MnPASS Modeling and Pricing Algorithm Enhancement
John Hourdos, Michael Janson, David M Levinson, Gordon Parikh
Report no. MnDOT 2015-22
While High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes have been used for decades as a strategy for mitigating congestion, research has shown that they are not always effective. A 2001 study of the I-394 and I-35W HOV lanes in Minnesota found that the HOV lanes were on average underutilized, moving fewer people than the General-Purpose Lanes (GPL) even with the increased number of passengers per vehicle. To address the issue of underuse, in 2003 the Minnesota Legislature authorized the conversion of the I-394 HOV lanes into High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, named the MnPASS Express Lanes. The MnPASS lanes operate using a fully dynamic pricing schedule, where pricing is dictated by the level of congestion in the HOT lane. To better understand the nature of HOT lanes and the decisions of their users, this study explored the possibilities for a microscopic traffic simulation-based model of HOT lanes. Based on a series of field studies where the price of the toll was changed while observing changes in demand in the HOT lane, models describing the lane choice behavior of MnPASS users were developed and calibrated. These models interfaced with the traffic simulation software Aimsun through a number of extension modules and tested on the two MnPASS corridors of I-394 and I35W corridors in the west and south suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The integrated HOT simulation tool was also used to develop and test a number of alternative pricing strategies including a more efficient version of the current strategy.