Road pricing projects have been implemented in many parts of the world, notably in the Czech Republic, Germany, Singapore, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. A scan team from the United States traveled to Europe and Singapore to meet with transportation officials involved in implementation of road pricing programs and to learn firsthand about their approaches and practices.
The scan tour was sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NHCRP). The 10 members of the multidisciplinary scan team included transportation professionals from four State departments of transportation (DOT), one regional transportation agency, FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and private industry.
The team met with officials from Berlin, Germany; the Czech Republic; London, United Kingdom; Singapore; Stockholm, Sweden; and The Hague, Netherlands, from December 7 to 18, 2009. The face-to-face visits enabled participants to gain a deeper understanding of each host country’s history and context, the goals and objectives that were established, how road pricing was designed to address transportation and policy objectives, and the hurdles that were faced and how they were overcome. The exchanges provided an opportunity to gain in-depth understanding of program goals and methods, implementation costs, benefits, transportation impacts, revenue generation and use, operating and technical practices and their costs, financing approaches, effects on safety and the environment, and public acceptance.
Much like the U.S. experience, overseas road pricing projects have been met with considerable resistance and political and public debate. International examples indicate that public acceptance and approval of pricing programs improves significantly after project implementation, when the benefits and impacts can be weighed in tangible terms based on the context of its application. Based on discussions and observations made during and after the scan, the scan team developed a series of lessons learned.
Congestion pricing programs face political, institutional, and public acceptance challenges and concerns everywhere in the world. Over a 12-day period, from December 7 to 18, 2009, a multidisciplinary scan team from the United States interacted with the experts in Europe and Asia to develop an understanding of factors that contributed to the successful implementation of road pricing. Based on their international experience, the scan team offered the following lessons learned on addressing the operations and enforcement issues of road pricing programs.
- Enforce an effective system of congestion toll collection. Enforcement is key to ensuring a financially viable and fair system. Video enforcement is an essential element in every site visited. Enforcement has played a large role in public acceptability by ensuring fairness because those paying for use of the road want to know that others are paying as well. Many pricing programs do not consider enforcement penalties as a revenue tool (i.e., fines and fees need not be higher than administrative costs), but do view enforcement as a critical element of ensuring that base road charges are collected without substantial leakage. All of the sites studied, except Stockholm, treat violations as administrative fees, not as criminal acts.
- Create integration linkages between pricing system and motor vehicle registries. Violation enforcement systems require effective system integration and linkages with motor vehicle registries. Typically, enforcement is managed through video capture of license plate images and an ANPR (automated number plate recognition) system. Back office processing centers use license plate information to identify the vehicle owner and collect payment.
London and Stockholm: In systems that rely on video systems and ANPR as the means of charging for road use, the enforcement process is an exception-based business process to pursue those who have not paid after some period of time. This process leverages one set of roadside equipment for dual functionality (i.e., primary collection and enforcement). This is the case in London and Stockholm.
Czech Republic, Germany, and Singapore: In systems that rely on on-board units (OBUs), such as transponders or GPS (global positioning system), for toll collection, the video enforcement process is a stand-alone subsystem that requires roadside video equipment for enforcement and systems integration to ensure violation transactions and electronic toll transactions are uniquely identified and properly distinguished. The systems in the Czech Republic, Germany, and Singapore rely on separate violations enforcement subsystems. All these systems supplement the automated violations enforcement systems with mobile and roadside enforcement efforts for periodic spot enforcement.
The use of ANPR enforcement requires an effective working relationship with motor vehicle registries for accurate information of vehicle owners from license plate data. Systems that include pricing for significant populations of foreign-registered vehicles (e.g., Germany and the Czech Republic) have a more complex set of relationships to establish and maintain in a cost-effective manner.
Road pricing programs implemented in Europe and Asia offer important lessons on exploring the use of market-based approaches to address traffic congestion and improve mobility. Experience shows that developing and enforcing an effective toll collection process is a key to success, and the pricing enforcement authorities require an effecting working relationship with motor vehicle registries to identify toll-payment violations.