www.curacaoproject.eu                      CURACAO - coordination of urban road-user charging organisational issues                   Funded by the EU

Road Pricing Context

OBJECTIVES

SCHEME DESIGN

TECHNOLOGY

BUSINESS SYSTEMS

Prediction

PREDICTION

TRAFFIC EFFECTS

ENVIRONMENT

ECONOMY

EQUITY

Appraisal

APPRAISAL

Decision Making

ACCEPTABILITY

TRANSFERABILITY

Implementation and Evaluation

EVALUATION

IMPLEMENTATION

Case Studies

Bergen

Bologna

Bristol

Cambridge

Durham

Dutch National Case

Edinburgh

London

Manchester

Milan

Nord-Jaeren

Oslo

Rome

Stockholm

The Hague

Trondheim



Urban Road User Charging Online Knowledge Base

What Is Known About The Theme?

Public Acceptability: A Definition

In the past 15 years a range of studies dealt with acceptability of road pricing (for an overview see Schade and Schlag, 2003). A common finding of past research is the lack of conceptual clarity, regarding definitions, methodology, and general research frameworks. For instance, the term public is conceptually rather fuzzy, as it is unclear what exactly is meant by the public. Some authors focus on motorists, others on voters, consumers, citizens or inhabitants. Likewise, the notion of “acceptability/acceptance" may express - according to the particular study - various concepts such as support, agreement, feasibility, to vote for, favourable reaction, etc. Only a few authors have attempted a clear definition (Schade and Schlag, 2000). Generally, the construct can be conveniently described by questioning "acceptance of what, through whom and under which conditions and circumstances". The term "acceptability" describes the prospective judgement of measures to be introduced in the future. Thus the target groups will not have experienced any of these measures, making "acceptability" an attitude construct subject to strong situational and temporal factors. "Acceptance" involves respondents' attitudes including their behavioural reactions after the introduction of a measure.

Levels of Acceptability

Meanwhile, an extensive literature demonstrates the low public acceptability of urban road pricing schemes especially within the group of motorists (e.g. Jakobsson et al, 2000; Schade and Schlag, 2000, 2003; Jaensirisak, Wardman & May, 2005). For example, Figure 11‑2 illustrates the acceptability of various travel demand management measures among other different forms of road pricing, whereas road pricing is the least accepted measure. The results of the European research project TransPrice show that only up to 16% of the respondents agree with this form of travel demand management. Somewhat more optimistic Jaensirisak et al (2005) found in their review of a number of British acceptability studies a mean acceptability of 35%. However, they also found considerable variations in the levels of public acceptance of road pricing ranging from 8 % to 76%.

Figure 122 Acceptability of Travel Demand Management Measures

 

Individual Characteristics and Acceptability Among factors determining the degree of acceptability, personal attitudes, expectations, perceptions and subjective evaluations about road user charging have been investigated. Among these, variables like negative outcome expectations, perceived unfairness (see Chapter 10 for further information on equity), negative social norms and perceived infringement on freedom have been identified as important determinants of acceptability (for a comprehensive overview see Schade and Schlag, 2003). According to economic theory, it is to be expected that high income groups should support road user charging more often because of their lower marginal utility of money, and their higher willingness to pay for saving travel time (Calfee and Winston, 1998; Rienstra, Rietvield and Verhoef, 1999). However, several studies show that there is no relationship between acceptability and level of income (e.g. Jaensirisak, 2002; Schade, 2005). Also other socio-economic factors have a smaller and more unsystematic impact on acceptability than do attitudinal factors (Jaensirisak et al, 2005). Schade (2005) found that especially the individual’s personal outcome expectation explains most of the variance of acceptability. The impact of personal outcome expectation is exerted mostly indirectly through other variables; i.e. those who perceive more disadvantages also view urban road user charging as less fair, less effective and less socially desirable. Those who expect advantages evaluate road user charging on all dimensions more positively. Further there are discrepancies between drivers and non drivers. Several studies have shown that acceptance of urban road user charging among car users is much less than among non-car users (Jaensirisak et al, 2005; Grisolía and Lopéz del Pino, 2008).

