What are managed lanes?
According to the Federal Highway Administration, managed lanes are highway lanes where operational strategies are proactively implemented and managed in response to changing conditions.
The diagram below (click to enlarge) captures the potential lane management applications that fall under the broad definition of “managed lanes.” On the left of the diagram are the applications of a single operational strategy. As you move to the right on the diagram, you get into more complex managed lane facilities that blend more than one of the strategies.
Managed lane strategies fall into three main categories:
There is a growing assumption that any form of a managed lane is synonymous with a tolling operation. While this is sometimes true, it is not a given. Lane management encompasses a wide variety of strategies, including but not limited to:
Alone or combined, all of these lane types are under the umbrella of a comprehensive managed lane strategy.
Why do we use managed lanes?
Managed lanes are vital for reducing congestion and offering drivers more reliable timeframes for getting to their destinations. By actively managing the flow of traffic in a lane, transportation agencies are able to adjust lane strategies as needed to maximize roadway efficiency, improving traffic flow on both the managed and general-purpose lanes.
Loop 1/Mopac Expressway in Austin, TX — managed lane on left, general purpose lanes on right. Select the photo to view a larger image.
How do they benefit drivers?
Why not just add more general-purpose lanes?
Unfortunately, we cannot build our way out of our congestion problems. Studies show that, even where space is not limited, adding capacity very quickly leads to increased volume. In other words, if you increase capacity on a roadway by 10 percent, the number of cars on that roadway will increase by the same 10 percent. Strategic management of lanes on existing and proposed roadways is critical to achieving improved travel times for everyone.
How are managed lane strategies deployed in Texas?
In Texas, the majority of managed lanes contain no fee component. Where fee-based managed lanes exist, they offer drivers the option and convenience of bypassing congestion on adjacent general-purpose lanes.
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