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45 TABLE 4 lic is comprised of individuals who may value the benefits PUBLIC OPINION BASED ON U.S. GEOGRAPHY differently. Some individuals may be concerned only about Northeast Midwest South West their own self-interest, others may be willing to accept the Majority Support 36% 64% 44% 84% tolling or road pricing scheme because society or their com- Majority Opposition 36% 27% 32% 13% munity are better off, whereas still others may need to per- No Majority 27% 9% 24% 3% ceive the tolling or road charging scheme as benefiting both Total Percent 100% 100% 100% 100% themselves and their communities. Total Cases 11 11 25 38 In Edinburgh, non-car users gave a cordon tolling proposal charging in operation, support decreased over time, presum- clear majority support, whereas among car users there was clear ably as the issue has been discussed more and more in the pub- majority opposition, indicating a clear case of self-interest lic sphere. According to Habermas (129), the public sphere is affecting public opinion. In Atlanta, focus group participants "a network for communicating information and points of believed that HOT lanes gave them, personally, another viable view," which eventually transforms them into a public opin- transportation option. "I think it offers more choices. It gives ion. Without the actual experience with congestion charging me benefits--I can get to places faster." An I-15 focus group as in London, public opinion is formed based on information respondent (an HOV user) saw personal and social value in (even misinformation) that is shared and gained in the public the ExpressPass lanes, "when they opened [the lanes] to single sphere. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, opposition to leas- drivers I looked at it as reducing congestion on the regular ing the state's turnpikes to private interests increased over lanes." In London, public support for the Central London time, perhaps for the same reasons cited earlier for the New Congestion Charge has increased as the scheme has been York City case. A spokesperson for New Jersey noted that proven to improve air quality and reduced levels of harmful "the public is not well-served when public opinion is tested emissions and particulates contributing to poor health and before the Corzine administration has made any proposal." climate change--evidence of support based on a larger public good. Support for congestion pricing in London has One final way to interpret the compiled data is to examine definitely improved with awareness of the scheme and as differences by geography. Certainly, some geographic regions the positive impacts have been visible and reported. In the in the United States have more experience than others with survey of New Yorkers, respondents who found congestion tolling and road pricing (see Table 4). Different types of pro- pricing to be a good idea cited several factors that indicated jects have been introduced in different regions. The polls and a range of self- and social-interest factors--reduce traffic, surveys in the western United States have resulted in support traffic jams, and congestion; increase use of public transit; for pricing to a much greater degree than opposition. The decrease unnecessary cars, trucks, and people in the area; bring West also has the longest history with pricing initiatives. Pub- increased revenue to the city; and reduce pollution. Many lic opinion support for pricing in the Midwest is also strongly individuals who voiced opposition to the road pricing con- apparent. Public support is less evident in the South, where cept in the latter survey and others cited in chapter three did there is less history with road pricing and there was the intro- so because they believed that there was "no value." The tolls duction of many new pricing initiatives after 2003. In the or charges "wouldn't solve the problem." Northeast, public support is also mixed. This is likely the result of the types of new initiatives that are being introduced. 2. The Public Wants to React to Tangible and Specific Examples THEMES IN PUBLIC OPINION RESULTS When public opinion on tolling is measured in the context of a specific project as opposed to a general principle, the level of Data were also analyzed qualitatively; that is, extracting the support is higher. Traffic problems must be evident, and it must broad themes in public opinion results. These themes can be demonstrated that road pricing or tolling of the specific facil- also be thought of as the "lessons learned" in garnering sup- ity is the best way to handle the problems for users as well as port for or raising opposition to road pricing initiatives. Eight non-users. Of the general issue polls presented in chapter three, general themes have been identified. The themes are supported most indicated mixed support or majority opposition to the with specific data from the surveys and the focus groups pre- tolling or road pricing proposal. In California, the public did not sented in chapter three. Quotes from respondents in the focus want to increase the number of the state's toll roads. In San groups have been pulled out because they represent the "voice Antonio, half of the individuals polled were against toll roads. of the people." In a U.S. national poll, one-third or less supported any of the road pricing concepts presented during the survey. On the other 1. The Public Wants to See the Value hand, majority support was found for specific projects such as SR 91, I-15 ExpressLanes, and I-394 HOT lanes. In the Miami When a concrete benefit is linked to the idea of tolling or Value Pricing Focus Groups in 2002, most respondents said charging for road usage (e.g., reducing congestion in an area that they would likely use the proposed express lanes, and where congestion is a problem) as opposed to tolling in the that they "appreciated the opportunity to have real choice as abstract, the public support of tolling is higher. Support is opposed to current conditions where the available choices all related to perceived benefits by users and non-users. The pub- involve congested routes in the peak periods."
