Grow regional road pricing policies from individual projects and develop modeling tools that reflect a wide range of impacts.

Experience in four metropolitan areas

Date Posted

Advancing Congestion Pricing in the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Process: Four Case Studies

Summary Information

This study examined the implementation of road pricing programs in the Dallas/Fort Worth region, the Puget Sound region, the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, and the San Francisco Bay area. Experiences and implementation strategies were compared to identify common themes and lessons learned useful to other regions seeking to implement similar systems.

Road Pricing concepts were categorized as follows:


  • New toll roads, bridges, and tunnels
  • Tolls on existing roads, bridges, and tunnels


  • High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes (Managed by HOV lanes)
  • Express toll lanes


  • Cordon pricing
  • Area pricing


  • Vehicle-miles Traveled (VMT) Fees

In the United States, tolling on new highways is well understood and generally accepted by most people and elected officials. Road pricing, however, involves more than just flat tolling on highways to support financing of new infrastructure. It involves charging a fee to generate revenue, manage traffic congestion, or both. Fees can vary by time of day, vehicle type, roadway, lane, area, or the regional network being used.

This source report examined four successful regional programs where road pricing was adopted and included in long-range planning.

Lessons Learned

The following key themes and lessons learned summarize the findings of a literature review and the documents referenced in Appendix B of the source report.


  • Grow regional road pricing policies from individual projects. Individual project proposals can be used to introduce pricing concepts to a metropolitan area and facilitate integration of pricing concepts into long-range plans and vision statements. Results from the literature review suggest that once individual road pricing projects are underway and gaining favorable response, regional and state governments will adopt them into their long-range plans and develop supportive policies.
  • Develop the right modeling tools. Basic four-step travel demand models are not well suited to represent the complex societal changes that extensive road pricing projects can bring about. The goals, vision, and priorities of a particular region will shape how modeling tools are developed. For example, in the Twin Cities area the main question from a regional perspective focused primarily on how many people would choose to use managed lanes and at what price. Relatively simple modifications were required to update traffic assignment routines previously unable to account for more complicated changes in travel patterns such as changes to trip distribution patterns, trip-making volume, or housing/job location decisions. In the Puget Sound region, another example described how policy boards tasked with developing long-range plans that included extensive pricing and VMT fees demanded better answers relating to changes in driver behavior as well as development patterns and economic impacts. Thus, the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) spent several years developing new travel demand modeling and benefit–to-cost analysis techniques.
  • Maintain visibility for tolling and road pricing projects. Communicating road pricing concepts and building consensus can be difficult, especially when those concepts are unknown and untested. Engage the public incrementally. For example, in the Dallas/Fort Worth region, road pricing was perceived as a logical outgrowth of decades of toll road development. An incremental approach aided in public and stakeholder acceptance.

Road pricing concepts are being considered by more and more regions as a long term solution to address declining revenues, increased congestion, and air pollution. As recent demonstration projects have shown road pricing can be an effective tool. For successful implementation, adequate consideration should be given to developing regional pricing policies, modeling the impact of pricing on traveler behavior, and building consensus by communicating with the public incrementally.