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2 nd Middle East Conference & Exhibition on Intelligent Transport Systems. Public Acceptability for Road User Charging Zeina Nazer, MSc.,P.E ., MBA Innova Consulting Ltd. Manama, Bahrain 15 April 2008. Agenda. Traffic, roads and congestion Definition of Road User Charging

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2nd Middle East Conference & Exhibition on Intelligent Transport Systems

Public Acceptability for Road User Charging

Zeina Nazer, MSc.,P.E., MBA

Innova Consulting Ltd.

Manama, Bahrain

15 April 2008



  • Traffic, roads and congestion
  • Definition of Road User Charging
  • Costs, benefits and complementary measures
  • Examples from Leading Cities
  • Regional and public acceptance
  • Public communications
  • Summary and Recommendations
  • Discussions

Traffic, Road and Congestion

More vehicles, more congestion

  • Car growth / levels of congestion are not sustainable in countries with high economic activity - studies from the European Commission show that:
    • 50% increase in freight forecast to 2010
    • 50% increase in vehicle ownership in next 15 years
    • Vehicle travel (km/year) has doubled in past 25 years
  • “….therefore there should be an increased focus on sustainable mobility”

Traffic, Roads and Congestion

More roads, improved access – tolls

  • Tolls provide funds to build and operate roads to provide better access
  • Better road access help alleviate the traffic congestion and improve the regional economy by reducing transaction costs
  • Potential for private investment and operations to fill a public cash shortfall

“….but the focus is still on vehicles rather than people or freight. Travel demand management should be based around people movement rather than vehicles”


Road User Charging: Tolls

  • Tolls to recover construction and / or operations,
  • Mostly estuarial crossings in UK,
  • Understandable to road users,
  • Self-contained facilities,
  • BOT or operations concession models, and;
  • Proven approach where commercially viable

Source: Transport Technology Consultants

“ Overall, a toll represents a charge paid by road user that is matched by local, direct and visible benefits.”


Road User Charging: Demand Management

  • Charge for use of road space and to cover cost of adverse externalities
  • Induce behaviour shift to change timing and mode perhaps even destination
  • Fund complementary measures

Source: Findlay Kember 2005

  • “Charging for an existing road therefore requires a leap of faith for road user to recognise and measure the benefits of paying a charge.

Road User Charging: Prerequisites

  • A road user charging scheme needs:
  • Research and studies to identify a feasible business case, including clear social, environmental and economic benefits.
  • Public discussion in the media etc. to raise awareness of congestion problems and road pricing as a possible solution.
  • Legislation to enable charging and enforcement.
  • Complementary measures including: improved traffic management, public transport, car sharing, flexible working hours, etc.
  • Pilots to make solution more tangible to road users and to reduce procurement risk.
  • AND… a critical mass of stakeholder buy-in
Paying a charge to cross a bridge - easily rationalised by road users:

The crossings themselves could have other effects, such as improving local economic links and shortening journey times between the areas served by the crossings.

But: undesirable effects of these infrastructure developments are:

Potentially increasing traffic demand within the catchment area, and;

Creating an adverse environmental impact, not only during the construction phase of the project.

“The benefits of tolls to pay for a new road or bridge are obvious to users but the benefits of charging for the use of existing roads (or a road network) are less tangible and predictable. Overall, there are many effects that have the potential to enhance or suppress public support.”

Cost, Benefit and Complementary Measures (1 of 3)

Overall, the local, direct and visible use of revenues (especially to improve public transport) has been shown to increase public acceptance

Uses of funds: public transport, Smarter Travel/TDM, and driver information systems, etc.

Bergen (Norway): infrastructure improvements, where used sparingly, can further develop acceptance.

Stockholm City:

Infrastructure upgrades on a bypass route to the West of the city.

