits|
|Employers; Business Groups||Employers and business may support HOT lanes for the potential to make transportation operations more efficient and to reduce delay time.|
|Developers||Developers may support HOT facilities that enhance access to office buildings, shopping centers, residences or other locations they own.|
|Neighborhood Associations||Area residents may support the HOT facility if it enhances their mobility and travel options.|
Road Pricing and Elected Officials
The Transportation Research Boards Variable Pricing Political Outreach Subcommittee has completed a comprehensive study of the relationship between road pricing and elected officials. In 2001, the subcommittee conducted interviews with transportation professionals involved with every road pricing study or implementation project in the United States. Elected officials were also contacted in order to gain an understanding of their reactions and opinions on the 16 pricing projects included in the survey, six of which involved HOT lanes. The following findings are excerpted from the Subcommittees August 2001 report, Road Pricing & Elected Officials.
During the public outreach process for a proposed HOT facility, certain issues not associated with conventional highway improvements may be of keen interest to the general public and particular stakeholder groups. It is advantageous for project planners to ascertain the concerns of various stakeholders in advance and address them proactively in the public outreach process. The following issues may arise:
HOT facility planners and sponsors who consider in advance the range of public concerns and questions that could arise will be better equipped to understand the publics concerns and to take the appropriate actions within the outreach process. The case studies found in Chapter 7 of this document explain the various issues and concerns that have arisen in response to the HOT lane projects and studies they describe.
In addition to the discussions provided in this manual, HOT facility sponsors may also wish to confer with colleagues in other regions that have pursued HOT lane initiatives. These peer exchanges can provide valuable insight into the issues encountered, the public outreach approach followed, and what might have been done differently in hindsight. FHWAs Office of Travel Management can help to identify useful contacts. http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/travel/. The Hubert Humphrey Institutes Value Pricing Website, http://www.valuepricing.org, also provides comprehensive information on projects utilizing the value pricing concept, including the nations four HOT lane facilities.
As with any investment of public funds, constituents and stakeholder groups have an immediate interest in the benefits that a HOT facility may brings. Project sponsors who can discuss the specific advantages anticipated from a HOT facility can more easily communicate the projects rationale to a variety of public interests. Communicating the projected benefits plays an especially important role in regions where HOT concepts may not be widely known or understood due to their newness.
Time Savings. Travel time savings for those who are willing to pay for it are a hallmark benefit of HOT facilities. Fees for the facility are structured in a way that preserves uncongested traffic service on the facility, ensuring that users will not lose time in traffic jams.
Trip Time Reliability. Because the facility is operated to maintain a certain level of traffic service, users can count on predictable conditions and travel times. Users with personal or professional time constraints or those who simply prefer the peace of mind of a predictable journey will find the facility a great advantage.
Trip Choice. A HOT facility creates a new travel option that a motorist may use or not use, depending on a highly individualized decision at the time the trip is made. If under pressure to arrive punctually at the destination, a motorist may choose to use the facility. If time pressure does not influence the travel choice, the motorist may choose the general-purpose lanes. Even when drivers choose not to use the facility, many motorists value having this choice.
Enhanced Corridor Mobility. HOT facilities enable more people to travel through a corridor in fewer vehicles and under better travel conditions. This advantage may interest transportation officials to a greater degree than the public at large, but some local constituents may also appreciate efficiency improvements in the transportation system.
In corridors with a HOT facility, drivers seldom choose to makes all trips in that corridor on the HOT lane itself. Instead, they will decide to pay to use the facility when they wish to guarantee their trip time or avoid congestion. At other times they may risk congested conditions in lieu of paying the fee to use the HOT lane. Therefore, even regular HOT lane users are still likely to make many of their trips on the parallel free facility or general-purpose lanes.
Accordingly, project planners may use the public outreach process to address how the proposed HOT facility will affect travel conditions for non-users. The travel impacts on adjacent facilities will depend on the nature of the HOT facility itself.
