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Section 2: Operational Description of the Nation’s HOV Lanes

The intent of the HOV Lane Compendium deliverable was to document the basic characteristics of current and proposed High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes throughout the United States.  Data sources used were the HOV Facility Inventory (a database maintained by the FHWA HOV Pooled Fund Study, last updated in March 2007) and discussions with select HOV facility critical partners.

Summary information from this compendium is provided next.  This information is grouped into the following subsections: Number of Facilities; Date Opened and Status; Operating Characteristics; and Operating Performance.  The HOV Lane Compendium itself is provided as a separate deliverable.

Number of Facilities

By State.  A total of 345 HOV facilities are contained in this inventory.  California is the state with the most HOV facilities, at 88.  This is followed by Minnesota with 83 facilities, Washington State with 41, Texas with 35, and Virginia with 21.

By Region.  The region with the most HOV facilities in the inventory is the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-Saint Paul) with 83.  This is followed by the San Francisco Bay Area with 47, the Puget Sound (Seattle-Tacoma) with 40, Los Angeles with 23, and Houston with 21.

By Responsible Agency.  The agencies responsible for the most HOV facilities in the inventory are the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Minneapolis DOT, both with 83.  This is followed by the Washington State DOT with 38, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County in Texas with 21, and the Virginia DOT with 19.

Date Opened and Status

Date Opened.  The I-395 HOV lanes in Virginia between Washington DC and the Capital Beltway are listed as the oldest HOV facilities, having opened in 1969.  Several more HOV facilities opened in the 1970s.  The majority of HOV facilities in the inventory began operation within the past 25 years (from the early 1980s to present).

Status.  Of the 345 HOV facilities in the inventory, 301 (87 percent) are open and in operation.  Ten facilities (3 percent) are being planned, 15 (4 percent) are in the design or environmental review phase, 14 (4 percent) are under construction, and the remaining five (1 percent) were constructed but are currently inactive.

Operating Characteristics

Number of HOV Lanes.  The vast majority of HOV facilities have one HOV lane in each direction.  The only active facility with two HOV lanes in each direction is I-110 between Adams Blvd. and SR 91 in Los Angeles, California.  Seven other facilities with two HOV lanes in each direction are being planned, under construction, or operating – One in Florida: I-95 between downtown and the Golden Glades interchange in Miami; three in Texas: SR 183 between I-35 W and Loop 12 in Dallas, Hempstead Highway between SH 99 and I-610 in Houston, and SR 288 between SH 518 and US 59 in Houston; one in Utah: I-15 between Provo and I-215 in Salt Lake City; and two in Virginia: the I-495 Capital Beltway in the Washington DC region and the I-95/I-395 between Fredericksburg and Arlington.

Length.  The longest active HOV facilities are I-95 between SR 112 and Gateway Blvd. in Miami, Florida (116.0 lane-miles, 58.0 route miles) and I-405 in Los Angeles County, California (105.2 lane-miles, 52.6 route miles).  Two other HOV facilities are being planned or constructed that will exceed these in length on a lane-mile basis: the I-495 Capital Beltway in the Washington DC region in Virginia (224.0 lane-miles, 56.0 route miles), and I-15 between Provo and I-215 in Salt Lake City, Utah (128.0 lane-miles, 32.0 route miles).

Type.  The most common type of HOV facility is Concurrent (Median), with 187 facilities (54 percent) falling into that category.  Only four HOV facilities are Concurrent (Right Side): the I-95 approach to the George Washington Bridge toll plaza in New Jersey and three SR 520 facilities in Washington State which will be converted to the inside lane when the SR 520 bridge is replaced.

In the Twin Cities, Minnesota, 77 of the 83 HOV facilities in the region are bus-only shoulder lanes.  In Houston, Texas, 13 of the 21 HOV facilities in the region are concurrent lanes on one-way urban arterials.

There are 37 reversible or contra flow HOV facilities nationwide.  There are 15 HOV facilities that are separate roadways.  The remaining HOV facilities are curb lanes, bus only lanes, other or unspecified.

