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 issues related to planning, performance measurement, and site geography.
- Address stakeholder education and outreach, and stakeholder management comprehensively in the planning process.
The Netherlands: The Dutch have studied distance-based charging and engaged key stakeholders on the subject several times since the 1980s. Recent implementation planning in the Netherlands involved extensive outreach during the system design and development process with a wide range of public agencies, private interests, and industry user groups. The Dutch provided significant funding for implementation research in a US$150 million congestion mitigation program.
Singapore: Singapore, on the other hand, used grassroots representatives to gauge public sentiment before expanding the charge to the Orchard Area shopping district and expressways. Consultation typically starts with core stakeholders and later reaches out to the public through communications programs.
- Consider comprehensive network planning and performance measures as integral to pre-implementation efforts, as well as ongoing system management.
Sweden, The Netherlands: Most sites use advanced analytics and traffic models to better understand the network impacts of pricing on parking, transit, and system diversion issues. In planning the Stockholm system, internationally recognized traffic experts were retained to measure network effects of various configurations of the charging zone to ensure that there were no unintended effects outside the congestion-charging zone. Similarly, the Netherlands has also undertaken comprehensive planning exercises to look at network effects across several modes.
Singapore: Singapore’s ongoing management of its congestion charge includes quarterly verification of travel speeds and refinement of prices to ensure that 85th percentile travel speed standards are maintained on two different classes of roadways.
- Develop and integrate transport options that allow alternatives to driving in the road pricing program planning.
London, Singapore, and Stockholm: These cities made significant investments in transit to ensure that those impacted by the new road-user fees would have alternatives to driving. Such plans provided adequate capacity and service levels to ensure balanced transportation network demand, and limited minimal impacts to mobility and businesses with urban charging zones. When provisions of modal alternatives to driving are not feasible, several pricing programs have employed exemptions or discounts to the road-user charge. Stockholm exempted Lidingö Island residents who pass through the city center to access the national highway network from the congestion tax. Similarly, residents in the central London and western extension charging zones enjoy a 90 percent discount on the congestion charge.
- Understand that Geography plays a role in the design and business rules of pricing programs.
Stockholm: Stockholm’s city center is an island with well-defined access points that served to define roadside equipment locations and customer understanding of the limits of the charging zone.
Germany, Czech Republic: Both Germany and the Czech Republic are central to European goods movement, handling high volumes of out-of-country movements on their national highways. Pricing system designs and business rules were established specifically to meet objectives for both native and foreign truckers.
Singapore: Singapore is an island city-state with limited land available for development and economic expansion. As a consequence, Singapore has instituted regulations and planning processes to target specific land uses, encourage high-density development linked to transit, and manage the demand for new vehicles through its vehicle quota service.
London: A public consultation process preceded the London congestion charge, leading to many exemptions from the charge. A public consultation held after Mayor Boris Johnson took office recommended discontinuing the congestion charging in London’s western extension.
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. Planning for successful road pricing program must include adequate consideration of stakeholder outreach and education, transport modes that offer an alternative to driving, performance measurement, and area geography.