New HOT Facility. Where a HOT facility provides new traffic lanes in a corridor, the facility brings the benefits of any roadway capacity. Studies of the SR 91 corridor show that a diversion of some traffic from the general purpose lanes to the Express Lanes substantially improved peak period travel conditions in the general lanes. Additionally, the addition of the SR 91 HOT lanes also had the effect of shifting some traffic back to the state highway from parallel city streets.
HOT Facility Converted from Existing HOV-Lane. Conversions of HOV lanes to HOT lanes may be contemplated when an existing HOV lane is underutilized. The conversion can optimize utilization of the managed lane, eliminating motorist complaints about the underutilized HOV facility. The HOV conversion can also enhance travel conditions in the corridor at large.
The new capacity provided by the HOT facility will attract some vehicles formerly using the general-purpose lanes into the HOT lane. This may cause some vehicles to shift from local arterials to the general-purpose highway lanes. In some cases a modal shift from single-occupant vehicles (SOVs) to HOVs or transit may also result.8 These shifts typically increase overall corridor person-throughput a benefit that is attractive to transportation professionals and environmentalists alike.
In spite of additional usage, the HOT facility is managed with tolls to ensure that the HOT lane provides premium service for all users. Facility operators may also combine vehicle occupancy requirements with tolls to manage demand, rather than relying on tolls exclusively. This may be attractive when a highly utilized HOV facility is converted to HOT operations.
Some constituents and stakeholders will also have an interest in the financial dimensions of the project. One of the primary financial advantages of HOT lanes is their potential to generate revenue.
A comprehensive discussion of HOT facility benefits, including their financial benefits, is included in Chapter 1; however, public outreach efforts may begin by working with a shorter list than in Chapter 1. Stakeholders may be unmoved by a long list of alleged advantages if they do not understand how those benefits arise or their value to users.
In addition to the potential benefits of revenue generated by a proposed HOT facility, stakeholders will wish to know about the nature of the user fees themselves. Many questions are likely to arise.
"How much will it cost?" The public will perhaps have the greatest interest in knowing how much it will cost to use the proposed facility. Because HOT facility fees usually vary depending on the time of day and associated congestion levels, HOT facilities involve an additional dimension for public outreach efforts regarding tolls. Informational materials, public presentations, and news articles discussing the proposed facility can explain its innovative approach to tolls. Project sponsors will need to work not only with community groups, but also local elected officials and area newspapers to ensure that all understand the dynamics of the proposed tolling structure.
"If the price changes by the time of day, how will I know how much it costs?" When HOT tolls are based on real time travel conditions, additional public education is needed. Materials and presentations can explain that the current toll will be clearly posted on digital message boards at all entrances to the facility. It is important to communicate that motorists will always be informed of the current toll rate before having to choose to use the HOT facility. When posted clearly prior to HOT facility entrances, this information allow drivers to decide whether or not to use the facility.
"Can you tell us now what the tolls will be?" Although potential users may inquire about the proposed toll amounts, fee schedules are often developed later in the HOT facilitys planning. In earlier planning stages, outreach efforts may discuss the potential range for fees, if appropriate. However, as described in Section 5.3.2, formulating an effective toll schedule often involves marketing surveys of potential users, and final toll levels may be undetermined in early phases. Moreover, once the facility opens, facility operators may have to adjust toll fees in order to control the level of traffic service on the facility. Where a facility uses real time dynamic prices, tolls are posted but no advance toll schedule is used. Project planners can use the public outreach process to describe how fees are established and, where appropriate, to discuss overall ranges for the potential fees.
"Are drivers paying for premium service?" The rationale for tolls on a HOT facility is different from that of traditional tolls. Historically, tolls have developed as a means to pay for the construction, operation and maintenance of the roads and bridges where they are collected. HOT facility tolls, however, have an added dimension. The fee paid by HOT lane users not only allows the driver to use the facility, but also ensures the driver will benefit from a high level of traffic service. Public outreach efforts can convey the message that drivers are paying for time savings and trip time reliability.
"Will I have to wait in line at a toll booth?" Finally, stakeholders may also raise the issue of toll collection. Manual toll collection is associated by many with long delays at toll plazas; however, high-speed electronic toll collection (ETC) is standard practice on all current HOT lane demonstrations. As a vital component of HOT projects, ETC deserves elaboration in the public outreach process. Motorists have a great stake in ETC's capacity for eliminating delays and making toll collection invisible and easy.
