The reduction and/or internalization of the environmental, spatial and social costs caused by the transport sector are policy objectives which have been commonly assumed over the last decades (e.g. Directive 1999/62/EC, Directive 2006/38/EC). Within a market approach and according to the “polluter pays” principle, internalization is a way toward a comprehensive payment actually born by the transport users; in this “classic” vision, this is obtained by means of some additional/side pricing imposed to citizens/enterprises generating road traffic with private vehicles (e.g. road pricing: tolls, vignette, access fees; park pricing, vehicle/fuel taxation).
However, incompleteness in the extent of the application of direct pricing and a missing or only partial link with modal policies, spatial planning and infrastructural decisions lead to failures of the internalization policies in terms of their ability to reach improvements of the sustainability of the transport systems over the time. To foster the planning and investment approach to transport internalization (i.e. reallocation of public resources in the context of spatial planning, infrastructural decisions and modal policies) it is felt necessary to let available to Regions and Cities a knowledge base created from real experiences and a set of methodological and analytical tools to guide and support plans and policies definition.
Besides transport pricing policies, planning and investment decisions based on global transport costs are addressed as a “preventive” and more strategic approach to internalization, improving equity and sustainability of the transport systems.
The ECOTALE project aims at integrating the traditional approach based on the “economic" (or market-based) internalization of external costs (i.e. pricing measures) by introducing criteria and policies for a wider internalization approach considering land use and environmental planning as well. By means of disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approaches, ECOTALE promotes the exchange, sharing and transfer of policy experience, knowledge and good practices in the field of the internalization of external cost of transport and in the field of planning and investment decisions based on global transport cost, with regard to all the policy development phases from understanding the problem, to implementing and improving the solution.
ECOTALE will permit to develop and make available practical Guidelines, reflecting a spreaded and innovative perspective for transport costs internalization, with special focus on the relations between global transport costs and land use planning. Beside the formulation of policy recommendations, special efforts will be devoted to the adaptation of the proposed methodolgies and procedures to the various national/regional regulatory contexts, within an overall implementation-oriented approach.
The starting period of the project was of course partly dedicated to the needed contractual and administrative settlements and formalizations (following the fulfillment of the approval conditions and a partner change, the subsidy contract and the partnership agreement have been signed only on May 2012). Nonetheless, the kick-off event, which has taken place in Bologna on April 18-20, has been an important step on the content side of the project development as well, comprising internal and public workshop sessions well focused on the project topics. During the internal meeting, project partners expressed and discussed respective expectations, ideas and proposal for its best development and detailed the workplan for the first semester, whose activities could be summarized as the analytic delineation of the starting point for the purposes of the ECOTALE project.
During a public conference, held on April 20 at the University of Bologna, the ECOTALE consortium had a first occasion to present project activities and main objectives -together with the profiles of each participing organization to representatives of public administrations, transport consultants and operators, students. Then, an expert panel composed of internal and external speakers, started a fruitful discussion on theory, state and perspectives of internalization processes in the transport sectors, gaving interesting hints for the development of the project, starting from evidences and comments on the following topics:
- alternative models and requirements for effective planning processe;
- innovative implementation of (context sensible) external costs attributes in transport system modelling (case of road network in the Alpine area);
- land planning effects of heavy goods road transport pricing in the swiss experience;
- analysis and critical revew of the state of road taxes and tolls and external transport costs (focus on the Italian context),(presentations: see 'project and events' section at www.ecotale.eu).
To ground the project developments to suitably defined technical, regulatory and policy contexts, in the starting phase the analitical work has focused on the following activities (all of them completed within the semester):
- relevant key policy topics: main policy topics related to land and transport planning and to external costs issues have been identified and analised in their respective state of application in the national/regional contexts involved in the project;
- 'background material': an exhaustive collection of relevant EU directives, policy papers, guidelines, law/regulation, plans and funding initiatives has been drafted, using a common filing grid;
- IMPACT “Handbook on estimation of external cost in the transport sector”: a review and an operational summary oriented to the project needs have been produced out of the handbook by the EC DG TREN, issued on 2008 on the basis of a vast collection and analysis of techniques and applications;
- previous EU projects: past european projects with contents relevant to the ECOTALE topics and perspective have been identified and selected, by means of specialized web search engines and using the previously identified "key policy topics" as a thematic grid for identification and classification;
- regional modal policies: by means of deeply structured questionnaire, the institutional and competence framework and the state of transport modal policies of every involved region has been depicted; a subsequent comparative study and report has been drafted and made available.
The outputs of all the above listed activities formed the analytical basis for the next coming activities of the project, with special regard to the identification of the best practices and the subsequent definition of the policy guidelines.