Impacts of COVID-19 on the Operational Performance of Express Lanes and General-Purpose Lanes

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Transportation Research Record


The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak brought significant changes in the travel behavior and operational characteristics of transportation systems. Express lanes (ELs) are among the transportation facilities that are affected by this pandemic. These facilities are built adjacent to existing general-purpose lanes (GPLs), providing drivers additional lanes that are dynamically priced in response to changing traffic conditions. This research investigated the impacts of COVID-19 on the operational performance of ELs and GPLs based on field data from a 5.5 mi corridor on I-95 in Miami, Florida, U.S. The traffic flow parameters, which include speed, traffic flow, and occupancy, were used to describe the traffic conditions before and during COVID-19 (i.e., March-June 2019 and March-June 2020, respectively). The travel time reliability measures, coefficient of variation of travel time, and planning time index, were used to measure user satisfaction. These metrics were derived from a multivariate Bayesian additive regression model that was developed to calibrate the traffic conditions on the study corridor. Overall, the model results indicated that both ELs and GPLs have less variation in travel time, thus making the travel time more reliable during COVID-19 than before. This may be attributed to the decline in the traffic volume observed during the pandemic. The results further showed that COVID-19 had more impact on the GPLs compared with the ELs. The results from this research could assist transportation agencies in understanding the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on ELs and GPLs in relation to traffic operations.