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70 Evaluation and Performance Measurement of Congestion Pricing Projects 4.2 Market Research--Preparing for the Congestion Pricing Conversation How outreach and education are managed during the very early stages of considering the use of congestion pricing may have more effect on ultimate public acceptance than at any other point in the overall planning and implementation process. In terms of outreach and education, the ini- tial outreach efforts focus on market research--the gathering and documenting of attitudes and opinions about existing traffic/freeway conditions and knowledge of congestion pricing. These very targeted initial outreach activities will (1) highlight areas of agreement, disagreement, and misunderstanding and (2) provide the messaging template for future education and outreach actions. The information secured from market research should guide the technical team in envi- sioning a congestion-priced facility that meets project goals and objectives, satisfies the public's travel desires, and mitigates and/or minimizes documented objections to change. In the case of converting HOV lanes to priced operations, pricing should be explored because the performance of the existing HOV facility is failing or not fully meeting expectations in one or more categories. Overcrowding, "empty lane syndrome," or high violation rates are among the most obvious reasons for the general public in considering a change in operations. Docu- menting the existing attitudes and opinions of various market groups on the performance of an HOV lane will (1) help project sponsors identify those areas of most and least satisfaction and (2) guide the planning team as they consider operational changes. Generally, it is best to refrain from promoting a specific congestion pricing concept at this stage. Rather, this is the time to determine prevailing attitudes, opinions, and beliefs around which the education and promotion strategy for congestion pricing will need to be crafted. Documenting inaccurate perceptions is as important as noting areas of agreement. As described below and shown in Table 4-2, many different research tools are available for elic- iting information about attitudes; each has advantages and drawbacks. Although the information provided here and in the accompanying table is not exhaustive, the approaches summarized have proven most useful in planning and evaluating priced facilities from a public perspective. 4.2.1 Focus Groups Focus groups are used to gather qualitative information about perceptions of an idea or prod- uct. Small groups (usually 812 people) discuss topics under the guidance of a trained moderator. Focus groups are useful for sampling traveler opinions and attitudes regarding existing HOV lane performance, as well as testing new pricing concepts and exploring concerns and expectations in some depth. Focus groups are relatively small and so are not designed to provide precise statistical quan- tification of the issues under discussion; rather, focus groups are designed to explore key issues in greater depth and highlight related attitudes and convictions. The insights obtained through focus group research discussion can be applied to developing formal surveys that will permit statistical quantification of key issues. Focus groups can be used to pre-test congestion pricing marketing messages, probe aware- ness of existing priced facilities, sample driver opinions and attitudes about congestion pricing, explore public concerns and convictions, identify and prioritize performance measures, and quantify performance acceptability. Focus groups should include corridor drivers, employee organization representatives, carpoolers and transit users, community leaders, and survey respondents.

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Integrating Performance Evaluation and Measurement with Public Outreach 71 Table 4-2. Advantages and disadvantages of market research tools and appropriate use. Performance Monitoring Research Tool Advantages Disadvantages Use Focus Groups Flexible Not statistically Good forum for give-and- $3,500-$7,000 Easy to assemble precise take conversation about per focus group Group may defer performance elements In-depth exploration of key issues to loudest voice Secure input by market Direct presentation of segment on desirable marketing concepts levels of performance Freedom of interaction between facilitator and group One-way mirror/videotape viewable Telephone Structured Unlisted/cell Can test awareness/ Surveys Relatively high response phone numbers opinion about various $15-30/ rates (40% - 60%) may add to performance measures completed sampling bias Can cross reference Encourage frankness survey Unable to use performance measure(s) Easy to screen for desired subpopulations visual aids input and importance to Necessarily short individual demographic Immediate responses Unable to interact freely with subject Mail-Back Automobile user Distribution may Can match driver Driver Survey population clearly disrupt traffic attitudes and opinions $10- defined Relatively low with facility performance $20/completed Relatively low cost response rate at specific sites survey (20%-40%) can Can be statistically valid introduce non- respondent bias Privacy issues if license plates are used to generate sample Limited number of questions Response time drawn out On-Board Transit users population Population Ability to match Survey clearly defined limited to transit respondent to transit $8 - $15/ Relatively low cost users and biased route/corresponding completed toward frequent facility performance Can be statistically valid survey users Limited number of questions Internet- Can be developed and Data can be Can quickly provide Based Survey fielded quickly skewed due to "birds-eye view" $4 -$10/ Can provide targeted repeat feedback on performance completed information from a participants attitudes and opinions survey specific audience with Not statistically appropriate fielding valid parameters (i.e.: fielded Limited to only at a specific people with worksite) access to internet (continued on next page)

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72 Evaluation and Performance Measurement of Congestion Pricing Projects Table 4-2. (Continued). Performance Monitoring Research Tool Advantages Disadvantages Use Executive Flexible Not statistically Documents in-depth Interviews Permits in-depth valid exploration of $400 - $800/ exploration of key Not decisionmaker interview issues with decision and representative of perceptions of existing opinion makers public at large performance and Allows freedom of expectations of interaction between performance with pricing interviewer and Identifies institutional participant challenges Supports exploration of Documents knowledge institutional issues and perception gaps and Establishes early project misinformation liaison/relationship between interview participant and project Although focus groups are relatively easy to manage, they yield subjective information and should not be used to support quantitative estimates or rank alternatives. They are most effective in exploring participants' direct experiences and reactions. 4.2.2 Telephone Surveys Telephone surveys are conducted by trained interviewers, following a script, with a represen- tative sample population. Telephone surveys can be used to gather travel information and data, measure public opinions and attitudes, document awareness regarding existing priced facilities, record travel or mode shifts, and track project acceptance over time. A well-designed, carefully executed telephone survey can document public reaction to congestion pricing with statistical precision and provide insights into the relative effectiveness of different campaign messages and media channels. A minimum of 400 surveys is generally necessary to guarantee that measured responses are within 5 percent of statistical validity. If the survey sample is to be subdivided significantly dur- ing analysis, a larger sample size will likely be necessary. Uncertainties regarding appropriate sample size should be resolved by consulting a statistician. 4.2.3 Mail-Back Driver Surveys Mail-back driver surveys are short questionnaires either distributed to drivers at sampling sta- tions (such as freeway on-ramps) or mailed to registered owners of vehicles whose license plates were recorded using the project corridor. Mail-back surveys can be used to document attitudes, develop origin/destination data, and document mode and route shifts. Mail-back surveys can range from simple postcards designed to capture origin/destination data to more elaborate ques- tionnaires documenting awareness, attitude, commute choices, and demographic characteristics. Typically, the longer the questionnaire, the lower the response rate. The advantage of mail-back questionnaires is that they can be distributed directly to the driving population in the corridor(s) affected by the proposed congestion-pricing project. Although it is more difficult to track campaign awareness through mail-back surveys than through telephone surveys (unaided recall cannot be easily tested through mail-back survey, for instance) issues regarding perceptions, attitudes, and mode choice can be pursued equally well by mail or phone.