Urban Road User Charging Online Knowledge Base
What Are The Policy Implications?
The important principle, in the avoidance of inequity, is that no individuals or groups of people should be unreasonably disadvantaged by an urban road user charging scheme, in respect of either accessibility or environmental impacts. For any potential inequities that are identified, amendments and complementary measures should be put into place to either prevent such negative impacts, or to compensate those who might be disadvantaged.
In practice, there is limited evidence, from studies or implemented schemes, on the scale of inequities which a road user charging scheme might be expected to introduce, but it is clear that the range of impacts will depend critically on the design of the scheme, the demography of the area and the current patterns of travel. Despite predictions to the contrary, it does appear that “horizontal” inequities, involving demographic, geographic or transport status, are likely to be more significant than “vertical” inequities involving economic status. In other words, adverse impacts of road user charging are more likely to be related to the travel needs of an individual than to their ability to pay to travel.
It is important to understand the scale of any inequity that might result from a proposed urban road user charging scheme, and this will require a disaggregated analysis by person type, income level, journey type and specific person and journey characteristics. In time it may be possible to assess these impacts based on empirical research. In the meantime, decision-makers will have to rely on the results of predictive studies using disaggregated models. It can be particularly problematic, using these methods, to predict the impacts on narrowly defined groups such as disabled drivers, or of special treatment such as rebates. Instead, such assessments will need to be based largely on professional judgment.
Once the potential impacts of a scheme are understood, and any problems with the distribution of these impacts are identified, then any necessary mitigating measures need to be designed. These can include redesign of the scheme to reduce its impacts, modifications to charge levels generally or for specific users, and complementary measures. Redesign can most usefully focus on the location and timing of charges, which will be most likely to reduce geographic and some transport inequities. Charges can be reduced overall, and rebates and exemptions can be provided for readily identifiable classes of user. However, the former may reduce the effectiveness of the scheme, while the latter will add to its operating costs. Complementary measures can include the enhancement of alternatives to car use and the avoidance of adverse side effects, such as rat running. Both can be financed by hypothecating at least some of the surplus revenues. Evidence suggests that the judicious use of hypothecated revenues is likely to achieve a greater improvement in equity than simply reducing the overall charge level.