Sweden and Virginia: Messaging and variable tolls can influence mode choice

Two recent studies demonstrate two approaches to reducing driving. A Swedish study looked at what types of messages influence the choice to drive, while a report from Virginia shows that tolls on the I-66 corridor outside Washington have made a difference in both mode choice and when drivers travel.

Growing support for mileage-based user fees

Recent survey results from HNTB indicate growing public support for road-user fees, such as mileage-based user fees and tolls, as a way of paying for transportation infrastructure. These findings show a sharp jump in support for the idea over the last two years as more states, including Oregon, California, Minnesota, and Washington introduce pilot programs or studies and the public becomes more familiar with the concept.

CBO report suggests changes to increase productivity of federal highway program

The Congressional Budget Office just released a new report that outlines problems with the way the federal government spends money on highways and suggests some potential fixes. The report argues that financial challenges have made it even more important that highway funding is spent in the most productive way possible, i.e., maintenance should be prioritized over expansion and spending should better correspond to highways’ use and economic value.

Do HOV to HOT conversions decrease carpooling?

A study from Texas A&M asks whether carpooling decreases when lanes are converted from high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to lanes allowing solo drivers to pay a toll. The researchers studied eight roadway segments in six states and found that carpooling often declined when lanes were converted from HOV-only to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes that charge solo drivers a fee to use the supposedly faster restricted lanes.

VA Supreme Court: Tunnel tolls are user fees, not taxes

In a ruling denounced by the Portsmouth business community and commuters, but applauded by VDOT, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously overturned a ruling by a lower court that held the tolls imposed to pay for tunnel expansions and maintenance in Portsmouth are unconstitutionally-imposed taxes. The Supreme Court instead ruled that the tolls are indeed user fees for the benefit of those that use the tunnels, not the general public. The tolls are being used solely to pay for the project, not to raise general revenue; and drivers are not compelled to use the tunnels, so can avoid the tolls. VDOT worried that if the lower court ruling stood it could hamper private-public partnerships in other parts of the state and call into question the entire Public Private Transportation Act of 1995.

VA Supreme Court: Tunnel tolls are user fees, not taxes

In a ruling denounced by the Portsmouth business community and commuters, but applauded by VDOT, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously overturned a ruling by a lower court that held the tolls imposed to pay for tunnel expansions and maintenance in Portsmouth are unconstitutionally-imposed taxes. The Supreme Court instead ruled that the tolls are indeed user fees for the benefit of those that use the tunnels, not the general public. The tolls are being used solely to pay for the project, not to raise general revenue; and drivers are not compelled to use the tunnels, so can avoid the tolls. VDOT worried that if the lower court ruling stood it could hamper private-public partnerships in other parts of the state and call into question the entire Public Private Transportation Act of 1995.

With trend towards road tolling, demand forecasting critical

As VMT decreases, forecasting demand and toll revenues for new projects is becoming increasingly difficult. DOTs should consider three new factors in traffic forecasting: first, how flat-to-declining VMT will affect revenues collected; second, how the presence of untolled parallel roadways will also impact toll revenue; and third, how driver value-of-time plays into roadway choice, also affecting toll collection.

HOT lane study points to importance of reliability over average delay

A new University of Minnesota study on driver behavior in managed lanes provides some findings that on the surface seem highly counter-intuitive, but that may have a simple explanation. Travelers care more about reliability than delay. The first surprising result is that travelers were willing to pay large tolls to access HOT lanes. Also, rather than discouraging HOT lane use, increases in tolls actually encouraged more drivers to opt for those lanes