Strategic Initiatives to Reduce Congestion
To many motorists and other road users, escaping the impacts of highway congestion may seem impossible. For most of them, dealing with traffic means scheduling additional time for trips to work, meetings, or events and therefore spending less time with families and friends. For all, the impact of a less efficient freight transportation system results in higher costs for products and services. Without dramatic changes in the way transportation is managed, operated, and priced, traffic congestion will continue to worsen.
With the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America’s Transportation Network (also known as the “Congestion Initiative”), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) adopted the mission to reduce the level of congestion on the Nation’s roads. One byproduct of this strategic approach was to add congestion pricing into the toolbox of solutions. Congestion pricing involves charging travelers for the costs (including increased congestion) incurred from their usage of the transportation system. Pricing is a way to bring the demand for a facility into alignment with the available capacity -- thereby providing a significantly higher, and more reliable, level of service.
USDOT is promoting the use of road pricing by providing focused support to five Urban Partner cities (Miami, Minneapolis, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle) as the cities experiment with bold and innovative congestion pricing strategies. The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Office of Transportation Management plays a lead role in coordinating this support effort and at the same time is advancing a robust program designed to better understand the pros and cons of congestion pricing. The office also is offering outreach and technical assistance to increase awareness of pricing as a strategy to relieve congestion.
At the State level, transportation agencies across the Nation are adopting day-to-day operational and investment practices that result in more efficient highway performance. Increasingly, the transportation community is implementing coordinated management and operational strategies, such as integrated corridor management (ICM). The ICM strategy is defined as the coordination of individual network operations between adjacent facilities that creates an interconnected system capable of cross-network travel management.
ICM calls for a multimodal, integrated approach to moving travelers and goods through a transportation corridor. The ICM approach brings together a myriad of management and operational strategies ranging from incident management to traveler information systems and active traffic management. ICM will improve the operational efficiency of corridors and provide travelers with real-time information to help them make more informed decisions as to which routes to take, which modes to use, and when (or if) to make their trips. For more on ICM, see the article “Integrated Corridor Management” on page 30 of this issue of Public Roads.
To reduce congestion, the Nation must continue to develop a well-run, efficient system that empowers users to make trip choices that suit their needs. With the help of innovative strategies like pricing and ICM, FHWA and the transportation community are tackling the congestion problem head on. Tomorrow’s transportation system will flow from the actions of the transportation community today.
Regina S. McElroy
Director, Office of Transportation Management
Federal Highway Administration