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Understanding the emission impacts of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane conversions: Experience from Atlanta, Georgia

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Converting a congested high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane into a high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane is a viable option for improving travel time reliability for carpools and buses that use the managed lane. However, the emission impacts of HOV-to-HOT conversions are not well understood. The lack of emission impact quantification for HOT conversions creates a policy challenge for agencies making transportation funding choices. The goal of this paper is to evaluate the case study of before-and-after changes in vehicle emissions for the Atlanta, Georgia, I-85 HOV/HOT lane conversion project, implemented in October 2011. The analyses employed the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) for project-level analysis with monitored changes in vehicle activity data collected by Georgia Tech researchers for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). During the quarterly field data collection from 2010 to 2012, more than 1.5 million license plates were observed and matched to vehicle class and age information using the vehicle registration database. The study also utilized the 20-sec, lane-specific traffic operations data from the Georgia NaviGAtor intelligent transportation system, as well as a direct feed of HOT lane usage data from the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) managed lane system. As such, the analyses in this paper simultaneously assessed the impacts associated with changes in traffic volumes, on-road operating conditions, and fleet composition before and after the conversion. Both greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants were examined.

Implications: A straight before-after analysis showed about 5% decrease in air pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2). However, when the before-after calendar year of analysis was held constant (to account for the effect of 1 yr of fleet turnover), mass emissions at the analysis site during peak hours increased by as much as 17%, with little change in CO2. Further investigation revealed that a large percentage decrease in criteria pollutants in the straight before-after analysis was associated with a single calendar year change in MOVES. Hence, the Atlanta, Georgia, results suggest that an HOV-to-HOT conversion project may have increased mass emissions on the corridor. The results also showcase the importance of obtaining on-road data for emission impact assessment of HOV-to-HOT conversion projects.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, USA

Publication date: August 3, 2017

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