Pricing: A Familiar Concept
Although HOV lanes or toll roads may not exist in a given region, the concept of paying for premium service does. For example, air passengers are accustomed to paying higher fares during high travel seasons when there is much demand for flights. Or, telephone charges are often highest during the day, when there is most demand for placing calls. While drivers may perceive tolls as a cost, many would value travel time savings associated with HOT facility fees. If asked, Would you pay two dollars to save 30 minutes consistently on your evening commute? many motorists would answer, Yes.
The public may also be interested in the capital construction cost of the facility. They will want to know where the money to build the HOT lane is coming from and whether or not the project will be paid for from the toll proceeds. Project sponsors may wish to introduce a number of facts about the proposed project, including:
Because HOT lanes create the opportunity for paying drivers to avoid congestion, some critics have charged that the facilities are elitist and serve primarily affluent users at the expense of middle- and low-income motorists. Evidence collected to date, however, suggests that such perceptions may not reflect actual experience. Outreach efforts that to listen to the public's concerns, address equity questions directly, and communicate experiences from operating HOT facilities can allay local concerns that HOT project benefits may be enjoyed unevenly.
Actual data on HOT lane use discredit the Lexus Lane critique. Studies of the SR 91 Express Lanes indicate a statistically significant correlation between income and frequency of toll lane use.9 While the data indicate the proportions of commuters who choose the Express Lanes increase with income, commuters of all income levels use the lanes. High income individuals (those with annual incomes greater than $100,000) utilize the toll lanes at greater rates than lower income individuals, but lower and moderate income individuals also make substantial use of the toll lanes. Although roughly one-quarter of the motorists in the toll lanes at any given time are in the top income bracket, data demonstrate that the majority are low and middle-income motorists. The benefits of the HOT lane are enjoyed widely at all income levels.
Lower income motorists may use the HOT lane periodically, when circumstances dictate that the reliability of their trip time is more important than under ordinary circumstances for example, when critical appointments loom, or when day care facilities charge fees for late pick-up of children. The same applies to self-employed contractors and other small business people, who must make appointments on time or risk lost business.
Concerns may also arise if a proposed facility appears to favor one geographic region over another. For instance, the location of limited entry and exit points on the HOT facility may be contentious, as all communities may wish to have easy access to the facility. In this case, the public outreach process is the appropriate forum for community stakeholders, project planners, and politicians to address the issue. The collaborative nature of the public process can be used to identify measures to counter any geographic concerns.
San Diego I-15 Express Lane Survey
An 800-person telephone survey of I-15 Express Lane users completed in the summer and fall of 2001 demonstrates that motorists of all income levels recognize the benefits of HOT lanes. The following survey results show that the equity concerns are not shared by actual HOT lane users and other motorists in San Diego:
As demonstrated by surveys conducted in Washington, Minnesota and Florida, a majority of motorists in many congested areas would be willing to pay to avoid congestion, with no statistical correlation evident between income levels and willingness to pay.
Public Support For The HOT Lane Concept
As in San Diego, public opinion research conducted around the country demonstrates that the public understands the value of pricing concepts and that a majority of motorists in many congested areas would be willing to pay for improved travel conditions. These results demonstrate that the public may be more willing than its political leaders to support HOT lane projects.
Fair Lanes: An Alternative Value Pricing Strategy
In response to equity concerns associated with HOT Lanes projects, transportation professsionals in Maryland, Texas, Georgia, and Alameda County in California are studying the Fast and Intertwined Regular Lane (FAIR Lane) concept as an alternataive way of implementing value pricing projects. The concept involves separating congested freeway lanes into two sectionsFast lanes and Regular lanesusing plastic pylons and striping. The FAIR Lane approach is different from HOT lanes in that it allows motorists traveling on the Regular lanes to earn credits toward use of the priced Fast lanes or transit.