Scheme Characteristics and Acceptability

 Furthermore, the system characteristics of road user charging schemes and their impact on acceptability have become a matter of research. One important factor is the level of charge. The level of charge should not be too small in order to be effective. But on the other hand high levels of charges may not be acceptable and therefore not implemented (Schuitema, 2003). Thus, the level of charge should be well balanced between an effective control of transport behaviour and the acceptability of the scheme (Vrtic et al, 2007). In almost all cases where a charge has received attention, no quantified relationship between acceptance and the charge has been developed. As an exception Jaensirisak et al (2005) systematically varied the level of charge and replicated the results by Cain and Jones (2002) and Harrington et al (2001) that public acceptability diminishes as the level of charge increases. In a similar vein experiences from the PRIMA case cities indicate that rather low starting levels are needed to achieve acceptance and that the charges can be increased successively to meet financial requirements (Hårsman, 2003).

According to economists variable or dynamic road user charging is the best way of overcoming congestion problems in urban areas. Thus because of high effectiveness of these charges, the combination of different pricing types is very popular. However, their public acceptability is rather low (Vrtic et al, 2007). Some studies have revealed that people have strong preferences for simple tariffs and predictable prices - they want to know what their journey will cost before they start (e.g. Bonsall et al, 2007; DfT, 2007; Vrtic et al, 2007; Zmud, and Arce, 2008). If price levels are changing according to congestion levels, time of the day etc. it creates considerable uncertainty over the real costs of a journey. The EU funded project DIFFERENT has investigated empirically the question of the degree of complexity that people are able and willing to understand and respond to. Results from field experiments and surveys indicate that the degree of differentiation affects users’ information processing and thus their handling of differentiated pricing. Further, several aspects of pricing schemes seem to affect the likelihood of behavioural adaptation as a response to schemes. For example, people had more difficulties in dealing with differentiated prices if schemes contain distance based elements. On the other hand there were fewer problems if differentiation elements are built on already existing cognitive structures and/or on elements people are familiar with. Moreover it appeared that the time to calculate the charges for using a specific road, errors in this calculation as well as perceived difficulty of the differentiated schemes and uncertainty about correct price estimation increase drastically with increasing level of differentiation (Rößger, Schade, Obst, Gehlert, Schlag, Bonsall and Lythgoe, 2008). The Department for Transport (2007) could show that a cordon based model was considered more familiar and easier to understand than a distance based model. Also Jaensirisak et al (2005) found out that fixed daily charges are more acceptable than variable charges like distance- or time-based charges. People may oppose complex road user charging schemes, since they find certain behavioural outcome more attractive than uncertain ones (Kahnemann and Tversky, 1984). Schlag and Schade (2000) found little difference between distance-based, currently congestion based and cordon pricing concerning acceptability. The German railway’s failed attempt to introduce a complex charging structure shows that if the public regard price differentiation as unfair they will object very strongly and that, against this background, any perceived complexity will be one of the targets of criticism. The case of Edinburgh illustrates how the public’s limited understanding of the scheme increased opposition (Gaunt et al, 2007). On the other hand the Singapore experience with road user charging suggests that differentiated charges, and periodic well-advertised adjustments to them, are accepted as a sensible way to reduce peak period congestion and that the resulting variability in prices does not seem to have been a serious issue. The same applies to the Stockholm trial. Because of these rather inconsistent results more empirical research about the acceptability of complex versus simple urban road user charging schemes has to be undertaken.

Concerning the mode of payment it is known that paying directly and immediately will cause more effort and will have a stronger effect on price perception and therefore on behaviour because direct payment makes people more aware of their expenditures than paying indirectly and after the event (Hoffmann et al, 2006). Payment methods are generally considered to be easy to understand when people are familiar with them, for instance methods used for mobile phone use (DfT, 2007). The results of the AKTA urban road user charging experiment in Copenhagen suggest an effect of the mode of payment. Pricing schemes which are presented as a loss system are more effective concerning behavioural adaptation than pricing schemes that highlight a gain perspective (for more details see Rößger et al, 2008). With regard to data collection the Department for Transport (2007) revealed that Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology is considered to be easier to understand than microwave tag technology. Moreover for the latter privacy and costs of the technology were key concerns.