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46 Road pricing should be perceived as a choice not as a kind where tolling is simply a possibility for the future. In Chicago, of a punishment. In many of the European examples in chap- the majority were willing to pay more to maintain and recon- ter three, support was higher when road pricing was put forth struct the Illinois State Toll Authority at the risk of failing to as part of a comprehensive policy package of road and pub- live up to the system's bond obligations, because most indi- lic transit investments. In an Orange County (California) sur- viduals believed that "tollways were a good value for the vey, the most persuasive argument for the Foothill South toll money." Experiences from several cities show that support road was the "need for an alternative to I-5." It is probably for tends to increase with exposure to the concept of tolling. this reason that low-income respondents tend to be support- In Oslo, Sweden, and London, support for cordon tolling ive of tolling and road charging concepts, as evidenced in increased after the pricing program was implemented. How- evaluation studies in California and Minnesota. Regardless ever, it must be recognized that building support is a long-term, of their economic circumstances, they appreciate having the continuous process that should not stop after implementation choice of paying to use uncongested lanes or roadways. of the pricing scheme. In the SR 91, I-15, and I-394 HOT lane evaluations, support remained high and even increased slightly the longer respondents had to experience the benefits. Positive 3. The Public Cares About the Use experiences with tolling and road pricing can also be exported of the Revenues from one area of the country to another through residential mobility. Among focus group participants in Central Texas As Higgins ascertained, use of tolling revenues is a key deter- where there were no priced roads at the time, most participants minant to acceptance of rejection of congestion pricing (128). had used toll roads and reported good experiences in when When the perceived beneficiaries of tolling revenues are spe- traveling in other areas of the country, including Chicago; cial interest groups (private companies or investors), public Houston; Dallas; and Washington, D.C. "The roads are better support for tolling is lower. In Indiana, more than half of patrolled" and attract "a different kind of driver." those polled were against the lease of the Indiana Toll Road. Most opposed it because of foreign control; others were against private control of a public asset. In New Jersey, respondents 5. The Public Uses Knowledge were against the sale of the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden and Information Available State Parkway to pay down the state's debt. However, they were more supportive when the money was used to fund trans- When informed opinion is guided by means of objective portation infrastructure in the state. In a similar vein, respon- explanation of the conditions and mechanics of tolling and dents in a Quinnipiac University Poll (2007) were more sup- the pros and cons of tolling, public support of tolling is portive of the congestion charging proposal for New York City higher than when there is no context for how tolling works. "if the money were used to prevent an increase in mass tran- In Orlando, focus group participants were initially negative sit fares and bridge and tunnel tolls." about the concept of adding tolls to new lanes on I-4, but eventually most said that they "use the Express Lanes for at Support tends to be higher when revenues are used for least some trips." Positive reaction to the plan came as a highway infrastructure or public transit improvements and/or result of the moderator conveying the full rationale for why to complete necessary construction faster. In many of the Euro- the tolled lanes would be necessary and carefully presenting pean cordon pricing trials such as Cambridge, England, pricing key details of the concept. In surveys in both Denver and was not viewed as acceptable as much as the public transport Alameda County, support for HOT lane projects increased improvements that could be funded with the revenues. One after there was information and clarification on how the HOT respondent in an I-15 focus group in California said, "Keep it lanes worked. In San Diego, equity concerns (i.e., fairness of on the highway. I wouldn't want to use those funds for some tolls for lower-income drivers) within focus groups relating other program." Participants in the Travel Choices Study focus to the I-15 managed lanes dissolved and support for the proj- groups in Washington State were very clear that "revenue col- ect strengthened when participants received clarifying infor- lected should fund transportation, as opposed to general gov- mation on the features of the project. These types of situa- ernment." "The legislature should have hands off. They have a tions may also explain why the public sometimes appears to way of getting in there and spending money on other stuff. have an attitude-behavior inconsistency; that is, expressing [Tolls] should be for transportation only." In focus group dis- negative attitudes about tolling and road pricing as theoreti- cussions on HOT lanes in Denver, there was general agreement cal constructs, but using the priced facility when it opens. that revenues should not be linked to specific agencies but to specific uses such as "bus services or roadway improvements." 6. The Public Believes in Equity but Wants Fairness. 4. The Public Learns from Experience Public opposition of tolling is higher where there is perceived Support from a majority of citizens often cannot be expected unfairness. Those in opposition to pricing projects in Min- from the outset. When the opportunity to use tolled facilities neapolis, Atlanta, and Denver, among others, tended to cite already exists, public support of tolling is higher than when or the characteristic of being "unfair" as a reason for considering
