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Urban Road User Charging Online Knowledge Base

What Are The Policy Implications?

There are a lot of principles that have to be taken into account when implementing urban road user charging. First of all acceptability needs to be considered from the very beginning of a road user charging project. Based on the information given in this chapter and the results of the EU-project CUPID (2005) the following steps are needed to increase acceptability of road user charging and thus the probability of successful implementation and operation.
A basic precondition for the whole road user charging implementation process is the general support of major political parties and stakeholders, in particular at the regional but also at the national level.

The first public stage of the implementation process starts with problem identification. A specified list of problems is one basis for identifying potential solutions. Objectives are often rather abstract and not all objectives may be accepted or understood by the public. Thus it may be easier for the public to understand a strategy based on clearly identified problems. Further it is crucial that the objectives of the pricing strategy have to reflect the main public concerns. At this stage awareness campaigns may be helpful to stimulate discussion about transport problems and to frame the problems in terms of the favoured solution, for instance, a combination of congestion problems and air pollution from traffic with financing problems in public transport.

The next step is to discuss potential solutions to reach the objectives. Here it is important to demonstrate that road user charging is the best if not the only solution to perceived problems. However, people must feel that they have a choice, even if the choice alternatives are restricted. If they only feel forced to comply with a pre-defined solution, some of them will show reluctance. Ideally the problem discussion should lead “automatically” to road user charging as the best if not the only solution.

Public participation involves stakeholders in the development of a transport strategy. This involvement can range from merely keeping those with an interest in the strategy informed, to consultations that can make a difference to strategy formulation, and further on to joint decisions and joint implementation. It is critical that a visible consultation is conducted, to show that the solutions will be designed taking into account the views of all stakeholders and that there is broad support in principle. A decision on whether and how to employ participation is best taken when the strategy formulation process is being designed. For the more inclusive levels of participation, the stakeholders need to agree on the ways in which they are to be involved. There is a good case for involving participation at all of the key stages in the development and implementation of a transport strategy. However, it should be noted 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.

Intense information provision is a one-way relationship where the information about the proposal, its procedures, and backgrounds is delivered to the public. Generally, positive information should be disseminated which corresponds with the desired attitudes and behaviour and negative information in relation to undesired attitudes.

The media is a crucial factor in the policy implementation process. 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. It is therefore important to establish a good partnership with the media and to conduct a proactive information strategy.

Moreover it is important to assess impacts and demonstrate likely outcomes of the road charging scheme. Therefore making comprehensive assessment studies that generate alternative solutions, assess the different alternatives and identify potential winners and losers is recommended. Results should be communicated as simply and comprehensibly as possible. First the positive results and benefits have to be considered then the costs of such desired solutions and then who (the user) should pay.

People will only accept road pricing if they get something for their money. Thus agreed investments and improvements ideally should be provided simultaneously. Further it is crucial that users have personally positive experiences, e.g. time savings, fewer parking problems, ecological advantages and a more attractive environment. Positive experiences at an early stage in implementation help users to accept their new behaviour.

Where reforms have been successfully implemented they have generally been subject to review or withdrawal after a specified period. Thus impacts of the scheme on the transport system, society (access, equity, inclusion) and public perception (acceptability) should be monitored. This monitoring is important as part of a phased reform, as well as to enable others to learn from the experience. If problems occur, a willingness to change the scheme is important.

Finally refining the scheme to make it more sophisticated over time is possible. When road users have become familiar with the new situation a successive differentiation of the charges can occur.

So far the steps involved in achieving acceptability have been presented as a series of sequential steps. However, it will be distinguished between vertical and horizontal steps (see Table 12 1). While vertical tasks describe tasks which have to be done stepwise for a certain period, horizontal tasks have to be done permanently (for more information see CUPID, 2005).

Table 121 Steps for a successful implementation and operation of URUC

Political support






Problem identification and formulation of objectives


Consultation and Information

   Discussion of solutions to reach objectives

Media involvement



   Designing an integrated package of measures

   Solution forming and presentation

   Physical Implementation

   Monitoring to demonstrate impacts


   Follow-up assessment / Adjustments / Learning





   Refining towards a more sophisticated system