Separation.  The most common separation used for HOV facilities is Painted Stripe, with 118 (34 percent) falling into that category.  There are 60 HOV facilities (17 percent) that use buffers.  There are 45 HOV facilities (13 percent) that use barriers.  Of those that use barriers, six are moveable barriers to facilitate reversible HOV lanes (H-1 in Honolulu, Hawaii; I-93 between Boston and Quincy in Massachusetts; I-278 between the Verrazano Bridge and Battery Tunnel in New York; I-495 between Maurice Ave. and QM Tunnel in New York; and two I-30 facilities in Dallas, Texas – one that is open and another that is under construction).

In the Twin Cities, Minnesota, the 77 bus-only shoulder lanes are separated by a traveled lane edge line with signage.  In Houston, Texas, the 13 concurrent lane facilities on one-way urban arterials are separated by a dashed line with “broken diamond” pavement markings.  Standard dash lines are used for 9 facilities, which are all arterials.

Cones or pylons are used for two facilities in Honolulu, Hawaii (Kalanianaole Highway and Nimitz Highway), one facility in Union City, New Jersey (I-495 contra flow bus only lane), and one facility in Weehawken, New Jersey (local approach ramp to the Turnpike toll plaza).  The remaining HOV facilities do not have the separation method specified.

HOV Eligibility.  185 of the HOV facilities in the inventory (54 percent) are purely 2+.  There are 14 facilities (4 percent) that are purely 3+.  There are two facilities that are 3+ during certain times of the day and 2+ during other times of the day – the I-10 El Monte HOV facility in Los Angeles, California and the Nimitz Highway in Honolulu, Hawaii.

There are six facilities that are open to 2+ HOV vehicles with no toll and to single-occupancy vehicles (SOVs) with a toll (i.e., 2+ high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes): SR 91 between Riverside County and Orange County in Los Angeles, California; I-15 between SR 163 and SR 56 in San Diego, California; two in Denver, Colorado (I-25 between downtown and US 36, US 36 between Pecos St.); and two in Salt Lake City (I-15 between 600 North and 14600 South, I-15 between 14600 South and University Parkway).  Three additional 2+ HOT facilities are being planned: two facilities on I-680 in the San Francisco Bay Area, California and one on I-15 between 600 North and University Parkway in Salt Lake City, Utah.

There are two facilities that are open to 3+ HOV vehicles with no toll and to 2+ HOVs and SOVs with a toll (i.e., 3+ HOT lanes), both in the New York City region: I-495 between Maurice Ave. and QM Tunnel and I-278 between Verrazano Bridge and Battery Tunnel.  Four additional 3+ HOT facilities are in the planning or construction phase: I-40 between Durham and Raleigh in North Carolina; SR 183 between I-35W and Loop 12 in Dallas, Texas; I-95/I-395 between Fredericksburg and Arlington in Virginia; and the I-495 Capital Beltway in northern Virginia.

Two facilities operate as 2+ HOT at certain times and 3+ HOT at other times, both in Houston, Texas: US 290 between I-10 and SH 6 and I-10 WB (SH 99 to I-610 & Studemont to CBD).

Five toll plazas in the San Francisco Bay Area, California are free to either 2+ or 3+ HOVs during weekday peak periods: the I-80 WB Bay Bridge (3+), the I-880 NB Bridge (3+), the I-80 EB Carquinez Bridge (3+), the SR 84 WB Dumbarton Bridge (2+), and the SR 92 WB San Mateo Bridge (2+).  Three toll plazas in New Jersey are free to 3+ HOVs during weekday AM peak periods: I-95 approach to the George Washington Bridge in Ft. Lee, 12th St. approach to the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City, and local approach ramp to the Turnpike toll plaza in Weehawken.

In the Twin Cities, Minnesota, the 77 bus-only shoulder lanes are restricted to buses only.  There are 7 other bus only facilities in other states.  The remaining HOV facilities in the inventory do not have occupancy requirements specified.

