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.
- Create performance standards for operational effectiveness. Performance standards ensure operational effectiveness through requirements in system design and procurement, as well as in service-level agreements for operations. Performance standards cover a wide range of operating interests. For roadside operations, they often address system and roadway availability, traffic data capture requirements, and image reject rates of video equipment. For back office operations, typical performance standards include the error rate in invoicing, call center customer wait times, unprocessable image rates, and uncollectable transactions. The best practice in pricing programs is to establish service-level agreements with both external contractors and internal agency service providers to maintain operating performance with financial incentives. Careful selection of performance standards is critical to ultimate outcomes. Systems that have emphasized accuracy and availability over financial performance have experienced high-cost operations with redundant systems and processes.
- Define business rules for back-office operations. Best practice for back office operations depends on translating operating concepts into clear business rules and refining practices based on operating experience. Business rules are the foundation of successful back office operations. Agencies involved in their development and refinement tend to gain advantages in managing operating performance and costs. For instance, Stockholm’s move to a complete video-based system has resulted in 47 business rules governing the optical character recognition aspects of image processing, driving performance in accuracy and collections. Germany’s decision to outsource the entire toll operation to Toll Collect has resulted in good system and operating performance, but relatively high operating costs.
- Refine operation practices based on experience and need. Many programs have found the need to refine operating practices after implementation to manage costs more effectively. Over time, this has resulted in contractor changes in several pricing programs to best meet the operational and technical requirements at a competitive cost. London and Stockholm have both recently changed operators, while Germany and the Czech Republic face long-term contracts that provide less flexibility for managing operating costs more effectively. Stockholm has also adopted a policy of insourcing that seeks to identify elements of the operation that may be managed with effective performance and lower costs by in-house resources rather than by outside services.
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. European experience emphasizes creating performance standards, defining business rules for back-office operations, and refining operations practices based on needs.