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 challenges resulting from political timetable and pricing equity considerations.
Beware that political timetables and deadlines create opportunities and challenges for road pricing procurement and implementation.
- Stockholm Experience. The Stockholm demonstration period was a prescribed timeframe in which the area-wide pricing system needed to be operational on a trial basis before the planned referendum. While the schedule created urgency for system delivery, it also caused problems because of legal challenges to the procurement. The Stockholm trial was delayed five (5) months from its original planned startup, requiring extraordinary effort by business consultants, the system integrator, and agency staff to deliver the system as a 7-month trial.
- Czech Republic Experience. The Czech Republic also experienced a compressed delivery schedule because of procurement challenges. The system integrator and construction contractors had only nine (9) months to install and test the Czech truck tolling system.
- Compressed Scheduling Opportunity and Challenge. Both Stockholm and Czech Republic examples above illustrate that expedited delivery of high-functioning and reliable pricing systems is possible. However, both Stockholm and the Czech Republic are managing systems that are expensive to operate and maintain. The Stockholm program is undergoing a multiyear program of business process and systems reengineering to reduce operating costs.
Address road pricing equity concerns and perceptions of fairness on multiple levels. Equity concerns are typically addressed via exemptions and discounts to the congestion charge, improvement of alternative transportation modes, as well as revenue reallocation.
- Discount Pricing in Stockholm and London. Traffic passing through Stockholm’s city center is exempt from the congestion tax to ensure that residents of Lidingö Island have access to the national highway network. Among its various discounts, London also maintains a 90 percent discount for residents in the central London congestion charging zone.
- Alternative Modes in London, Singapore and Stockholm. In London, Singapore, and Stockholm, where demand management was a prime objective for urban road pricing, significant investments in transit were made in tandem with the implementation of the road pricing program to ensure viable options to driving. Furthermore, the net revenues, directly or indirectly, are used to fund future multimodal enhancements.
- Revenue reallocation in Germany and Singapore. The use of revenue has been another means of addressing equity and perceptions of fairness. In Germany, a truck harmonization fund created from road pricing revenue pays for new truck equipment and training for cargo haulers. In Singapore, net revenues not invested in transportation projects are returned to motorists through rebates in vehicle taxes.
Road pricing programs in Europe and Asia offer important lessons on exploring the use of market-based approaches to address traffic congestion and improve mobility. For successful implementation, the program/project managers should be prepared to face the challenges posed by political timetables as well as pricing-equity issues.