The design of a road user charging scheme also determines who is to which degree affected by the scheme. In turn the acceptability of the scheme is influenced by the degree to which people are affected. Broadly citizens living within the charged area are much more in favour than people living outside the charged area (e.g. see the Stockholm Trial in Deliverable D3 of the CURACAO project). With regard to the design of a road user charging scheme the inhabitants of the cities dislike area licensing more than other pricing types. People living in the agglomerations and commuting to their work places in the cities have high km-driven-per-year and therefore dislike km-dependent tolls (Vrtic et al, 2007).

Revenue Allocation and Acceptability

Numerous studies indicate that acceptability of road user charging appeared to depend strongly on revenue allocation (Harrington et al, 2001; Ison, 2000; Keuchel and Rodi, 1994; Schlag and Schade, 2000; Schuitema and Steg, 2007; Thorpe et al., 2000; Thorpe, 2002). The principal result is that with a hypothecation of revenues acceptability of road user charging increases considerably. Numbers vary, but in most cases such a package solution was accepted by the majority of respondents (e.g. 45% in Schade and Schlag, 2000; 55% in Jaensirisak et al, 2005). Jones (1998) concluded that, “Most professional and governmental bodies in the UK now accept that hypothecation of revenues will be part of the price that will have to be paid to gain sufficient public support for urban road user charging to ensure its introduction in this country”. Also it appears from the literature, that an integrative package which includes road user charging as well as some form of revenue hypothecation increases acceptability. However, the design of the package, including the proposed measures and form of revenue use, is very much dependent on local circumstances (Ubbels, 2006).

In order to increase the public acceptability by specific revenue management, many studies suggest that the revenues should be used for improving public transport or reducing taxes (e.g. DfT, 2007; Jones, 1991; Steg, Tillema, van Wee and Schuitema, 2008; Vrtic, Schuessler, Erath and Axhausen, 2007). For instance, Schuitema and Steg (2007) revealed that transport pricing is more acceptable if revenues are allocated to the transport system instead of to general public funds. Investing revenues in road infrastructure appeared to be less acceptable when car users realise they had to pay themselves for these investments via kilometre charges. With regard to the role of public transport for the acceptability of the congestion charge, Kottenhoff and Brundell Freij (2008) show that public transport may have served a number of essential roles in the policy package. Broadly acceptability increases when car users expect to benefit from the allocation of revenues or to be compensated for negative consequences. Also Ubbels and Verhoef (2006) show that opinions on road user charging are very sensitive to the way tax revenues are allocated. In their study a pricing measure is more acceptable when revenues are used to lower fuel taxes, car taxation or existing car ownership taxes, all of which are in the direct interest of the car driver. However, some analyses show that the preferences for revenue allocation vary strongly or are even contradictory (e.g. Schade, 1998).

Some studies reveal that people often complain about the lack of transparency in revenue management (e.g., Grisolía and Lopéz del Pino, 2008; Schade and Schlag, 2000). Thus a clear communication of revenue allocation to the public is recommended. In more detail emphasising when and how they can benefit from road user charging is important for higher levels of acceptability. Moreover it is crucial that the promise of the reallocation has to be credible. There is some evidence that people are not convinced about the expressed or published objectives of road user charging and thus do not believe in the sincere use of revenues (FAW, 1995). Schade and Schlag (2000) found considerable differences between the preferred use of revenues and the expectations about the real use. The majority of the polled car drivers favour traffic flow and public transport improvements as well as reduced public transport fares. In contrast they expect that revenues rather will be used for state or municipal purposes.
Implementation Process and Acceptability The report has so far discussed individual and system characteristics that affect the level of public acceptability. This might give the impression that acceptability is a static factor within the implementation process. However, acceptability is not static but highly dynamic throughout the pre-, the decision- and the post-implementation phase. Figure 12 3 illustrates possible acceptability developments as observed in cities implementing urban road user charging. After initial support acceptability decreases the closer and more specific the proposal gets. In addition, the higher the initial ex-ante acceptability the stronger may be the decrease of positive attitudes in the course of the implementation process. After implementation support increases again.