The Fast lanes would provide premium travel conditions and would be electronically tolled, with tolls set in real time to maintain free-flowing condtions. Variable message signs would advise motorists of the toll rate changes. In the Regular lanes, where constricted flows would continue, drivers with electronic toll tags would earn credits that could be used toward for future use of the Fast lanes or to fares when they opt to use improved transit service.
With FAIR lane operations, motorists could choose to pay for the premium Fast lane service, or they could choose to remain in congested traffic but earn credits toward the future use of the Fast lane or transit services operating on it.
While the FAIR lane concept has been discussed at seminars and professional meetings, it has not yet been implemented on a specific corridor.
Because HOT lanes produce revenues, a number of policy questions and administrative issues come to the fore. Depending on the locale, community stakeholders and elected officials may have a keen interest in how the toll revenues will be spent. Some communities may be more accepting of the facility if the generated revenues are used only for a dedicated purpose or a specific initiative, while other communities may support using the fees to support the general fund.
Some HOT lane projects have sought to use revenues first and foremost to pay for implementation and administration of the lane. The disposition of surplus or net revenues then becomes a question for project sponsors.
Project Spotlight: I-15, San Diego, California
The I-15 HOT facility in San Diego offers an example of an HOV lane conversion that included transit improvements. The original HOV lanes were funded partially with transit monies, and project sponsors sought to launch an express bus as part of the pricing program. Today, I-15 FasTrak revenue funds the Inland Breeze bus service in the HOT lane corridor. FasTrak revenue pays for roughly $430,000 per year in operating costs and $60,000 for facility enforcement provided by the California Highway Patrol. State law requires the remaining revenue to be spent improving transit service along the I-15 corridor. This innovative arrangement played a large role in the political acceptability of the project, and it is one way to address transit concerns when a HOT project involves an HOV-lane conversion and when the support of local transit authorities and other officials for the HOT lane is important. By dedicating all or a portion of HOT lane revenues to local transit services, a project may be perceived as more equitable and win greater approval.
In project applications to date, HOT toll revenues have been used to:
Electronic toll collection has grown increasingly common in the United States, known in different regions by names like E-Z Pass and FasTrak. Nonetheless, project planners should not assume that the public is familiar with this new technology. Public outreach efforts provide various opportunities to introduce the proposed toll collection technology to potential users. Project sponsors need to explain how the proposed ETC system will work, including the role of an electronic transponder, the function of HOT facility entry and exit gantries, the administration of pass-holder accounts, and the protection of individual privacy. Privacy is a key concern commonly associated with ETC systems. Outreach materials should address this issue and provide detailed information on the mechanisms used to protect the privacy of motorists movements, as well as their financial and credit card information.
Additionally, once the HOT lane is unveiled, the initial performance of the ETC system will be of paramount importance. If toll collection snags occur during the project's launch, users may be unforgiving.
Ensuring Personal Privacy
Finally, it should be recognized that HOT lanes are likely to provide environmental advantages by eliminating greenhouse gases caused by stop-and-go traffic, and by encouraging people to use carpools and mass transit, thereby reducing the number of cars on congested corridors. In addition, the conversion of existing HOV facilities to HOT operation i
As with any transportation improvement, outreach activities should include clear information on the environmental effects associated with the HOT lane projects. Environmental advocates are likely to support HOT lane initiatives and, when given the right information, have the potential to become important project advocates garnering additional support for new HOT lane projects.
Public outreach efforts establish meaningful processes for public participation in the planning and implementation of transportation projects and ensure that the different stakeholders have a voice in the planning process. This enables diverse interests involved to arrive at a transportation solution that is broadly accepted and beneficial.
As discussed earlier in Section 4.2, the backing of political champions is often an essential element in building political consensus. Greater involvement by local and regional officials and stakeholders, in early planning stages and onward, may increase the effectiveness of public outreach efforts for HOT lane facilities. Including a broad spectrum of stakeholders in the public outreach can be critical. In many cases, a single decision maker, such as a governor or mayor, may be in a position to derail or bolster the proposed HOT project. Greater involvement by local business leaders, community groups, and other public officials in project planning helps to ensure that key decision makers will consider the broad range of interests when they take a position on a proposed HOT project.
