Urban Road User Charging Online Knowledge Base
What Are The Policy Implications?
Business opposition to urban road user charging remains one of the most serious barriers to implementation. As is often the case with novel transport policy innovations, fear of the unknown, coupled with more general lack of business confidence, lead firms and their representatives to argue that road user charging will seriously affect their profitability.
In practice the emerging empirical evidence tends to support the results of earlier predictive modelling, in indicating that the impacts of road user charging on the economy, whether positive or negative, are small, and likely to be dwarfed by external influences, such as changes in the national economy or international tourism.
While these findings appear to apply to larger cities, which typically have a dominant position in the regional and national economy, they may not be transferable to smaller cities which are in competition with neighbouring cities and outer city developments. More empirical evidence is needed on impacts on the economy of such cities.
The small scale of the aggregate impact on firms may mask some differential effects on different sectors of the economy, and on different sizes of firm. This is an area in which more research is needed.
Where particular types of firm are vulnerable to road user charging (or, perhaps more importantly, are perceived to be vulnerable), there are several actions which can be taken to reduce that impact. Charging zones can be modified to omit vulnerable areas. Charges can be limited to the peak periods, which will assist retail trade. Overall charge payments per day, and charges for commercial vehicles, can be capped. In the extreme, vulnerable businesses can be exempt from charges.
The provision of alternatives and complementary improvements can also help to support the economy. Public transport improvements are particularly important, but so may be support for other modes, public parking, and environmental enhancements.