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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Deploying Lanes for High Occupancy Vehicles in Urban Areas

  • Author(s): Cassidy, Michael J.
  • Daganzo, Carlos F.
  • et al.

Simulations and field experiments in previous works suggest that a freeway’s general purpose lanes (those not dedicated to high occupancy vehicles) discharge vehicles from bottlenecks at an equal or higher average rate when one of the lanes is devoted to high occupancy vehicles than when it is not. This result was used in these previous works to develop formulae for the total discharge rate of bottlenecks, with and without dedicated lanes, as a function of the percentage of high occupancy vehicles in the traffic stream.

This present paper extends these ideas by examining the effect of dedicated lanes on the density of traffic queues. We find that an underutilized dedicated lane reduces a queue’s density (in vehicles per km of freeway) when the downstream flow of both high occupancy and low occupancy vehicles is the same in both scenarios and exogenously determined; e.g., as would happen if the queue’s service rate is dictated by recurrent downstream congestion. A formula is given; and the reduction in density turns out to be small if the underutilization is small.

Reductions in queue density without changes in bottleneck flows or traffic demand imply spatially longer queues, and this could be problematic. The paper also shows that the extra space consumed by a queue adjacent to a dedicated lane can contribute significantly to congestion, but only if heavily traveled routes that do not go through the bottleneck pass through this extra space. To quantify this effect, the paper analyzes dedicated lanes on multi-ramp freeways and beltways. Formulae are given for the changes in the people-hours and vehicle-hours of travel due to dedicated lanes both, when there is uncongested freeway space upstream of the queue for it to expand, and when there is not. The recipes are based on readily observable data and can be used to evaluate existing and planned installations of dedicated lanes. Building on these formulae, the paper finally presents qualitative principles that can be used to plan city-wide systems of both, high occupancy vehicle lanes on freeways and dedicated bus lanes on surface streets.

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