In using the public outreach process to build consensus, planners may attempt to anticipate the concerns of specific interest groups. An understanding of what aspects of HOT projects may be more or less attractive to different groups can be valuable to project sponsors. Certain stakeholders and interest groups with a defined agenda may support or oppose HOT lanes depending on their priorities, and some groups may feel differently from others about the proposal depending on how their town or county may be affected by the project. When sponsors understand constituents' concerns, the public outreach process can be tailored to ensure that those issues are addressed and to discuss how those concerns will or could be accommodated within the proposed project.
In reaching out to local communities; political groups and organizations; elected officials; and neighboring cities, town, and counties, project planners should include all potential stakeholders. No segment of a community likes to be left out or surprised, and early efforts at inclusiveness will help to establish channels of communication at the outset of a HOT project.
As a first step, project planners should identify the various stakeholders who will be impacted by or may have an interest in the project. Local MPOs may be helpful in assembling a logical list of concerned parties. While HOT lanes themselves have discrete locations, HOT lane facilities are part of a regional, multi-modal transportation network that may cross multiple jurisdictional boundaries. As with any transportation improvement, coordination and cooperation among neighboring governments and related agencies can ease planning and implementation for HOT lanes. The list of stakeholders will vary from project to project, but concerned parties may include those listed below.
Keeping the variety of stakeholders well informed during the initial project planning, review, implementation, and operation is important for consensus building. Project planners and spokespeople can use a variety of methods to keep stakeholders involved and informed. These may include:
Stakeholder coordination should continue throughout project implementation. Ensuring that technical work does not outpace constituency building is a prudent approach that keeps state, county and local politicians informed of project activities on a regular basis.
One option for formalizing public participation is through a citizens advisory committee. Such committees can be effective outreach tools and they may be particularly useful for HOT lane initiatives. Participants can be drawn from a variety of groups in the early planning stages, and the committee can help guide the public outreach process through later phases of planning and implementation. The group can be an important resource for identifying issues that outreach efforts should address and for connecting project sponsors with area community groups and other organized stakeholders. An advisory committee can also help to identify and recruit political champions.
Ultimately, the success of a HOT facility will depend on drivers who are willing to pay to use it. In fact, some HOT facilities refer to users as subscribers, pass holders, or customers, indicating that the HOT facility has a clientele and that drivers generally must acquire an electronic tag for automated toll collection in order to use the facility.
Because HOT facilities are generally constructed within or parallel to existing roadways, drivers in the corridor may choose which facility to use: the general-purpose lanes or the HOT facility. HOT project planners thus face a challenge that is unique in highway facility planning: to cultivate users for the facility. Most highway or transportation officials traditionally have not had to advertise or market their facilities, but marketing is an important element of HOT projects. For this reason, some transportation agencies developing HOT lanes have sought the services of marketing professionals, including surveying and advertising firms.
The marketing aspect of HOT facility planning is directly related to project feasibility. Marketing efforts can address how and why drivers may opt to acquire a user tag and HOT facility account, and under what circumstances they will choose to use the HOT facility for a given trip. After the facility is operating, marketing techniques can be used to increase the number of users, address customer satisfaction issues, and to keep drivers well informed of any planned operational changes.
At various phases of the HOT lane implementation process, project marketing efforts may need to focus on different issues. Although the basic marketing objectives outlined below follow a general chronological evolution, the answer to later questions may draw heavily from what is learned during earlier marketing efforts.
When to Market?
Although marketing is often perceived as advertising a final product, HOT facility marketing is not a one-time venture. Marketing efforts will be more productive if they are employed well in advance of the facility's opening and if they continue even once the facility begins operation. Early marketing studies provide important opportunities to gauge the HOT lane's potential for success, as well as to improve the project's chances of success. From the earliest planning phases, multiple marketing opportunities exist to gather information from the public about potential usage and to provide information to the public about the proposed facility. Marketing efforts in later project phases, even after operation has begun, can assess user satisfaction and attract additional users.
