The Transportation Research Board sponsored a study entitled "Road Pricing - Public Perceptions and Program Development," the overarching goal of which was to assist planners and decision makers with understanding the state of practice of road pricing concepts; identify available applications; use lessons learned to improve project planning; and help local planners align pricing plans with regional or higher level strategies. The following pricing concepts were examined:
- Conversion of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes
- Variable pricing on new or rehabilitated facilities
- Variable pricing on existing toll facilities
- Area wide or cordon pricing
- Distance based pricing or mileage fees
- Variable pricing applied to parking
Numerous key planning considerations and lessons learned were gathered from literature reviews and interviews with practitioners. Examples highlighted in the study are summarized below.
Key lessons learned from road pricing experiences in the United States and abroad include the following.
- Gain consensus among decision makers and analysts. Prior to conducting extensive public outreach, planners should establish an informal working committee to gain consensus among decision makers and subject matter experts regarding the potential of available technology to solve specific problems. Preliminary studies can identify high-level needs and justify further assessment. Understand that successful road pricing programs typically emerge from a single project rather than from formal regional or state plans.
- Establish contacts early and assure continued communications between planners and stakeholders to promote public and political acceptance of proposed pricing plans. The engagement and communication process should include a broad group of stakeholders and use clear and interactive messaging to facilitate compromise and encourage consensus needed for required authorizations. Project champions should be identified, partake in the planning process, review proposals, and be kept abreast of evolving issues and points of concern.
- Focus discussions on the most compelling issues. Hot topics may include congestion, pollution, underutilization or over utilization of HOV facilities, and financing. While assessing the perceptions of decision makers, stakeholders, and the general public about the nature and severity of congestion related problems, planners should keep in mind that relevant parties may believe congestion is only one or even a lesser problem than the other problems pricing can address. Plans for road pricing must be practical in terms of financing, be operationally feasible, address equity issues, and be sensitive to privacy concerns.
- Maintain open and responsive planning. While presenting revenue options, planners should be sensitive to the possibility that some decision makers, their constituents, and influential stakeholders will be suspicious of revenue plans if the motive appears to be growing government agencies.
- Develop detailed plans that iterate toward acceptance. As project planning proceeds, take into account federal guidelines and regulations regarding the regional planning process. Clearly reference local experience and independent findings from other sites used to demonstrate the effectiveness of proposed pricing plans. Projects that include private sector participation may need to use specialized models to obtain performance data for bonding agencies. Modeling and analysis should use a wide array of performance measures in synchronization with the problems to be addressed. Indicators may include changes in delay, traffic volumes, levels of service, speeds for automobiles and transit, probability of accidents, and emission impacts.
After several years of economic and policy analysis, variable pricing programs have steadily increased levels of deployment in the United States and abroad. Available research indicates that these systems have strong potential to reduce congestion, address air quality issues, help raise transportation revenue, and address livability and sustainability issues.
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