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Attitudinal and preference surveys help to explain some of the characteristics of the Oslo packages. Currently, the toll ring scheme provides a lion’s share of funding, with an increasing share of the funds being earmarked for public transport. This is one step in the right direction from an economic point of view, but it is also rational, based on the attitudes of the politicians and the professionals in the field. There is little support for funding from other local taxation.
There has been no referendum for the Oslo packages. Thus, it is important to understand how the politicians and the administrative bodies actually consider and weight the different aspects of the schemes against each other. For this purpose, both interviews (Bekken and Osland 2004) and a Stated Preference (SP) survey (Nossum and Norheim 2004) were conducted. The SP survey was carried out among politicians and transport planners with regard to different transport funding schemes and use of revenue. As discussed below the results show that it has been considered more important to find packages that are acceptable to all parties than to select an optimal package. Yearly attitudinal surveys of the general population were also carried out (Prosam 2004). These surveys provide useful insights into aspects of general acceptability of the packages and how attitudes have evolved over time.
General attitudinal surveys of citizensThe toll ring in Oslo commenced operation in February 1990. Each year since 1989 a survey of attitudes towards the toll ring has been carried out among the citizens in Oslo and Akershus. The sample is randomly selected among the population, with roughly 1000 interviews carried out each time by telephone. The aim has been to track changes in attitudes over time. The result is a time series of attitudes covering a period of 18 years. THe figure below summarizes the general results from the survey both for the entire sample and for the part of the sample passing through the toll ring on the way to work. Respondents were asked whether they were positive, indifferent or negative to this way of collecting revenue.
The figure shows that there is no overwhelming public support for the packages. Even though this survey cannot be compared with the result from a potential referendum, it is fair to say that the schemes would have a hard time being accepted in a general referendum. Acceptance has, however, increased over time since each scheme was introduced. This was also apparent in the Stockholm congestion charging trial scheme, where the public turned more positive after it was introduced (Gustavsson 2006). The introduction of Oslo package 2 in 2001, and the corresponding fee increase, reduced acceptability. However, after a few years acceptability was back to the pre-Oslo package 2 levels.In 1989, more than 60% of the people in favour of the toll ring explained their reason as reduced car traffic, and 25% explained it as providing increased funds for road investments. In 2006 this had reversed, with more than 50% being in favour due to more funds for road investments and 25% due to reduced car traffic, this situation had been quite stable since 1994, indicating that the change occurred from 1989 to 1994.
The reasons why people are negative to the toll ring has much to do with the overall tax level of car usage. Most people explain their negative attitude towards the toll ring by this being unfair as they pay enough in taxes already.
Since 2001, the survey has included a question on attitudes towards Oslo package 2. About two thirds express a positive attitude towards Oslo package 2 after being informed about the contents of the package. There are no significant geographical differences. The youngest are more positive, whereas the ones with more cars per household are more negative. Close to one third agree on a question that half the revenue should be used for public transport investments (the PT share of Oslo package 1 is 20 per cent). Respondents are split equally on whether tolling should be continued regardless of how the funds are spent. However, the increased use of revenues for public transport and road investments is the main reason why the public accepts a prolongation of the toll ring (Prosam 2004).
Survey of preferences among decision makers
A preference survey of local decision makers in Oslo and some other large urban areas in Norway also with toll rings in operation (Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger and Kristiansand) was carried out in the autumn of 2004 (Nossum and Norheim 2004). In this study, decision makers were defined as those who take part in the decision making process in a wider context, i.e. county and municipal politicians, administrative staff in counties and municipalities and road authorities.
The stated preference method was used to assess the decision makers’ preferences for alternative packages of restrictive measures, pricing policy and revenue-use options. The survey revealed strong support for a combined funding approach with contributions from toll revenues, transit fare revenues and local and national authorities. Close to 80 per cent of decision makers favoured the idea of a joint contribution between authorities and passengers to finance better public transport service. Toll ring revenue and congestion charging are both preferred to local taxes as funding sources.
One goal of the survey was to reveal the different stakeholders’ inclination to recommend positive measures (increased PT frequency, reduced PT fares and car-free city centres), restrictive measures (increased road tolls, congestion charging, reduced number of parking spaces and increased parking fees) and combinations of these measures. There was also interest in determining the stakeholders’ assessment of the effects of the measures.The surveys identified a strong positive correlation between the expected efficiency of the measures and acceptability, except for car-free cities. The politicians consider car-free city centres as a very efficient measure for reducing car traffic, but they do not recommend it. All respondents expect the levels of restrictive measures to influence positively the impact of the measures, but the probability that the respondents would recommend different measures was independent of this level. This may explain why efficient measures have increasingly been implemented in the Oslo packages, but less intensively than would be optimal.
There is no time differentiation in the Oslo toll ring. Furthermore, the toll is collected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Thus, the fee is the same whether driving to work or for leisure. The following figure might give an insight to equity considerations.
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