Significant problems of air pollution, congestion and noise exist in most European cities, particularly resulting from the use of private cars. The European Commission has proposed a policy of charging transport users according to marginal social costs, which reflect these problems or externalities. Therefore, decisions on whether to travel, modal choice etc. will be based on the ‘right’ price signals in socio-economic terms.
CONCERT-P aimed to demonstrate and evaluate the use of road pricing measures to change modal split in urban areas. Key interests were to characterise the behavioural responses of participants and to identify how operational barriers could be overcome.
Demonstrations were conducted at three sites:
- Trondheim - car drivers incurred peak period charges that varied over short time intervals to reflect different levels of congestion.
- Bristol - charges applied throughout the day, with additional incentives for using public transport and higher charges during days of poor air quality.
- Barcelona - zone access control was implemented.
Key findings were:
- Trondheim - reductions in peak period traffic exceeded 10% (mainly due to drivers changing their time of travel), with a smaller decrease in the total number of trips – indicating some trip suppression or modal shift.
- Bristol - 15-20% reductions in daily car travel could be largely attributed to drivers switching to public transport.
- Barcelona - the viability of technical implementation was shown to be acceptable to the enforcement authorities.
It was clear that drivers tended to re-schedule trips before considering switching to public transport, and that individual drivers responded very differently to the charges. This should be borne in mind when tariff structures are being designed.
Public acceptance of road pricing was found to be higher if, for example, improved public transport was introduced.
The project made a series of recommendations:
Urban demonstrations of multi-modal charging regimes with integrated payment systems should be intensified. Projects should:
- combine road pricing with public transport alternatives;
- use technology to collect data for evaluation and provide a feedback loop to drivers on the financial implications of their daily decisions;
- demonstrate the benefits of revenue planning.
Governments and relevant authorities should:
- introduce enabling legislation so that revenues from road user charging can be re-invested locally to improve travel alternatives where road charges are introduced;
- encourage local authorities to integrate public transport services in their pricing schemes;
- co-ordinate initiatives to develop multi-modal payment systems.