Learning About the Public
Learning about project stakeholders will provide a foundation for the entire outreach process. Determining the level of awareness of and knowledge about HOT lanes by different groups will provide direction for HOT lane marketing initiatives and parallel public outreach efforts. For example, an initial survey of area households could gauge public knowledge of the HOT concept, public attitudes towards value pricing, and public preferences and behaviors. Such a survey could identify what and how much education is needed, and how current HOT educational efforts could be tailored to meet public needs.
Determining the Market
One of the most important issues that must be addressed in the early planning phases for HOT lane projects is determining the market and overall feasibility of a proposed project. What corridors and origin-destination pairs would be appropriate for the HOT lane facility? Who might use the HOT facility under consideration? What factors might make a driver more or less willing to pay to use the facility? Where should access points be located or how should toll collection be managed? When this market exploration is done properly, project planners are more likely to design a HOT facility that the public wants to use. These inquiries also supply technical experts with the information necessary (i.e., volume and revenue assumptions) to assess the fundamental feasibility of different project alternatives.
Publicizing the Facility
Once a facility has been approved and is under construction, project planners may turn their focus to publicizing the coming facility. Some project sponsors have relied on direct mailings to potential user households. Radio and other media advertisements have also been used. Press releases announcing the new facility may draw coverage in local and regional newspapers, and many HOT facility sponsors have also launched dedicated websites providing information and applications for using the facility.
Maintaining Customers and Attracting New Users
Once a HOT facility is operational, maintaining communication with the public must be a priority. Facility managers need to know whether current customers are satisfied with the facility and related services, and communicate with users when any facility changes are anticipated. For example, within one year of opening, a facility may require adjustments to the toll schedule to manage current traffic levels. Established lines of communication with customers can be used to describe what changes are anticipated and why they may be necessary. Some facilities have relied on regular newsletters, and websites with customer updates are also popular. Continued marketing is also relevant in efforts to increase the number of facility users.
Marketing professionals offer a range of services and methods for reaching the public to meet the needs of HOT facility planning. The following list, while not exhaustive, provides various examples of marketing tools that may find application in HOT lane planning, implementation and operation:
Figure 4 shows informational materials developed for the I-15 in San Diego, while Figure 5 provides screen capture of the SR 91 Express Lanes Homepage.
Although media outlets are not stakeholders in the conventional sense, they belong among the list of contacts that warrant inclusion in public outreach efforts. Establishing media relationships early on in a project can help to ensure the facts about the proposed project are publicized. A variety of media relation strategies are identified in the HOV Marketing Manual.
Ultimately, the goal of a public involvement program in support of the HOT lane concept is to achieve consensus on a program of action. While one segment of the population may strongly favor HOT lanes, another segment may feel it derives little benefit from the proposed facility. As with any proposed transportation improvement, HOT lanes may have documented potential for technical and operational success, but may not find unanimous approval among constituents in the corridor.
Stakeholders may posses a range of opinions about the HOT facility, but consensus on a course of action is more likely if the public has been engaged in all the issues and if stakeholders agree upon the following:
Achieving Consensus: Key Objectives for the Project Sponsor
Project sponsors that manage inclusive, responsive and effective outreach to stakeholders establish their own legitimacy and the legitimacy of the technical analyses, decision-making, and public processes that support project implementation.
7 The five case studies presented in later in Chapter 7 document the roles that various project champions have played in the development of the HOT lane initiatives described.
8 A shift from SOVs to carpools or transit would occur if solo-drivers capitalized on reduced rate or free usage of the HOT lane, or if the travel time savings of transit vehicles in the HOV lane attracted solo-drivers to transit.
9 State of California, Department of Transportation, Continuation Study to Evaluate the Impacts of the SR 91 Value-Priced Express Lanes: Final Report, December 2000.
10 See for example: http://www.hou-metro.harris.tx.us/services/quickride.asp (Katy Freeway); http://argo.sandag.org/fastrak/ (I-15 FasTrak); http://www.91expresslanes.com/ (SR-91 Express Lanes); and http://www.valuelanes.com/index2.html (I-25 corridor in Denver).
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