 

 

Figure 123 Possible developments of attitudes towards road pricing

IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS

Repeated attitude surveys show that acceptability is decreasing the closer and more concrete the proposal gets (cf. Edinburgh and Stockholm cases in Deliverable D3). I.e., even if there is initial support for road user charging, there is no guarantee that this will remain over time. However, this is not a new observation. Examples like the introduction of the European currency or the extension of the European Union all show a decreasing support prior to implementation. This can be seen as an approach-avoidance conflict, which occurs when both hopes and fears are associated with an innovation and often lead to ambivalent attitudes (Loewenstein et al, 2003). Applied to an innovation like road user charging the approach-avoidance model postulates that costs and benefits are associated with each innovation. Benefits (chances) generate a tendency to “approach” the innovation and costs (risks) produce a tendency to “avoid” the innovation. The problem is that the strength of the avoidance tendency increases more rapidly with nearness to the goal than does the strength of the approach tendency. I.e., negative aspects of the innovation (risks) become more and more important the closer the implementation of the innovation comes.

It is assumed that prior to implementation of urban road user charging approach-avoidance conflicts should occur in almost every city to some extent, which means decreasing support for the proposal. However, it seems possible that the higher the initial ex-ante acceptability the stronger should be the decrease of positive attitudes in the course of the implementation process (see Figure 12 3). The reason is that not all supporters are “convinced” supporters. Acceptability research has shown that social norms play an important role in determining attitudes towards road user charging (Schade and Schlag, 2003). Many people have no ideas about the real consequences of road user charging and therefore strive for concordance between their own and others’ preferences. The pressure towards conformity exercised by relevant others is one of the strongest factors influencing personal opinions, feelings and behavioural intentions, especially in a situation with a rather uncertain physical basis for judgment. If there is a perception of a favourable “atmosphere” towards road user charging many undecided people will follow. However, these late adopters (Rogers, 1995) are rather unconvinced and will change attitudes quickly if negative aspects of the innovation emerge (Schade, Seidel and Schlag, 2004). Conversely, in cities where acceptability levels are rather low (up to max. 30 %) the social climate should be rather against road user charging. People who still support road user charging under this “rough” climate can be designated as “innovators” and therefore should have more stable attitudes towards it even if negative aspects should come to the forefront. The above hypothesis is (indirectly) confirmed by the Trondheim case. Only a minority was positive towards urban road user charging, and this did not change a lot before implementation. However, after the introduction the support steadily increased until the early 1990s. The same attitude development has been reported from Oslo (Tretvik, 2003). Therefore two possible developments of attitudes towards road user charging are hypothesised. However, the decreasing support for the Trondheim scheme observed after 1992 emphasises again, that attitudes are not stable and support has to be secured over a long period. The shift from positive towards more negative attitudes in Trondheim is attributed to major adjustments to the scheme design. This demonstrates that the public is sensitive to changes in the scheme structure or fee level. It indicates that a stepwise or gradual introduction of road user charging, which is often advocated (e.g. CEC, 1998; Niskanen et al, 2003) may face more or less serious acceptability problems, too. However, so far the reasons for this shift are unclear. Maybe rules of transparency and credibility are violated.

POST IMPLEMENTATION

In general after implementation support increases (but see the Lyon case below). In Bergen public opinion has shifted from strong opposition before implementation to almost majority support in the after situation (Tretvik, 2003). Within a year, however, 50% were in favour and only 36.5% opposed. In the year before the implementation of the Oslo toll ring, 70 % of the city’s population were negative towards the toll ring. When the system had been operational for one year this opposition had been reduced to 64% and after eight years this figure was 54%. Attitude surveys about the Trondheim toll ring indicated decreased opposition after implementation (Tretvik, 2003). In April 1991, about 70% of the respondents objected to the toll ring. In December 1991, two months after implementation, the negative share had dropped to below 50%. Figure 12 4 summarises all these results.

 

Figure 124 Negative attitudes before and after (one year of) opening of urban tolls in

Source: Odeck and Bråthen (2002).

Similar results have been observed in London (TfL, 2004). Before implementation of the charging scheme in late 2002 40 % rejected congestion charging (40 % support). After charging was implemented in 2003 just 25-30 % rejected congestion pricing (now 50-60 % support).

