Implementation Issues for Congestion Charging

Road user charging, be it in the form of tolled roads, HOT (high occupancy tolled) lanes or congestion pricing, is currently topical, largely as a consequence of traffic congestion and the shortage of funds to provide new capacity, but also in terms of the potential of the tool for generating revenue and managing travel demand.

London’s high profile Congestion-Charging Scheme has clearly raised congestion charging to the fore within the global transport debate. Yet a scheme suitable for London may not be suitable for other cities having different characteristics in terms of demographics, transport options and patterns of behaviour.

It is crucial therefore that any city developing a scheme tailors it to the local environment while being mindful of lessons elsewhere. Yet these lessons are relatively few and far between in terms of congestion charging schemes. Fortunately, however, there are strong parallel lessons coming from the toll road sector and through high occupancy tolled lanes (from the United States).

A research project, carried out in 2003 and 2004 for Land Transport New Zealand, was to interview decision makers in cities where some form of road user charging has been introduced and where it is being mooted or failed to come to fruition, to ascertain if there is any commonality in the factors which drove the successes and failures.

There was a significant degree of consensus in terms of the critical success factors with the most important ones seen as being (in order of decreasing importance):

  • a public perception of the need
  • an appropriately resourced promotional campaign
  • a single empowered agency
  • a strong political position
  • a robust business case.


Clearly there is a strong degree of interdependence between the factors that means that a winning project will proceed in an iterative fashion. A draft business case first defines a scheme outline to be presented to the public with objections and modifications driving the eventual business case so as to gain maximum buy-in. Only then may the politicians have sufficient comfort to proceed and a political champion emerge.

Understanding how to apply these factors will facilitate a stronger chance of success and the delivery of transport policy objectives.

Source: Booz Allen Hamilton. 2006. Investigation of the implementation issues for congestion charging. Land Transport NZ Research Report 286. 56pp.
http://www.landtransport.govt.nz/research/reports/286.pdf

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