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Against the backdrop of increasing roadway congestion in major urban areas, a decline in mode share for car pools, and expanded implementation of HOV networks, HOT lanes represent a promising opportunity to provide new and enhanced mobility options for motorists and transit users on congested highway corridors.
This combination of features demonstrates the promise of managing existing or new capacity in metropolitan areas. HOT lane networks provide a richer array of mobility services to carpoolers, transit riders, urgent trip makers and other users. In addition they generate a new source of revenue which can be used to offset their implementation costs and support other transportation improvements, including enhanced transit service.
Given that the HOT lane concept is relatively new and has not yet been widely deployed, it is important to recognize the contexts into which HOT lanes can be most effectively introduced. These include:
While it is possible to allow limited scale HOT lane use on single-lane HOV facilities, it is preferable to implement HOT operations on facilities providing more than one travel lane per direction.
HOT lanes bring a wide variety of benefits to the driving public and transit users alike. When applied in conjunction with other management tools and the sensible, targeted provision of additional lane capacity, HOT lanes have the potential to afford significant improvements in congested travel corridors. The primary benefits of HOT lanes are that they provide the driving public with a new choice premium and predictable travel conditions on corridors were conditions would otherwise be congested. At the same time they maximize the use of managed lanes including HOV lanes without causing traffic service to fall below desired levels. These powerful dynamics also afford a wide range of related benefits, including:
Despite its many benefits, the HOT concept has generated spirited debate among transportation professionals, politicians, and public advocates. Most of these discussions have focused on the publics willingness to pay for premium travel conditions in congested highway corridors and the perceived equity issues involved in providing such service to those who choose to pay for it.
Extensive survey efforts demonstrate that the four existing HOT facilities are popular with local motorists. Moreover this support is consistent among motorists of all income levels, including both those who use existing HOT lanes on a regular basis and those who do not. Experience has show that most motorists use HOT facilities on a selective basis when trip purpose justifies the expense regardless of income.
Additional public opinion research conducted around the country demonstrates that the public understands the value pricing concept and that a majority of motorists in many congested areas would be willing to pay for improved travel conditions. These results suggest that the public at large may be more willing than political leaders to support new HOT lane projects.
Effective public outreach is essential in garnering support for the HOT lanes and must continue throughout project planning, implementation and operation. New concepts such as HOT lanes are heavily dependent on the support of respected public figures who are willing to act as vocal project champions. They may include elected officials, community advocates, or private sector leaders who are recognized consensus builders. Experience demonstrates that a single champion can make or break a HOT project.
There are a number of other lessons that can be culled from the nations collective experience to date, including several key conceptual and institutional findings:
With four HOT lane facilities operating in the Untied States in mid-2002, the potential of the HOT lane concept is not yet fully recognized and may not be considered in some situations where it could be appropriate. The HOT lane concept provides a cost-effective opportunity to allow the nations extensive HOV and express lane networks to be managed and operated more efficiently. HOT lanes provide new opportunities for transit vehicles, HOVs, and other paying motorists to avoid congested highway lanes, while at the same time easing congestion on parallel general purpose lanes. Moreover, in addition to enhancing mobility at the corridor level, HOT lanes also generate new revenue streams that can be used to pay for their own implementation or to support other transportation improvements including transit service enhancements.
Professional and policy communities in the United States are just beginning to recognize the powerful benefits HOT lanes provide and build on the nations initial HOT lane experiments. It is hoped that the information contained in the guide will encourage continued expansion of the concept.
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