One of the most difficult problems that modern day cities face is traffic congestion, and congestion continues to be a significant factor affecting the quality of life in today's cities. Traffic congestion can be caused by:
- many people living and working in the city;
- more people owning and using cars;
- a shortage of off-street parking, so that cars are parked on the roads instead;
- people not using public transport, either because it is less convenient, too expensive or not available.
These trends can be addressed by using a set of policies and measures aimed at reducing and rationalising transport demand on a network, or part of it, in order to reduce traffic congestion. One of the possible solutions for reducing the problem of traffic congestion in cities is Road User Charging (RUC) or more simply, road pricing. Examples include traditional methods such as turnpikes and toll roads, as well as more modern schemes employing electronic toll collection such as the London congestion charge,Singapore's Electronic Road Pricing, the congestion charging scheme in Stockholm or the Limited Traffic Zone in Rome.
While RUC has a great potential for reducing congestion in cities, it can be very difficult to implement as it has to accommodate the interests of various stakeholders, including national and local governments, road users, citizens and businesses.
This shortfall (between the potential of road pricing and the progress of its actual implementation) is the focus of the CURACAO project, which builds on the work of CUPID, PRoGRESS and EUROPRICE, in the field of urban road pricing. The project will ensure continuity from FP5 projects, but also brings in new partners with new ideas to widen the geographic and intellectual scope of the initiative.
The overall objective of the project was to co-ordinate research and monitor the results of the implementation of road user charging as a demand management tool in urban areas.
The strategic objectives of the project were:
- to co-ordinate the synthesis, appraisal, and reporting of research activities, case studies and other initiatives in the field of urban road user charging;
- to compare and contrast different approaches to urban road user charging such as tolling, distance-based pricing and charges for infrastructure and parking;
- to facilitate the exchange of information, raise awareness and disseminate and promote research results and best practice at a European, national, regional and local level;
- to maintain the sound knowledge base, established by the CUPID, PRoGRESS and EUROPRICE projects to support decision-making and integration of research results into policies;
- to ensure that the work undertaken to achieve these objectives is responsive to the needs of potential end-users, notably city decision-makers
The main result of CURACAO is the development of a generic urban blueprint that can serve as a catalyst and enabler for the implementation of road pricing in European cities.
CURACAO's goal was to facilitate the exchange of information, raise awareness and disseminate and promote research results and best practice at a European, national, regional and local level with a focus on the transfer of best practice from the leading cities to other cities across Europe. This involved identification, exchange and dissemination of best practices, setting up of an information and contacts database, as well as the organisation of external workshops, and participation in conferences and other events. All project related information is accessible through the project website.
CURACAO'S target audiences range from cities where pricing schemes are already in place to those engaged in a fact finding exercise.
The following end user groups were identified:
- cities already having a pricing scheme;
- cities planning / preparing scheme implementation;
- cities seeking information;
A group of 20 cities planning for implementation were invited to join a User Group. The User Group was invited to attend CURACAO workshops and is chaired by Bristol City Council, who coordinated both PROGRESS and EUROPRICE, and provides input to the direction of the project. The members of the user group are selected through a User Needs Assessment questionnaire aimed at identifying the needs of decision makers and technical experts in cities. Other cities can benefit from CURACAO dissemination activities through email and the website.
Cities from the different user groups have different needs for outputs of the CURACAO project and thus there is a number of products to be created during the project:
- state-of-the-art reports based on the latest research findings;
- guiding paper on good practices (a handbook to support decision makers in the design and implementation of road pricing measures);
- policy recommendations;
- targeted fact sheets (e.g. on possible impacts and overcoming barriers);
- final report providing guidelines on successful implementation of RUC;
- online searchable good practices database, which will contain facts and figures on scheme specification, processes, impacts, barriers and solutions from the CURACAO case studies);
- PR materials (such as a brochure, power point presentation and poster) and 5 project newsletters with an FAQ section on the website;
- a categorised contact database containing key stakeholders from the target groups.
The main results and findings of the project come from the State of the Art report and the analysis of case studies.
A) Findings of the State of the Art report.
The description below summarises the results achieved by research and practice on a number of themes of main concern for cities in order to provide an answer (based on the collected evidence from research and practice) to questions cities might ask on that particular theme. The findings according to the identified themes are as follows.
