Tolling and Managed Lanes – Shifting A Mindset!

As congestion grows and the need for reliable forms of transportation increases, the tolling industry’s focus must change from using tolling as a revenue source to using it within a managed lanes facility to manage congestion. Often, transportation officials tell the public that new managed lanes will generate revenue to help improve transportation facilities or that tolls only will be in place until the original project costs are paid back. For managed lanes projects, however, this misinforms the public and can mitigate the perceived effectiveness of continuously managing congestion along a heavily traveled corridor.

Lane pricing can be the only true means to effectively manage traffic volume in a system. Revenue from tolling is a result of managed lanes, but should not be the focus. Very few managed lanes projects generate enough revenue to cover operations, maintenance, and capital costs (Figure 1). Therefore, the focus of these projects should be managing congestion, providing trip reliability, and the ability to do so even as conditions change.

Figure 1 – From 2012 FHWA Priced Managed Lanes Guide

As more priced managed lanes facilities are developed, this consideration should spill into the feasibility analysis of managed lanes networks. This means the entire network of priced managed lanes should be analyzed for feasibility, as opposed to single projects. Often, pockets of managed lanes networks do not function alone. These pockets require the support of other projects around them in order to stand together as a viable traveling option during heavy congestion. Establishing a network of managed lanes in heavily congested urban areas can lead to improved mobility and greater trip reliability.

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About the author

Michael Davis, PE, DBIA
Michael Davis, PE, DBIA
Mike serves as the Tolls Service Group Leader for RS&H and has more than 22 years of experience in the transportation industry, including 15 years dedicated to managed lanes and tolling. During his diverse career, he has helped manage the development of managed lanes systems throughout the United States, including Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and California.

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