Also attitudes to the Stockholm trial have become more positive during the time of the trial. In autumn 2005 (before the trial), about 55% of all county citizens believed that it was a “rather/very bad decision” to conduct the congestion-tax trial. Since the congestion tax was introduced in January 2006, this percentage has continuously fallen. In April and May 2006, 53% believed that it was a “rather/very good decision” while 41% believed that it was a “rather/very bad decision” (Söderholm, 2006). Winslott Hiselius et al (2009) tried to ascertain this change in attitude and analysed the anticipated and perceived effects of the trial. The results indicate that improved understanding of the effects and the magnitude of concrete effects was not a main driving force behind the attitudinal change. Instead, it seems that the public attitude changed because personal experience gave a new understanding of the implications of the charges for personal well-being. This would imply that trials may be more useful tools than just information provision in the implementation process of ‘difficult’ policy measures like road user charging. Also initially a trial is only introduced for a particular time period. This means, proposed decisions were not definite and could potentially be reversed. Thus less resistance and rejection could be expected.

On the other hand Raux and Souche (2003) report a remarkable exception: A failure of a tolling scheme in France due to public resistance. The northern boulevard périphérique of Lyon has been a privately managed toll road infrastructure which opened in 1997. From the outset, it was vehemently rejected by motorists. There was a movement to boycott the new road accompanied by weekly demonstrations at the toll barriers. These prevented users from paying and occasionally even led to the destruction of the barriers. Finally, the local authority repurchased the road which is now managed by a public corporation. The toll was considerably reduced and limited to a main central tunnel.

More detailed experiences gleaned from countries that have implemented urban road user charging measures are discussed in Deliverable D3 of the CURACAO project.

One of the assumptions for the positive development of attitudes after the implementation of road user charging is that the benefits of such a scheme become apparent to the citizens and change their minds in a positive direction (Odeck and Bråthen, 1997, 2002). Schade and Baum (2007) have challenged this assumption. They investigated how car drivers will react to the (planned) introduction of urban road user charging. Will people respond with even stronger negative attitudes, rejection or reactance towards such proposals, or will they adapt to the new situation and develop more positive attitudes because they have to accept the inevitable? The results of the study revealed clearly that people with a strong conviction about a definite introduction of urban road user charging exhibit much more positive attitudes towards road user charging than people who are less certain about its imminent introduction (see Figure 12 5). Schade and Baum (2007) explain the results on the basis of the theory of cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) which predicts that people increase the attractiveness of an unavoidable event in order to maintain a consistent cognitive belief system. They conclude that once an urban road user charging system is decided and the citizens can no longer avoid it, their attitudes towards road user charging become more positive. Thus, the positive effects of road user charging scheme benefits after implementation might be overestimated. Recent research from the Stockholm congestion charge provides empirical support for the hypothesis that attitudinal change after implementation could be partly due to adaptation to cognitive dissonance. Brundell-Freij and Jonsson (in prep.) show that attitudes to congestion charging in Stockholm became even more positive after the permanent introduction of the scheme in 2007 than they were during the trial in 2006. That was despite the fact that respondents were not becoming more convinced of charging having positive effects on traffic problems.

Figure 125 Impact of perceived likelihood of road pricing implementation on road pricing acceptability (mean values)

Source: Schade and Baum (2007)

 

The opinion of local politicians and their subsequent actions are of paramount importance for the successful implementation of urban road user charging schemes. This is one common experience of all cities implementing or attempting to implement urban road user charging. They directly or indirectly determine whether or not the pricing scheme will be introduced as well as the speed of the policy implementation process (Schade et al, 2004).

Politicians obviously can influence the implementation process in two different ways. First, they may consciously and actively prevent the implementation of the scheme. Second, they may avoid a clear commitment to the scheme, especially if they are not sure about the outcome of the political process. But a lack of strong political commitment acts as a benchmark for other stakeholders. Their attitudes may become more negative as well. This also contributes to a slower or even stopped introduction. Here a political champion or figurehead, who takes ownership of the road user charging concept, clearly facilitates the implementation process. In this process politicians have to consider the interests and opinions of different societal groups as well as politicians' own interests. However, the positive theory of regulation sees politicians as vote-maximising actors whose main interest is not in political programmes per se but rather in their re-election or nomination into lucrative positions after their term of service (Niskanen et al, 2003). A major disadvantage of pricing policies is that they are not directly attributed to the politicians’ actions. Therefore the politicians rather have a preference for direct interventions over anonymous pricing instruments. Another key concern of politicians is that transport related as well as environmental policies are less promising than alternative policy issues such as employment policies (Frey, 2003). Concerning political acceptability the AFFORD survey (Schade and Schlag, 2000) showed that politicians’ attitudes towards road pricing in the surveyed cities were more positive than expected. But even where there is strong enough political support to go ahead with charging plans, politicians can easily be disheartened if they find that public support is eroding in the run-up to the scheme introduction (PROGRESS, 2004).

