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 impacts of political considerations and pricing signal in developing a sustainable transportation system.
- Beware that political considerations have impact on road pricing program’s sustainability.
London. The western expansion of London’s congestion charging zone was championed by Mayor Ken Livingstone and made effective in 2007. In 2010, under the administration of Mayor Boris Johnson, the western expansion was repealed after a series of public consultations.
Germany. Commitments from the German Parliament that HGV (heavy goods vehicle) toll revenues would augment roadway funding were not kept, which jeopardizes future prospects to price other vehicles based on distance traveled or emissions class.
- Consider using the power of pricing signal to build a sustainable transportation system.
The Netherlands. The Dutch Ministry of Transport’s goal is to shift the cost from vehicle ownership to usage to create a more sustainable transportation system.
Germany. The Germans have adopted a user-pays principle for freight haulers. In addition, by having a graduated toll schedule for cleaner trucks, they have seen a 60 percent shift away from the Euro 1, 2, and 3 emission-level trucks to the cleaner Euro 4 and 5 emission-level trucks.
Singapore. Singapore estimates that its gas tax would need to be raised by SG$3 to achieve the same traffic reduction that a SG$1 increase in its ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) system because of the transparency and direct price signal of the system.
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 and Asian experience shows that while sustainability of road pricing programs is impacted by politics, pricing signal can be a potential tool for developing a sustainable transportation system.