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22 I N T E R N AT I O N A L P E R S P E C T I V E S O N R O A D P R I C I N G THE BRIDGES OF LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA WHAT DO POLITICIANS REALLY NEED TO KNOW? John Albion Jan A. Martinsen Lee County is one of Florida's most populous counties and home to several fine examples of value pricing. For more than 50 years, Norway has successfully Several bridges in the county have had tolls in place for employed user charges to supplement regular govern- years, but gradually we have been developing policies ment funding of road projects. In the past 20 years the under which the county uses targeted discounts to use of toll road projects has increased considerably. achieve demand management objectives. Two bridges Today, a good 35% of the total annual budget for road are in play--the Cape Coral Bridge and the Midpoint construction comes from more than 40 toll road proj- Memorial Bridge. One of the key objectives was to ects scattered throughout the country. So far, about 100 encourage greater use of electronic tolling, and thus at toll road projects have been successfully realized, and nonpeak times drivers get a 50% discount if they use a only one has been declared bankrupt. User charges for transponder and pass. Upcoming changes include a road infrastructure funding in Norway are therefore 50% discount for vehicles with three or more axles, considered a true success story. improved interoperability for the Sunpass and other Tolls are used to finance both urban and interurban automatic vehicle identification systems, and an road projects. In the three largest cities--Oslo, Bergen, expansion of the express lanes on the Cape Coral and Trondheim--cordon tolls are the main source of Bridge. funding for road and to a lesser extent public transport As part of this effort, public officials recognized sev- investment programs. In nonurban areas, toll financing eral features that would be critical to successful imple- is used only for road infrastructure investments. mentation of the value pricing systems. Development of The Norwegian government recently passed legisla- interoperable electronic tolling systems has been essen- tion to make congestion pricing possible, but so far it has tial. A political champion is essential as well, but it is not been implemented. The main road user charge issue also important to create a cadre of "citizen politicians" in Norway today is whether cordon toll rings in the main to help spread the word in an enthusiastic fashion. In cities can be transformed into congestion pricing Lee County, one of our major efforts was to educate and schemes. Congestion and delays are well-known prob- garner support from community leaders before lems in some of these cities and represent a significant approaching the general public, and to do so in a concern for professional advisors as well as politicians. straightforward manner that addresses basic questions, The crucial question is whether the delays are big enough such as "What's a transponder?" before launching into to be successfully managed through congestion charging. the demand management philosophy underlying the The average delay on selected routes in Oslo during peak proposal. hours is less than 10 minutes, with a maximum of more Business advisory committees, driver surveys, stake- than 20 minutes for the most congested road. The trans- holder task forces, and advisory groups were helpful in port professionals are convinced that congestion pricing flushing out and addressing major areas of concern. should be part of future transport policy, at least in Oslo. Such concerns typically related to a full understanding The task is for these professionals to convince the politi- of how electronic tolling works, how privacy considera- cal decision makers that congestion charging is a good tions would be addressed, and whether value pricing policy. would be effective in reducing traffic. We also benefited The experiences in Norway so far offer some lessons by building creative and fun elements into our public for others wishing to implement road use charges. One involvement strategy. These elements included naming of the crucial issues in considering the implementation contests and the use of lotteries and other incentives to of road user charges is the amount and detail of infor- encourage participation in surveys. mation that politicians need for their decision making. We have found a strong correlation between knowl- Of course, what they need to know and what they want edge and acceptance, and today the system in place has to know might not be the same. a 70% approval rating. The other numbers generated Our findings indicate that what the politicians need from Lee County's experiments with value pricing are to know depends on the political level at which the impressive as well, with estimated annual travel time changes are being considered (i.e., whether it is at the savings totaling about 30,000 hours and associated local or national level). While local politicians are more financial savings to drivers of about $2.6 million. concerned with the use of collected funds to finance

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AH, THE POLITICS OF PRICING 23 infrastructure within their localities, national politicians funds for the proposed improvements and what mobility are more concerned with the total government budget consequences would be likely if nothing were done. and ensuring that only financially sound projects are They must be able and willing to deal with nega- approved. tive public reaction and to argue convincingly for the In Norway, each user charging scheme is approved by benefits from road pricing. the national parliament on the basis of local recommen- They need to be shown examples of successful dations. Therefore, what the local politicians need to road user charging projects. know is crucial, and our experiences show the following: They need a better understanding of how to interpret advice from transport professionals. At the Local politicians need to know how road user same time, their advisors should make an effort to charges will affect the local community, local business, translate the economic theory underlying much of road land use, the environment, and so forth. user charges into simple language that everybody can They must gain something (e.g., more local trans- understand. port improvements) from making unpopular decisions. Thus they need to know how revenue collected will be dis- Our experiences in Norway show that the implemen- tributed in their local communities, including what per- tation of user chargers is more likely to succeed when the centage should return to road users and what percentage factors described above are considered. Taken together, should be used for public transport. these principles can create a more productive and coop- They need to know the costs of not implementing erative relationship between politicians and advisors that road user charges. For example, they should be apprised of is based largely on a common understanding of the how long they would have to wait for central government objectives of road user charges.