The factors influencing political acceptability are somehow similar to those that have been found to be important for public acceptability. Examples are problem perception, fairness and revenue allocation. Thus results concerning the public may be to some extent transferable to political acceptability as well. Further research is needed to clarify the factors influencing political acceptability and the relations to public acceptability.

One way of divorcing the urban road user charging issue from elections is to hold a referendum. Consultation can provide a better understanding of transport problems, help generate innovative solutions and gives the public the opportunity to respond to the proposals of the supply-side via surveys, interviews, etc. However, it is not always clear how the decision-makers will take into account the views and opinions of the stakeholders. Moreover it should be noted, though, that a referendum just before the last steps of the scheme introduction is very likely to hit the lowest level of support, and therefore runs the greatest risk of failure. An alternative to an early referendum is the Stockholm approach: here the referendum was held around one year after a congestion charging scheme was implemented “on a trial basis”. Whilst this approach carries a large financial risk, it provides the best chances for the referendum to be won, since it has been shown that public support for a charging scheme increases again once it is up and running and people start to feel its benefits. In that respect the public opinion is the most important source of information for the politicians in the implementation process. Thus, presenting not only the benefits of the scheme to the politicians, but also evidence that the public agrees with the urban road user charging scheme may increase political acceptability considerably.
Business Acceptability

The business community is one stakeholder whose opinion particularly counts in the introduction process. This is due to the fact that they are important local taxpayers. In addition, politicians fear relocation of important business sectors away from the charging zones to avoid urban road user charging. The attitude of the business community toward the road user charging schemes can be described as ranging from sceptical to a negative attitude and opposition towards the scheme. This appraisal is not dependent on the progress of the implementation process (Schade et al, 2004).

Retailers that are located within the envisaged charging zone are generally among a scheme’s most vociferous opponents. They fear the competition from retailers located outside the zone, and a resulting reduction in their customer numbers and thus lower revenues. Especially small businesses express concerns that urban road user charging would threaten their livelihoods. Also in tourism losses are expected because tourists could be discouraged from visiting cities that have an urban road user charge (DfT, 2007). Since it is clearly the purpose of most of the current and currently envisaged schemes to deter car traffic from entering the charged area, this fear is understandable, and can only be allayed if retailers can be convinced that the public transport alternatives offered to their current customers are good enough to provide viable alternatives to the car. Another mitigating measure for the potential loss of customers would be to invest some of the charging income on promotional measures for the charged area. To allay fear of the retailers the British Retail Consortium published a leaflet for improving town centre accessibility (British Retail Consortium, 2008). This guide should support especially retailers located within the city centre to engage with their council to attract more people into the town centre by reducing congestion on the roads or by providing more buses for customers without access to a car. The consortium campaigns for a high-quality public transport, an efficient road network, an attractive urban environment and good facilities for deliveries. Finally the more attractive shopping environment will increase sales. Further, the fact that individuals stated they do not drive into the city centres or use buses because of congestion (DfT, 2007) should influence the retailers’ attitude towards urban road user charging positively. Further to the fears about loss of customers, there are also concerns that those customers that still come have less money in their pockets to spend. Ways to meet this fear would be a parking policy that would reduce parking charges during the main shopping hours, the creation of additional spaces (although this may turn out to be counterproductive for congestion reduction) or the use of some of the road user charging revenue to allow a reduction of public transport fares. The final concern for retailers is that they may have to increase the prices of their goods to accommodate additional costs for deliveries, and thereby become less competitive than their out-of-town rivals. However, especially where there is only a daily charge rather than a charge per trip and delivery vehicles that come into the charged area several times during the charging period, they have much more to gain from reduced congestion than to lose from the charge they pay once per day. Moreover, the low level of charges foreseen currently by European cities, will only add very marginally to the cost of any goods for sale (PROGRESS, 2004).