Pilot scheme investment in 197 new buses on 16 new bus routes

A 20% increase in parking spaces on park & ride sites

Improved rush hour train services

Cost, Benefit and Complementary Measures (2 of 3)

Delivering benefits appears to depend on making them visible and understandable:

London and Stockholm: regular monitoring and periodic reporting of performance measures;

traffic volumes at specific points in the road network,

changes in modal split

journey times between points

emissions levels (airborne and noise both measured and perceived)

Road crash casualties

“So, the visible demonstration of benefits demonstrates to road users, residents, retailers, business and other entities the effects (favourably or adversely) of the scheme.”

Cost, Benefit and Complementary Measures (3 of 3)

examples from leading cities new york
Examples from leading cities: New York
  • According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, 60% of New York City voters support congestion pricing if the revenues are used to improve city and regional mass transit.
  • The Quinnipiac pollsters asked the right question.
  • A timeline for the design, approval and implementation of a congestion pricing system was initially agreed upon by the State Legislature, Mayor and the Governor but has now been opposed by politicians representing areas not receiving the benefits.
  • In setting a hard target to reduce driving, New York City would have been on track for cleaner air, faster and more efficient surface transit and a greener, more livable and prosperous city.
examples from leading cities edinburgh
Examples from leading cities: Edinburgh
  • In February 2005 residents of Edinburgh in Scotland, UK voted against a road user charging scheme by a ratio of 3:1 so plans were consequently abandoned.
  • The public's overwhelming opposition to the scheme arose partly to being asked to assess a scheme without experiencing its effects and some opponents supported the principle of road user charging but opposed the particular scheme proposed.
  • Car use was shown to be the principal determinant of voting behaviour, with car owners strongly opposing the scheme and non-car owners only weakly supporting it.
  • Cancellation of the plan resulted in reduced investment in transit
examples from leading cities stockholm
Examples from leading cities: Stockholm

The Stockholm Congestion Tax System is implemented as a Congestion Tax Cordon around the city with variable prices depending of the time of the day.


Reduce congestion

Improve accessibility for buses and cars in the inner city.

Invest in public transport equipment

Improve the environment

The revenue will be returned to the Stockholm region for investments in the public transport system and infrastructure connected with the trial.

Any car driving in or out of the city will have to pay a tax, this to spread and reduce traffic and congestion.

Source: Q-Free ASA

examples from leading cities stockholm1
Examples from leading cities: Stockholm
  • Public opinion shifted over the period of planning and operations of the pilot; an initial minority of people in favour of charging prior to trial became a majority in favour during the trial.
  • The referendum after the trial (held at same time as the 2006 general election) showed that 51.3 % of Stockholm residents voted in favour of charging, whilst 45.5 % voted against.
  • The group that were most positive to the congestion tax were those that travelled by public transport, those who did not have a car, those living in the inner city and younger people.

Source: Q-Free ASA

examples from leading cities stockholm2
Examples from leading cities: Stockholm

Benefits of Stockholm Congestion Charging

  • Traffic reduced (20-25%)
  • Commuting time reduced (15-30 min)
  • Pollution reduced
  • Revenue of taxi companies increased
  • Bus companies had to reschedule the routes
  • Opinion in the public changed from negative to positive
examples from leading cities london
Examples from leading cities: London
  • Scheme introduced in February 2003, leading to immediate reductions in congestion by about 20%, making journey times more reliable and having no measurable impact on business and retail operations.
  • The initial £5 (c. US$10) charge increased to £8 (c. US$16) although people with disabilities, taxis, emergency service vehicles and some other essential users are exempt.
  • Payment to enter of drive within the charged area are made over the phone, internet, and at certain shops within the cordon.
  • Pictures of vehicle license plates are compared with vehicles that have paid. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) used to automate as much of the enforcement operations as possible.
  • Scheme area doubled in size from February 2007.
London Congestion Charging Scheme achieved a critical mass of public support for the scheme immediately it was launched.

London has shown that a stand-alone, local scheme is feasible and has demonstrated that local benefits can, in principle, be delivered.

…BUT we need to balance fees charged with securing public acceptance with a financially robust operating model:

If the fee is too low it may mean the scheme is ineffective and uneconomic and this will reduce the funds available to invest in complementary measures

If the fee is too high public acceptance is likely to be damaged and also the receipts may be too low.