Special Fuel Eligibility.  Several states allow hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles to use HOV facilities.  In Arizona, owners of select hybrid vehicles may apply for special license plates that allow them to use HOV lanes.  In California, owners of select hybrid vehicles were allowed to apply for license plate decals that allow them to use HOV lanes until 2011, capped at 85,000 decals (all 85,000 decals have been assigned).  In Colorado, owners of select alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles may apply for license plate decals and transponders that allow them to use HOT lanes with no fee, capped at 2,000 (the cap has not yet been reached).  In Florida, owners of select hybrid vehicles may apply for license plate decals that allow them to use HOV lanes.  In New Jersey, drivers of select hybrid vehicles are allowed to use the Turnpike’s HOV lanes.  In New York, owners of select hybrid vehicles may apply for license plate stickers that allow them to use the Long Island Expressway’s HOV lanes.  In Tennessee, owners of select hybrid vehicles will be able to apply for license plate decals that allow them to use HOV lanes starting in January 2009.  In Utah, owners of select hybrid vehicles may apply for special license plates that allow them to use HOV lanes until December 2010.  In Virginia, owners of select hybrid vehicles may apply for special license plates that allow them to use most HOV lanes in the state (except I-95/I-395 during weekday peak periods).

Similar hybrid vehicle HOV legislation is currently being considered or has recently been considered in Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, and Washington State.

Hours of Operation.  140 of the HOV facilities in the inventory (41 percent) operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  This includes the 77 bus-only shoulder lane facilities in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.  156 facilities (45 percent) operate on weekdays only during the AM peak, the PM peak, or both.  The remaining HOV facilities do not have hours of operation specified.

Intermediate Access.  41 of the HOV facilities in the inventory (12 percent) allow continuous access, primarily in Northern California, Houston Texas, and Washington State.  180 facilities (52 percent) allow some intermediate access.  26 facilities (8 percent) allow no intermediate access, including select facilities in Arizona, Southern California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, and Dallas Texas.  The remaining HOV facilities do not have intermediate access specified.

Operating Performance

Utilization.  Most of the HOV facilities in the inventory do not provide utilization data, so it is difficult to make definitive statements.  Of the HOV facilities with utilization data provided, the one with the highest number of peak hour persons in the HOV lanes is the Route 495 Lincoln Tunnel Bus Lane in New Jersey, with 23,500 vehicles in the AM peak.  The facility with the highest number of peak hour vehicles in the HOV lanes is I-5 NB between Northgate and S. Everett in the Seattle Puget Sound region in Washington State, with 5,280 vehicles in the PM peak.

Peak Hour Violation Rate.  Most of the HOV facilities in the inventory do not provide peak hour violation rate data, so it is difficult to make definitive statements.  Of the 86 HOV facilities with data provided, the range is from 1 percent to 43 percent.  The highest reported peak hour violation rates are I-15 between SR 163 and SR 56 in San Diego, California (43 percent), I-35W SB between 66th St. and Burnsville Pkwy. in the Twin Cities, Minnesota (37 percent), SR 54 EB between I-805 and SR 125 in San Diego, California (28 percent), and seven facilities in the Washington DC region, either in Maryland or Virginia (ranging from 17 to 28 percent).  The other 76 HOV facilities with data provided reported peak hour violation rates of 15 percent or less.

Peak Hour Travel Time Savings.  Most of the HOV facilities in the inventory do not provide peak hour travel time savings data, so it is difficult to make definitive statements.  Of the 91 HOV facilities with data provided, the range is from 0.4 minutes to 37 minutes.  The highest reported peak hour travel time savings are SR 85 NB in the San Francisco Bay Area, California (37 minutes), I-95 NB between Rte 234 and I-495 in the Washington DC region, Virginia (35 minutes), I-880 SB between Marina Blvd. and Mission Blvd. in the San Francisco Bay Area, California (31 minutes), US 101 SB between San Mateo County and Cochrane Rd. in the San Francisco Bay Area, California (30 minutes), and the I-10 El Monte HOV facility in Los Angeles, California (28 minutes).  Seven other facilities report travel time savings of 20 minutes or more – I-110 in Los Angeles, California; I-210 in Los Angeles, California; I-405 in Los Angeles, California; SR 85 SB in San Francisco, California; Rte. 495 in New Jersey, I-66 EB in Virginia; and I-395 SB in Virginia.
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December 2008
FHWA-HOP-09-029

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