However, these expectations do not correspond with the experiences available in cities that have introduced successfully road user charging schemes. Actually, it is not possible to conclude that urban road user charging has an adverse impact on the retail sector. In fact, the evidence is rather mixed. On the one hand cities have not reported considerable business relocation (Seidel et al, 2004). On the other hand a 2003 survey by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that 76 per cent of traders reported reduced takings year-on-year (Quddus et al, 2007). Also Quddus et al (2007) revealed that the charge had a significant impact on sales at the John Lewis Oxford Street store (inside the charging zone) over the period studied. However, it is not possible to separate the impact of the charge from the impact of other exogenous factors affecting the retail sector at the given period of time (e.g. the closure of the Central Line and the Iraq War). Another research found out that the dominant financial and business services sector showed positive trends in aggregate employment and business activity in the years following the start of congestion charging in comparison to the years immediately before charging in 2003 (TfL, 2007). Similarly, the hotel and restaurants sector and the retail sector registered stronger business performance (for more information on the impacts of urban road user charging on business see Chapter 9).

Consequently, business acceptability of the implemented road user charging schemes may also increase after the introduction, as with public opinion. For example in Stockholm between 2005 and 2006 there was a change in attitude towards the Stockholm Trial as a whole. The proportion of companies that was negative fell from about 65% to 45%. The proportion that was positive rose from about 20% to approximately 35%. The attitude to a permanent congestion tax changed in the same direction. The proportion of companies that were negative to a permanent congestion tax fell from about 65% to 50%, and the proportion that were positive rose from about 20% to approximately 30% (Stockholmsförsöket, 2006a). That may imply that business representatives do not only judge a road user charging system on the basis of a pure rational cost-benefit analysis. Since the benefits of the road user charging system are often hypothetical and abstract prior to the introduction whereas the costs can be calculated in more detail, they may be weighted more than the benefits. The result would be a negative assessment of the road user charging scheme. A second possible explanation refers to the expectations of the business representatives. The perceived effectiveness is only one factor influencing the expectations. Other psychological variables may be relevant as well. Again there is more research needed to investigate the factors influencing business acceptability (Schade et al, 2004).

In a study Steg, Tillema, van Wee and Schuitema (2008) examined the perception and acceptability of transport pricing among different industrial firms and businesses in the service sector in the Netherlands. The results show that charges were evaluated as more acceptable if revenues were of direct benefit to firms; for instance if improvements in accessibility are expected. Broadly acceptability of road user charging was higher after people were more aware of the possible advantages of the charges (after considering the possible consequences of the charge for their firm more in detail).Charging is likely to be less acceptable if the firms fear increases in travel costs. Indeed, the charges were less acceptable the more firms expected increasing costs for transporting goods and products, and costs of business and commuter travel. Further hardly any differences in acceptability judgements were found between firms operating in different sectors (industry or services). Also firm size appeared not to be influential.

Experiences from the Congestion Charging scheme in London show that business support for congestion charging continues to be relatively mixed. Businesses were, on the whole, more supportive of the scheme than opposed to it (TfL, 2005). Research undertaken by Faber Maunsell (2003) found considerable evidence that many, if not most, businesses recognise the potential for both social and economic benefits from a reduction of congestion in central London. Many industries support the charge because its direct costs are offset by savings and benefits, such as faster delivery times. After the implementation in 2003 Cert Logistics, a distribution company in London that delivers to downtown restaurants and hotels, reports its delivery times have been cut by as much as 50%. Other industries find that their employees spend less time delayed in traffic (Litman, 2006). Figure 12 6 shows that the majority of businesses continue to support the scheme, provided that there is continued investment in public transport. When analysed by sector, the leisure, financial and retail sectors were the most supportive of the scheme, whilst the distribution and restaurant sectors were the least positive. The increased level of support from the retail sector in 2005, compared to the previous year, is the most positive trend of all the sectors (TfL, 2006).

 

Figure 126 Level of business acceptability of the London congestion charging scheme under the provision of investment in public transport

Source: TfL(2006)

 

The media (the press, TV, radio) is an often overlooked factor in the policy implementation process. However, by choosing the topics and the way of presenting it, the media can significantly influence not only the public opinion, but also the opinion of all relevant stakeholders.