Therefore, the charge structure needs to be balanced.

Regional Acceptance (1 of 2)

National government should encourage regional transport authorities with the following actions:

Encouraging research and studies,

Permissive legislation,

Funding pilot schemes,

Developing contracts to stimulate private sector interest.

Budgetary incentives

approved signs

a proven evidential strategy

rules to apply revenue raised – especially investment into public transport improvements,

and a penalty charge regime that secures adequate compliance,

Enabling monitoring and disseminating the results.

Regional Acceptance (2 of 2)

The Royal Automobile Club Foundation (UK) concluded that opposition was substantially reduced if the stated use of revenues were applied to:

road and public transport infrastructure improvements and / or

offset by reductions in other forms of motoring taxation

although this can only apply to national road pricing, which is the level where taxes are set.

Public Acceptance (1 of 2)

Opposition is more likely before a scheme is off the drawing board. For example:

Transport for London, 2001 (2 years before launch)

50% supported congestion charging, 40% opposed.

57% support within the charging area (all areas supportive).

Transport for London , 2002 (1 year before launch)

50% opposition, 50% ‘for / don’t know’

Transport for London, 2004 ( 1 year after launch)

34% opposition and 66% ‘for / don’t know’.

“Similar trends were observed in other city charging schemes employed in Oslo, Trondheim and Stockholm. A neutral or moderate opposition before scheme implementation had switched to a positive support after scheme launch”.

Public Acceptance (2 of 2)


Public Communications (1 of 2)

Source: Transport Technology Consultants

Source: Transport Technology Consultants

  • It is critical to maintain communications to the public at all stages of the design, planning and implementation process to set and manage expectations, and raise awareness of how to participate in the scheme.

Public Communications (2 of 2)

  • Make sure that the scheme is accessible and that payments can be made easily and part of the daily routine,
  • Make sure that rules are understood to reduce unintentional violations.
  • Provide regular feedback to ensure public is informed
  • Provide continual improvement through the life of scheme.
  • Outline the alternative options.
  • Anticipate opposition!
Road User Charging is one way to address the current congestion problems, accommodating future needs by increasing the share of public transportation, and decreasing the over-dependence on private vehicles.

The path to secure public acceptability needs to expect objections and unexpected changes in traffic patterns. Commitments can help; more consistent journey, higher quality transit (paid for by public funds) and discounts for local residents.

BUT do not reduce the commercial viability at the cost of public acceptance.

Develop a local ecosystem meeting political, public and economic targets.

Summary and Recommendations (1of 2)

summary and recommendations 2of 2
Summary and Recommendations (2of 2)
  • The pricing levels themselves can be set through a sound economic analysis of externalities and to achieve the desired reduction in traffic.
  • The translation of a rational plan for congestion charging in the face of public and business will need to consider the whole context whilst still enabling the business case against forecast operating costs.

“ So, don’t make the charges too low to secure acceptance as this will make the system uneconomic and may not even shift travel behaviour and don’t make the charges too high as this may not secure acceptance.”

  • What can be done to increase public acceptability of road user charging or congestion charging?
    • Improved infrastructure?
    • Enhanced transit?
    • Something else?
  • Has the gas tax “run out of steam” as a policy instrument to raise funds for infrastructure development? Should it be retained and, if so, what role could it play in the future?
  • Does it make sense to widen roads to reduce congestion? If so, under what circumstances?
  • Should the objectives of DOTs be changed to improving and managing transport capacity in general rather than roads?
  • How should the limited highway funds available be invested? What are the strategic imperatives? International gateways? Economic corridors?
  • Do you believe in paying for road use or not? Should it be universal or used selectively?

Thank you

Zeina Nazer

Innova Consulting Ltd18 Gilling Court Belsize Grove

London NW3 4UY, UKMobile (UAE):  +971 50 703 7397Mobile (UK):    +44 777 626 7587e:


I would like acknowledge Dave Wetzel of Transport for London for his help with this presentation