Road pricing can be seen as one of the market-based traffic control measures able to influence travel behaviour in order to alleviate congestion on the roads. During the last years a lot of research has been done regarding the possibilities and impossibilities of road pricing. Against this background the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management asked a consortium of researchers with different backgrounds to provide a multidisciplinary perspective on pricing policies for road transport.
This research project aimed to summarise the main scientific insights on the design and impacts of road pricing policies, from a multidisciplinary perspective: economics, traffic engineering, psychology, geography and environmental sciences.
Effectiveness, efficiency and acceptability were the main criteria considered, and were discussed in relation to the various design options that exist for the definition of road pricing policies and revenue allocation methods.
This was a literature review study.
Scientific research has shown that various pricing measures in road transport can be very effective policy measures in reducing congestion, leading to substantial welfare benefits for society. However, public and political acceptability is often a barrier to road pricing. Efficiency, effectivity and acceptance of road pricing can be improved by:
- adequately-differentiated pricing measures so people can be rewarded for their (wanted) change in behaviour (with lower levies);
- an understanding of the reason for implementation among the public;
- using the revenues to compensate for the negative effects.
Road pricing not only influences congestion, it also influences the composition of the traffic. In particular, traffic with social-recreational purposes makes a shift leading to increased space for economically more important traffic.
Governments that want to implement road pricing should pay attention to the following:
- Pricing strategies should be perceived as very effective solutions. The effectiveness of road pricing may be high but this is not guaranteed and depends on the definition of objectives. These objectives must be highly valued by the public. Moreover, people must also believe that their change in behaviour will contribute to reaching these objectives.
- Revenue spending is of crucial importance in gaining acceptance. People want to get something for their money. It is however important not to undermine the efficiency impacts of the scheme when distributing revenues to gain acceptance.
- Fairness issues have to be considered, the system must be perceived as fair in terms of personal benefits and costs. The use of revenues together with the charging structure is important to influence the distributional impacts in the desired direction. Governments could use the revenues to reduce taxation, or they could target particular disadvantaged groups or locations.
An intelligent communication strategy has to be developed. Clearly describing the problem (the presence of externalities in the case of road pricing) and the solutions to this problem with the objectives seems appropriate.
Further research is needed with regard to:
- what factors determine the negative or wrong perceptions of road pricing;
- the implementation costs of road pricing. These costs are not clear enough, partly due to rapid technological developments and because there are many different road pricing system available;
- the effects of road pricing on other sectors besides transport (which are only known to a limited extent);
- in what way is travel behaviour influenced if travel costs are (partly) compensated?
- will travel cost compensation systems change in the long term due to road pricing?
- will carpool behaviour change due to road pricing?