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Urban Road User Charging Online Knowledge Base
What Is The Importance Of The Theme?
Economists have favoured the use of pricing in regulating transportation for decades. However, with a few exceptions, urban road pricing is rare. Practical experience shows numerous kinds of barriers to the suggested pricing policy measures. While important institutional barriers remain in many countries (e.g. Glazer et al, 2001) most commentators acknowledge that the main barrier to implementing transport pricing strategies is now a lack of public and political acceptability (Jones, 2003; Schade and Schlag, 2003).
Several good reasons exist for considering acceptability. Firstly, we live in a democratic society, so societal, political and technological innovations must be introduced via the democratic process and must prevail against competing innovations (Frey and Eichenberger, 1999). Usually they cannot be imposed against public will. Secondly, the acceptability concept stresses the user perspective (Bartley, 1995). Even if most technological and political innovations might result in societal benefits, opinions and intentions of the people concerned are often not canvassed when new measures are being considered for implementation. This may lead to “irrational” resistance not only from the people concerned, and ultimately to the failure of an originally useful innovation.
The importance of acceptability is reflected in the results of the User Needs Assessment Questionnaire, in which 20 out of 22 city users ranked this topic as very important to them (CURACAO, 2006). Low acceptability by citizens as well as the politicians and administrative decision-makers are regarded as the most important barriers to successful implementation of road pricing schemes. Furthermore a rather negative media attitude adds to the currently unfavourable climate for road pricing implementation in cities and regions.
Insufficient acceptability of a certain policy may have several consequences: for instance, strong public resistance may inhibit implementation, as political parties fear consequences for their next election. Secondly, with a sensitive topic such as mobility, the introduction of road pricing may lead to active resistance by different groups, which might be exhibited in the form of demonstrations, boycotts or even sabotage. Several examples demonstrating the power of resistance are known e.g. from nuclear energy, information technology, biotechnology and even from transport. Thus, acceptability of systems is assumed to have major influence on the effectiveness of the implementation and maintenance of a system (Van der Laan, 1998). Lacking acceptance might even undermine efficiency of a per se useful innovation.
Within the theoretical framework of urban transport pricing acceptability various interest groups who influence the introduction of this measure can be identified. Figure 11‑1 illustrates the main groups within the implementation process of urban road pricing. That is first the politicians and decision makers, that implement the policy, second the citizens and in particular the affected motorists, third the lobby and interest groups that try to influence the policy and implementation process in favour of their clients’ needs and finally the media which inform as well as influence the implementation process. However, the relationships between these key actors and their acceptability is rather unclear.
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