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Responses to Findings The Future of Pricing Steve Heminger, Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Conference Chair, Facilitator Emil Frankel, U.S. Department of Transportation Marcel Rommerts, European Commission Anne Canby, Surface Transportation Policy Project Dan Beal, Automobile Club of Southern California T he symposium closed with a roundtable discus- Audience members posed several questions to Mr. sion facilitated by Steve Heminger, conference Frankel. A speaker from Minnesota noted the criticality chair. of the federal value pricing pilot to that state's decision In response to a question on the toll and pricing provi- to undertake a pricing experiment and expressed con- sions included in the U.S. administration's proposed bill to cern that "mainstreaming" value pricing through elimi- reauthorize the federal highway and transit programs, nation of the value pricing pilot program could halt Emil Frankel noted that two factors--the difficulty of further progress in the area. Another speaker questioned expanding capacity through new infrastructure and a the administration's decision to delete the directive for a shortage of capital--have coalesced to create sustained blue ribbon commission to consider alternatives to the interest in road pricing. As a result, the administration's fuel tax. Mr. Frankel noted that this is a pivotal time, in bill calls for a gradual "mainstreaming" of the prior toll that the "push" of resource constraints is coinciding provisions. Mr. Frankel also noted that the legislation is with the "pull" of new technologies to spur greater permissive, not directive, in allowing states and local gov- attention to pricing systems. He expressed confidence ernments the flexibility to pursue pricing as standard prac- that pricing, if properly explained to the public, would tice rather than through a pilot project. The bill stopped garner widespread support. short of repealing the ban on tolls on the Interstate system, To provide a European perspective, Marcel Rom- however, in recognition that the nation has not fully merts explained that while Europe already has many entered the road pricing era, though it is close to doing so. interurban toll roads, ample opportunity exists for The administration joins with others in the trans- refinements, especially in the area of truck-borne portation community in its concern for the fuel tax's freight. Mr. Rommerts indicated that the increased use long-term sustainability as the principal revenue source of pricing for trucks is expected to level the playing field for funding the nation's surface transportation system. among the various transport modes and classes of vehi- While the administration chose not to include a direc- cles and, of course, to raise revenue. Another key lesson tive for a blue ribbon commission to examine alterna- to date is that in contrast to the interurban point-to- tives to the fuel tax in its bill, research into user-based point model, the cordon-based approach that London mechanisms is well under way; the administration has successfully implemented is emerging as a promising expects that the nation will be in a good position to vet strategy. He noted that more experiments in European a range of alternatives by the time of the next surface cities are likely in the coming years but that a political transportation reauthorization. Mr. Frankel added that champion for the strategy is essential; in London, Ken technological advances are key to broadening the range Livingstone's persistence and enthusiasm for the cordon of available policy choices and indicating which policies system were critical to the ultimate implementation of are most feasible and desirable. the pricing program. 59
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60 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 Mr. Heminger asked Anne Canby whether a consen- metropolitan planning organization rather than the sus was starting to emerge among those who have regis- state department of transportation. tered concern over pricing's potential implications for Finally, representing the automobile users of the equity and those who have favored pricing for its envi- United States, Dan Beal stated that the American Auto- ronmental benefits. Ms. Canby said that the tensions mobile Associaton is well informed by its more than 40 surrounding road pricing underscore the need for a million members and its own research of the many broad tent. She added, however, that different groups' transportation challenges facing mobility in the United objectives may be more consistent than might first States. The association is well aware that the current appear; for example, the environmental community's system for funding U.S. highways will face severe chal- support will depend, in large part, on the dedication of lenges in the years ahead. Citing a distinction made in revenues to strategies designed to broaden and improve the past by Ken Orski of the Urban Mobility Corpora- the public's travel choices. Groups such as the Surface tion, Mr. Beal explained that while "value pricing," Transportation Policy Project also call for full consider- which offers drivers an option to pay for a superior level ation of pricing's widespread impacts; for example, she of service, may be acceptable to the association, more added, officials in Delaware fully integrate the state skepticism surrounds full-fledged congestion pricing, in transportation funding and investment system into an which pricing is used to manage demand even in the overall transportation strategy. Both of these conditions absence of any benefit to those who pay. Mr. Beal added are clearly consistent, with close attention to the equity that the association's support of the State Route 91 and implications of any pricing project. Interstate 15 express lanes underscored this perspective. Ms. Canby went on to say that equity remains a One remarkable outcome of the SR-91 experiment, he pressing issue, and given that the cost of transportation added, is that the original allegation that the express is a proportionally greater burden on those with lower lanes would turn into "Lexus lanes" was disproved; in incomes, any pricing scheme ought to include strategies fact, the benefits have been widely distributed. He reit- for offsetting the economic impacts on poorer travelers. erated that this outcome--the creation of an improved Political support can be mustered only through absolute level of service for a large number of drivers--was essen- transparency in the decision-making process and early tial to the association's support of any pricing project. involvement of the grassroots community. In general, Mr. Beal also noted that proponents of pricing must decisions should be made at the level of government make a convincing case of its merits and not simply seek closest to the impacts of the scheme itself; in urban to impose it on the public through an assumption of areas, for example, the focus probably should be on the what is best for American drivers.