- Possible objectives of urban road user charging schemes. Nine possible objectives have been identified. They seem to cover the full range of aspects for which urban road user charging is likely to be pursued by cities. These objectives are (Efficiency, Environment, and revenue generations are considered the most important):
- Congestion Relief;
- Revenue Growth;
- Economic Growth;
- Equity/Social Inclusion;
- Future Generations.
- Ways in which road user charging schemes can be designed to meet the objectives identified in point 1. Road user charging should be designed in the context of the selected complementary policies. The effectiveness and acceptability of a charging schemes are affected by a number of charging specifications (e.g. level of charge, variations by vehicle type, location and time of day, exemptions and discounts) and a tradeoff is necessary between these two (often) clashing impacts.
- Technologies available to support such scheme designs. Available technologies are automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), dedicated short range communications and global navigation satellite systems (GPS). The development of GPS will enable the use of a wider range of pricing systems, including distance-based charging. However, ANPR is currently the most used tool for enforcement. Business systems to manage monitoring, payment, accounting and enforcement are widely available in the private sector, but they are still being developed for complex public applications such as road pricing.
- Techniques for predicting the effects of road user charging schemes. The performances of RUC schemes critically depend on the behavioural responses induced. Consequently, it is necessary to identify and measures first and second order effects caused by behavioural changes (first order effects are, for example, chan
The State of the Art Report has reviewed evidences of characteristics and impacts from actually implemented RUC schemes. However, the number of implemented schemes is still small and the availability and quality of data varies considerably. As a consequence a number of topics for research or further research to increase RUC knowledge and understanding have been identified and proposed according to high, medium, and low priority. These are:
- High priority
- the interaction between acceptability and effectiveness;
- the extent to which results in one city can be transferred to another;
- the implications of design and technology for enforcement;
- the application of new developments in technology and in business systems;
- ways of reducing the costs of technology and business system applications;
- the impacts on the urban economy, and in particular the differential effects by economic sector and size of firm;
- the effects of RUC on different impact groups;
- the interaction between acceptability and equity and in particular the impact of scheme design on perceived inequities;
- the requirements for sustaining and adapting RUC schemes once implemented;
- comparisons between predicted and actual impacts.
- Medium priority
- approaches to the design of overall strategies which include RUC;
- methods for the design of RUC schemes;
- prediction methods;
- understanding of behaviour, and particularly second order responses and the behavior of users of other modes;
- the impacts of RUC on liveability and health;
- the dynamics of acceptability over time and the particular role of referenda in testing and promoting acceptability;
- the specification of appropriate time scales and sequences for the implementation of urban RUC schemes.
- Low Priority
- the measurement of congestion and travel time reliability;
- development of best practices for evaluation of RUC schemes;
- methods of appraising second order effects.
The policy recommendations developed on the basis of the evidence collectedin the State of the Art Report and the Case Studies are addressed to City and Regional Authorities, National Governments, and the European Commission.
1) Recommendations to City and Regional Authorities
- P1: Before considering RUC as a sustainable urban transport strategy, City and Regional Authorities should clearly specify their objectives and stick to them consistently.
- P2: A RUC scheme should be designed considering the full range of complementary policies that will support it.
- P3: City and Regional Authorities designing a RUC scheme should allocate resources for continuous monitoring of performance after its implementation.
- P4: Acceptability should be addressed at the outset of the RUC scheme design process in all its different aspects. A persistent dialogue with the public, pressure groups, politicians and the media is needed.
2) Recommendations to National Governments
- P5: National Governments are recommended to develop a clear national transport strategy. This strategy should also highlight the potential benefits of RUC as a tool for demand management at both local and national levels.
- P6: The application of RUC schemes should also be considered as part of a wider strategy involving the internalisation of external costs and the adjustment of road and vehicle taxation systems.
- P7: National Governments are recommended to ensure the provision of appropriate legislation which will enable city, local, and regional authorities to implement both RUC and the policy instruments which will complement it.
3) Recommendations to the European Commission.
- P8: The Commission is recommended to publish guidance for authorities interested in considering RUC as a policy tool.
- P9:The commission is also recommended to provide financial support to:
- cities to carry out feasibility studies addressing ways to reduce congestion and environmental impacts including RUC options, and to support research and demonstration projects that specifically address key issues (e.g. acceptability, requirements for effective implementation, economic and equity impacts);
- educational campaigns, training schemes and toolkits explaining the rationale behind RUC as one valid option in the range of measures available to transport plan