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Urban Road User Charging Online Knowledge Base

What Are The Policy Implications?

In Section 14.3, we described theoretical views on implementation as well as practical experiences. Based on the above, the following patterns and policy implications are identified when introducing urban road user charging:

• The implementation processes are site and country specific. Therefore, general policy conclusions are not easily drawn, nor is it possible to create a decision model that covers all implementation aspects or dimensions. In that respect, each city considering road pricing will have to find its own path towards implementation (Langmyhr and Sager, 1997).

• Several of the barriers mentioned in Section 14.1 have been present also in the CURACAO case studies. In particular: it has proven important to design the process so that it acknowledges the multiplicity of actors and agencies involved, and the complexity given by different jurisdictional levels.

• The political commitment to a specific introduction is fundamental in all cases. Political championships can differ in shape, but without securing political support the chances of implementation are slight. Implementation opportunity is also heavily influenced by the election cycle. It is therefore important to secure support across political borders based on a mutual ambition to solve existing transport problems. In addition, planning and introduction can be forced to a tight time schedule within one election period, so that negative attitudes have had the time to change (based on experience) before next election.

• Regional and local interests often seem to collide in practice. In order to create a setting for a long term policy introduction, such as URUC, the optimal platform is to build consensus on a regional basis.

• Misperceptions are often spread among the public and media before the introduction of a URUC scheme. The policy implication here is to secure a well informed decision making process as well as effective communication strategies.

• A referendum can be used as a way of determining the level of public support for a URUC scheme, in order to inform the decision-making process. However, a referendum is a somewhat extreme form of decision support for a specific policy instrument (Gudmundsson et al, 2008b). Three cities in Europe have chosen to use a public referendum to determine whether a URUC scheme should be implemented. In the UK, referenda on the Edinburgh (2005) and Manchester (2008) proposals received heavy defeats at the polls, leading to the scheme plans being abandoned. By way of contrast, in the city of Stockholm (2006), where voters had direct experience of the scheme impacts through the trial, and therefore a greater knowledge of what they were voting for, a positive overall vote was recorded. In policy terms therefore, referenda should be considered carefully since public acceptability is at its lowest point before the implementation of a scheme, and the public may be voting on other issues beyond the scheme itself. Consequently, if user cities decide to have a referendum anyway regarding such a controversial measure as urban road user charging, timing is crucial in order for the learning process to have reached a certain stage.

• The tradition of road pricing in a country as well as the existence of “forerunners” (such as London) appears to be very influential on the political courage and the public level of knowledge. When considering the policy measure of urban road user charging, the learning process and changes in acceptability over time must be acknowledged in the implementation process.

• Most charging schemes are part of policy packages with complementary measures and the revenue is assigned to finance transport improvements. The practise that pricing is not introduced as an isolated measure, but part of a broader policy package, is also supported from a theoretical efficiency point of view (MC-ICAM 2003). Consequently, the choice of complementary policy instruments can have a significant effect on overall performance and effectiveness of the road pricing scheme (CUPID, 2005). Accompanying measures may basically be either unrelated to charging, feasible because charging has provided a sound basis or targeted to scheme objectives through charging design or exemptions (Brundell-Freij, 2008). Moreover, revenue use is often regarded as critical for distributional effects, acceptability and the socio-economic benefit of the scheme (Eliasson and Lundberg, 2002).

• The legal and institutional framework differs immensely between countries and usually evolves over time along with scheme developments. A phased approach to implementation is therefore practical, as constraints may be eased over time either through external forces (e.g. technology) or by government’s deliberate efforts (MC-ICAM, 2003). Perhaps one can state that if there is a political will there is a way.

• Time span and implementation sequence also vary greatly between case studies. A general policy conclusion is for potential user cities not to underestimate the time and cost required to implement a charging scheme. When adopting a package of complementary measures such as transport improvements, these should ideally go ahead before pricing is introduced. That way, capacities are made available and “painful” first experiences are diminished as people are given the opportunity to modify their travel behaviour more gradually (CUPID, 2005). However, introducing a set of complementary measures at an early stage may also generate financing difficulties. Moreover, paving the way for URUC by establishing national legislation and clarifying the division of roles and responsibilities among agencies/authorities is important, especially given the often short implementation schedules linked to political election cycles..