The main focus of the media in reporting about urban road user charging is the opinions and behaviour of the key actors. This issue also becomes more important the more advanced and detailed the plans for implementation are. Whereas it mostly reports facts such as the technology trials it already focuses more on opinions of the stakeholders in the pilot demonstrations. Whether desirable or not, the political process was central to the media’s interest in the development of the Edinburgh congestion charging proposals. Of the stakeholders, politicians had an important role in communicating the scheme to the media. Also Krause (2009) pointed out that a project champion is crucial for a successful implementation of an urban road user charging scheme. It is important that politicians and decision-makers take possible reactions of the media into account. In particular, they should avoid as much as possible everything which allows the media or opponents to negatively emotionalise the topic. This may mean, in some cases, that the policy measure has to be adjusted to prevent a negative media response. It may well be that this adjustment will lead to substantial departures from the “first best” policy. Lyons (2003) proposes three approaches for decision-makers and politicians to change the focus from the ‘pain’ to the ‘gain’ associated with transport pricing projects within the media. These approaches are to educate the public so they can see through the media hype, to work with the media and to ride the media storm.

Media acts not only as an opinion reporter but also as an opinion former. Thus time and special efforts will be required to ensure they fully understand the objectives of road user charging and the benefits that could result. In Edinburgh the newspapers clearly added their own interpretation (e.g. using the term ‘road toll’) and sources of information to the News articles. Although there were instances of the newspapers both reporting and making opinion towards the proposals, arguably more emphasis was placed on the opinion making role of newspapers (see Ryley and Gjersoe, 2006 for a demonstration for the failed Edinburgh congestion charging scheme).The ‘opinion making’ is certainly more relevant in the latter stages of the implementation process where the key actors actively position themselves and try to exert influence in their favour (Schade et al, 2004). The question remains whether media content or public opinion changes first? It may be assumed that the media simply reflect the change in public opinion. However, it is possible, media content changed first and then public opinion followed. An analysis of media during the Stockholm trial shows that the change in media towards the trial coincides with the attitudinal change of the public (Winslott-Hiselius et al, 2009). The result indicates that the increase in positive views was driven by a shift from neutral to positive articles during the trial.

Over the time period of the PRoGR€SS project media interest in the scheme grew, reflected by a steady increase in the number of newspaper articles. Here the tonality of the media coverage was swinging between positive and negative (see for example Gaber(2004) or PROGRESS(2004) for an analysis of local and national press and media coverage in London and other European countries). The overall assessment of urban road user charging schemes in the media has been negative or at best neutral. The negative arguments are often due to the politicised nature of the road user charging proposals and are related to financial ‘sticks’. If there are any mostly the positive arguments refer to the ‘carrot’ of the investment package for instance for public transport. In general the media will hardly be supportive in the implementation process. They will rather pick up any shortcomings that arise in technology or method of operation. This result corresponds with general media research which has shown that especially the mass media focuses on aspects which can be presented in an emotional and thus empathetic way. Stories about people who are forced to change their travel behaviour and thus their daily life because of the scheme are far more suitable for this than abstract measurements of improved air quality for example. That might be also a reason why the negative opinions are highly represented in the media. However, media and communications discussion could also be helpful to overcome the negative press surrounding transport pricing schemes (Jones, 2003). For instance it can help to engage key stakeholder at all stages of the implementation process and clarify the role of the elected politician in the process of scheme design, selection and implementation. Emphasis should be made on the ‘carrots’ rather than the ‘sticks’ associated with such projects.

Concerning the impact of different types of media on acceptability, the Department for Transport (2007) could show that people tended to state that the media has only little impact on their attitudes and acceptability towards urban road user charging. More precisely, participants felt TV News to be a worthy source of information. But they did not feel that papers impacted on their acceptability. However, articles discussing urban road user charging in the papers did lead participants to increase feelings of inevitability of urban road user charging being introduced. There was also a feeling that stories in the media are rather negative and are not counteracted by positive statements from the government. Thus negative opinion and attitude towards urban road user charging grow in the press and became the dominant discourse in society. Participants felt their own acceptability towards road user charging increased if the media gives more information for instance about examples of urban road user charging schemes already working or more education about this pricing measure (DfT, 2007).