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 met with the experts in Europe and Asia to gain an understanding of the factors that contributed to the successful implementation of road pricing. Based on their international experience, the scan team offered the following lessons learned on outreach and public acceptance of road pricing programs.
- Consider using various forms of public involvement based on the cultural and political context of the host country to address public concerns about road pricing.
The Netherlands: After several attempts to implement a distance charge, the Dutch realized that proactive stakeholder outreach during the planning and concept development stage is essential. Over a period of two years, staff and leadership at the Dutch Ministry of Transport invested heavily in public outreach and education. By engaging in a thorough and thoughtful planning and public involvement process, the Dutch developed clear, salient, and timely messages about the purpose and benefits of pricing, including “drive less, pay less.”
- Singapore: Public outreach in Singapore included the opening of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) Transportation Gallery, an interactive exhibit that teaches younger audiences about concepts such as mobility, access, sustainability, land use, and demand management. The gallery is a powerful educational tool that explains the history, context, and future of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) and other transportation options in Singapore.
- Provide clear, salient, and timely messages about the purpose and benefits of pricing to help educate key stakeholders and garner public acceptance.
Singapore: Singapore provides education about transportation solutions such as road pricing with an interactive transportation gallery. Key messages used in Singapore include “keep roads free-flowing,” “people-centered transportation” and “public transit is a viable choice.”
Czech Republic and Germany: Czech and German truckers supported pricing in an effort to “level the playing field” with foreign haulers and promoted the message of “user pays.”
The Netherlands: Based on prior false starts, the Dutch are investing heavily in stakeholder outreach and are committed to a revenue-neutral road-pricing scheme. Their mantra is “drive less, pay less.”
- Address issues of equity and privacy.
London, Stockholm, Singapore: Issues of equity and privacy were dealt with differently in each locale. Equity issues related to a person’s ability to pay the fee were not widespread in London, Singapore, or Stockholm because of the high cost of car ownership and existence of good transit alternatives in all three cities. Lower income commuters in these cities tend to use transit because the driving cost differential is significant. In addition to substantial transit investments, London and Stockholm provide a variety of exemptions and discounts to various users (i.e., transit vehicles, taxis, hybrids; monthly and annual pass purchasers; residents within the charging zone or in adjacent communities). Singapore, on the other hand, provides few exemptions (only for military and emergency vehicles). Because many transit providers in Singapore are privately contracted and operated, all transit vehicles are required to pay.
Road pricing programs implemented in Europe and Asia offer important lessons on the use of market-based approaches to address traffic congestion and improve mobility. European and Asian experience shows that road pricing programs have used various forms of public involvement based on the cultural and political context, providing clear, salient, and timely messages about the purpose and benefits of pricing as well as allaying the concerns of equity and privacy.