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47 these proposals to be a "bad idea." In Atlanta, respondents tested. Opposition was lower for the simplest idea (i.e., toll were more supportive of proposals that would toll vehicles roads, 68%) than for more complex ideas (i.e., a per-household with as many as three individuals (HOV-4) than of propos- highway access fee, 91% and a mileage fee, 81%). In South als that would toll vehicles with two individuals (HOT-3). Florida, there were several focus groups held in which partic- HOT-3 was perceived as penalizing carpoolers, whereas almost ipants were initially negative about managed lanes because so everyone would be tolled in HOT-4. Focus group respondents few fully understood the concept. Once participants under- were not generally supportive of peak period pricing. In stood the concept, most believed that it addressed some of their PANYNJ groups, it was mentioned that peak period pricing is personal needs, as well as traffic issues in the study corridor. "unfair to commuters." Fifty-nine percent agreed it was a good idea to vary toll rates during different times of day to In focus groups around Washington State, there was a gen- help improve traffic congestion, but only 26% agreed it was eral apprehension of a statewide tolling system because of its fair to charge higher bridge and tunnel tolls during peak travel complexity and fears of abuse or fraud. Some participants in the periods. In Miami, focus group participants also believed that focus groups actually preferred the gas tax as a revenue instru- peak pricing would "unfairly penalize commuters." On the ment rather than the mileage-based system using global posi- other hand, the Attitudinal Panel Survey evaluating the I-15 tioning system and cell phone technology that was tested in the ExpressPass program found a high level of support for the study. "I would rather pay a higher gas tax than [have] another program, along with a high rating of the fairness of the pro- system to keep track of." Public response to the idea of dynamic gram for regular and carpool lane users. variable pricing also is influenced by its complexity. Focus group respondents in California referring to I-15 believed that Also encapsulated in this perception is the notion that it is the variable price "introduced too much uncertainty into an unfair for individuals to have to "pay for something that they already complex system." One participant remarked, "What's have gotten for free in the past." In San Diego focus groups, the price today? You got to worry about the guy in front of you one participant voiced the concern of many in other studies, and the guy in back of you . . . it's too much." "I've paid once for the lanes, and now I have to pay again. That's unfair." This also relates to why having an "alterna- 8. The Public Favors Tolls over Taxes tive cost-free route" is so important for public support or why support for tolling new roads and bridges is higher than for Although there are some instances of the surveyed public pre- tolling existing facilities. The public needs to be reassured ferring tax increases over tolling, these are isolated instances. that the government is not disrespecting people or treating The quantitative analysis depicted in Table 1 indicates that them unfairly by double billing. in the aggregate across all of the data presented in this synthe- sis the public prefers tolling over tax increases. In Maine, sur- Although equity was raised by at least one individual in vey respondents were given a list of alternatives for funding a many of the focus groups cited in chapter three, in most the new highway or bridge. Fifty-six percent supported estab- idea was raised as a rhetorical question, "Would the lanes be lishing tolls, 16% increasing the gas tax, and 10% would can- used only by the wealthy?" In many groups, participants such cel the project. Generally, the same distribution was found on as the following quoted from Dallas appeared to agree that a question relating to fixing a highway or a bridge for safety decisions on whether to use such lanes "revolve around peo- reasons. One individual in Minneapolis was quoted as say- ple's preferences; namely, if a person wants the convenience ing, "I like tolls because I wouldn't use them and I wouldn't badly enough, she or he will be willing to pay for it." In San pay for it. We've got enough taxes." In New Jersey, nearly Antonio focus groups, there was general agreement that two-thirds of voters opposed raising tolls on the state's turn- "wealthy drivers would use a managed lane facility more often, pikes to pay off state debt. However, when asked to choose but that it would benefit everyone to have a choice of using between raising tolls, cutting services, or raising taxes, more or not using the lane." In London and other European cordon tolling projects and proposals, the use of the revenues to individuals opted for raising tolls (44%, 28%, and 9%, respec- improve public transit was considered a way of making the tively). In a statewide survey in California, respondents project "more fair" for low-income constituents. favored HOT lanes, tolls roads, and express toll lanes over gas and sales tax increases. Likewise, in a national AAA sur- vey, the public supported adding tolls on new and existing 7. The Public Wants Simplicity roads and highway lanes over increasing motor- and non-fuel taxes or imposing a vehicle-mile tax. When the mechanics of tolling or other user fee programs are simple, clear, and therefore easy to understand, public support In focus groups in Central Texas, the general consensus of tolling is higher than in situations where there is a high level for funding new roads was that it should not come from of complexity in how pricing would be applied. There were taxes. "Taxes are already too high." Also, unlike the revenue two failed cordon tolling attempts in Hong Kong. The alterna- generated from tolls, participants in focus groups often tives tested in both attempts were comprised of complex pric- believed that their gas taxes went to help fund projects in ing structures and numerous charging locations. In a statewide other parts of the state. A common theme was "we're not get- survey in Oregon, a variety of ideas for funding highways was ting our fair share."