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Mobility pricing: synthesis report

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Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Road icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

"Transport Financing Models" is one of the key issues of the research strategy 2004 – 2007 of the Committee for Road research of the Swiss Federal Ministry of Transport. The Research programme on Mobility Pricing, which includes nine individual research projects and a synthesis report, has been examining all aspects of charging for the use of transport infrastructure and services. It has produced findings about the instruments and mechanisms in the overlapping domain of transport financing and traffic management and it has answered the questions about the consequences of moving transport financing away from general taxes and making it more use related.

Mobility Pricing is defined as following: Use related charges for the use of infrastructure and services in motorised traffic as well as public transport aimed at influencing the demand for mobility.

Road Pricing is defined as following: Use related charges for motorised private car traffic aimed at influencing the demand.

The Research programme on Mobility Pricing has been focussing on road user charging because more of the knowledge gaps are in this field than in public transport pricing or charging for parking. However, the interaction between the different instruments of user charging has been examined.


The objective of the project was to clarify the following questions:

  • In which way can mobility pricing contribute to the solving of transport problems? And where are the limits?
  • What are the effects of mobility pricing on transport behaviour?
  • Which pricing models/systems are best suited to reach defined political targets?
  • For what reasons and under which preconditions should mobility pricing be established?
  • Is mobility pricing feasible in Switzerland and, if yes, which system/model is best suited?
  • What costs are associated with the introduction and runnig of a mobility pricing system (monetary expenses, time needed)? What further preconditions are necessary: technical, operational, legal and political preconditions, acceptability)?
  • What effects does mobility pricing have on transport financing? What are the distribution effects of mobility pricing (e.g. social and regional distribution effects)?

The studies have been based on five different mobility pricing scenarios and one reference scenario. The differences were in terms of the chosen charging model (A. object pricing; B. zone pricing; C. network pricing; D. Combined model: zone-network-zone pricing; E. area pricing with distance related charge) and the compensation measures (abolition of the motorway vignette, reduction of the petrol tax, reduction of the cantonal car tax).

The scenarios were examined on the national level from different angles:

  • Acceptance of Mobility Pricing measures
  • Effects on the user mobility behaviour
  • Traffic planning and environmental effects
  • Financial effects for the state
  • Legal and institutional aspects
  • Technical aspects including estimation of the costs of the fee collection systems.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Swiss Federal Roads Office (FEDRO / ASTRA / OFROU)
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


Road User Charges as an Instrument of Traffic Management:

Road Pricing for motor vehicles might reasonably complete the present measures in traffic management. Its future introduction is determined by a long-term strategy of the Swiss Federation.

Road Pricing charges naturally have a double effect, i.e. a steering effect and financing effect. The steering effect happens when the user includes the price more strongly in their decision of how a certain need of mobility is being realised: when selecting the destination, the mode of transport, the itinerary or the time of departure. The strategic mobility decisions of the consumers can also be influenced economically when deciding between buying a car or participating in Mobility Car Sharing or between the purchase of a railpass or a single ticket for each trip. 

The quantitative effect of road user charging should not be overestimated. In cities using city-tolls a decrease in traffic of 10–20% can be expected, depending on how drastically the toll tariffs are being applied. More notably will be the decrease of traffic jam hours, because traffic reductions of a few percent in neuralgic places may contribute a lot to the reduction of traffic jams and to the faster advancing of public busses. In foreign cities, mainly in London, it was noted that cabs and busses were the main beneficiaries by the introduction of road user charges. 

The introduction of road user charging must not be seen as an isolated measure but only as an addition to other measures of traffic management such as:

  • coordinated traffic light controls,
  • traffic guidance systems on motorways,
  • promotion of public transport (denser timetable, separate bus lanes, more comfortable vehicles with sufficient seats),
  • measures for pedestrians and human powered mobility,
  • perhaps provision of additional capacity on those transport axes which have to implement more traffic due to road pricing measures (e.g. bypasses for tangential transport in the zone model).

Due to the fact that the introduction of road user charges are politically, technically and operationally very complex, they should only be targeted if the above-mentioned measures are already exploited.

Further it must be noted that Road Pricing cannot only be seen as an addition to the present traffic management measures, but that i

Policy implications

The research has shown that there is currently insufficient user acceptance for pricing measures in Switzerland and that the expected quantitative effects of such measures are relatively small. Notwithstanding this, many insights lead to the conclustion that in the future the cost of mobility should be borne less by the taxpayer and increasingly by the consumers of mobility.

The long-term strategy of the Swiss Government should enable road user charges for motorised vehicles in the future, complementing the existing traffic management measures. For this strategy to succeed, the present interdiction of road user charges in the Swiss constitution would need to be abolished, and international rules would be needed to achieve interoperability of the EFC (electronic fee collection) systems particularly in respect of compulsory vehicle equipment and cooperation for cross-border law enforcement.

Specifically the following recommendations are made:

  1. Road user charges are preferable to petrol taxes as a means of raising use related income from motorised traffic.
  2. Among the different schemes of road user charging, area charging offers the most advantages. However, a number of institutional conditions are missing for introducing differentiated use related area charges.
  3. Contrary to all other forms of road user charging, the concept of charging based on duration of vehicle operation has not been technically or operationally proven. Technology tests should examine the feasibility of simple low cost on-board units based on movement sensors for measuring the duration of vehicle movement which do not require a fixed installation.
  4. Decisions about the long term Mobility Pricing strategy should be based on voluntary pilot trials. Different tariff schemes for road user charges and public transport tariffs including compensation strategies should be trialled applying different technologies and alternative processes under realistic conditions.
  5. The Mobility pricing strategy should be implemented in small steps. The first step could be the change of the collection system of the motorway tax from the paper vignette system to an electronic vignette (e-vignette) system under the existing tariff scheme. A nationwide e-vignette system could be expanded at a later stage to collect tolls or to include urban zone congestion charging. Thus the prohibitive costs incurred when EFC systems are developed and implemented for individual tolled roads or each city alone could be diminished.
  6. W


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