Express Lanes

What is the objective?

The California HOV/Express Lane Business Plan is a framework for Caltrans and its partners to focus statewide activity during 2009-2011 that will lead the state to easily implement more flexible and effective system management strategies for HOV and Express Lane, also known as High Occupancy Tolling (HOT) or Managed Lane. The ultimate vision is a transportation system offering new commute choices and more reliable travel through congested corridors; where congestion is managed and the availability of an express service option is greatly improved, and where governments at all levels work together to manage demand with effective monitoring and adjustment of operations and design. In this Business Plan, Caltrans, regional transportation agencies, FHWA and the CHP, have developed a coordinated framework to guide the current and future development and operation of HOV and Express Lane throughout the state, capitalizing on strong partnerships and operating strategies already in place.

Where we are today?

Over the last 30 years, a system of HOV lanes has developed as part of the California freeway system; another innovation, Express Lane were first added to the system more than 15 years ago. Today over 1,500 miles of HOV lanes, including three Express Lanes, are either operational or under construction with over 1,200 additional miles of HOV or Express Lane programmed or proposed.

HOV lanes succeeded in providing an express service incentive for motorists to double-up and carpool, but according to a recent Federal report on their performance, nearly half of California’s HOV lanes are now congested during peak hours due to high demand. At the same time, other portions of the HOV system are actually underutilized and may require a new operating strategy. The ability of the HOV system to reduce congestion will diminish under current operating approaches if no action is taken.

This Business Plan focuses on those aspects of HOV and Express Lane development and operations that can and should be addressed at a state level to increase California’s ability to manage congestion with HOV and Express Lane. Many other very important issues are being addressed and decided appropriately at a local level. The state level challenges being addressed by this Business Plan include:

  • Monitoring and managing system performance.
  • Redefining roles and responsibilities.
  • Updating policies and guidelines.
  • Coordinating general public outreach.

Where we want to be?

To restore acceptable service levels, the State of California is embarking on an evolutionary approach to enhance the HOV and Express Lane system. Part of the State’s plan is to provide transportation agencies the direction and flexibility needed to aggressively initiate innovative congestion management strategies. These strategies would include the ability to make careful yet bold decisions of design geometry, access, striping, signing, hours of operation, minimum occupancy requirements, toll technologies and strategies, implementation phasing, partnership roles, and more. A consensus vision for the future of Express Lane in California is defined in the Business Plan. That future system would:

  • Offer new and reliable mobility choices.
  • Provide, for the driver’s benefit, consistent facilities with coordinated, recognizable design and a seamlessly connected network.
  • Conform, where possible, to established policies, standards, and guidelines, while making changes to enable innovative project development and management as needs, methods, and technologies evolve.
  • Measure performance using consistent statewide procedures for research, data collection and performance reporting, enabling decision making and allowing the HOV/Express Lane system to be managed and operated efficiently.
  • Encompass the views of stakeholders working together under a renewed commitment to partnership that includes coordination, communication and mutual support.

How do we get there?

A group of stakeholders comprised of executive directors, policy makers, technical staff, and operational managers from regional transportation agencies, California Highway Patrol, Federal Highway Administration, and Caltrans, convened and developed this Business Plan as an initial step toward a new generation of HOV and Express Lane. To achieve the vision, the plan outlines four primary areas of focus:

  • How to enhance system performance.
  • How to increase communication and collaboration among partners.
  • How to facilitate effective implementation of the system.
  • How to increase public acceptance.

The critical actions to achieve the Business Plan vision are designed to provide a statewide perspective in supporting regional solutions. The actions are not comprehensive and only represent those that need to happen at the statewide level. Local actions, successes, and leadership continue to be encouraged.