Congestion charging is seen as an economically efficient way of combating the build-up of traffic and consequently making road transport in urban areas reliable for both passengers and freight. This involves charging motorists at times and places where the roads are heavily used. Nevertheless, experiences show that it is difficult to gain acceptance for urban road pricing and hence to get it implemented.
The objectives for PRIMA were to identify the reasons behind the acceptance or non-acceptance of road pricing and to produce recommendations for the implementation of urban road pricing in Europe.
PRIMA provided a databank of results from public surveys and interviews with stakeholders, leading local politicians and experts. Data were collected from 500 citizens and 30 interviews in each of eight urban regions in autumn 1999. From this stock of information, a three-stage decision process was developed. This process can be adapted to local situations to support any city that considers introducing road-pricing schemes. It not only concerns the schemes themselves, but also the design of the public decision-making process in the run-up to their introduction.
The interviews and public surveys identified the following key results:
- Acceptance depends on stakeholders perceiving that there are severe and urgent traffic problems and that pricing is an effective part of the solution.
- Acceptance requires alternative modes of transport to be available. For example, investment in public transport should accompany the introduction of pricing.
- Charges should start low, and compensating measures should be considered for social groups that are disadvantaged by the pricing scheme.
- The introduction of road pricing should be done in a stepwise manner to allow gradual adjustment. For example, a financing toll system may form the starting point, as this is more readily accepted than congestion charging.
- The initiative to introduce road pricing should (be seen to) come from the urban area. In addition, national legislation will have to be changed in many countries, and financial support from the national government may be needed to ease the change in costs for car users.
- Acceptance requires public participation in the decision making process. The starting point must be open discussion of traffic problems and the objectives for urban transport policy.
- The success of earlier road pricing schemes influences acceptance. Therefore, the dissemination of results between cities is important.
- The increased use of information technologies and electronic payment systems in other applications is expected to improve acceptance of the technologies needed for efficient road pricing. The privacy issues linked to road pricing do not seem to have an important negative influence.
- Acceptance from a majority of citizens cannot be expected from the outset. Experiences from several cities show that acceptance tends to increase after the implementati
PRIMA found that, in general, public opinion is against congestion charging, although the polluter pays principle is broadly accepted as a general guideline for policy making. On the other hand, there is considerable support for road pricing as a way to finance investment in transport. This includes the funding of public transport and the construction of road bypasses, with some preference for the former. Therefore, implementation of road tolls can be a stepping stone to raising acceptance for congestion charging.
At the time of the project, the law in some Member States did not provide for the implementation of road pricing. It was legal in other countries as long as the pricing scheme was related to the financing of new roads. However, congestion charging would need changes in legislation.