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12 Road Pricing: Public Perceptions and Program Development (1) roadway operating conditions, including capacity constraints and type and severity of conges- tion; (2) availability of transportation alternatives; and (3) the main policy and institutional requirements necessary for successful implementation. The first part of Exhibit 2 allows planners and decision makers to consider the most applicable road pricing strategy for highway and transportation conditions in the area of interest. For instance, for congested highways with capacity constraints, applicable road pricing concepts include con- version of existing HOV, shoulder, or other lanes to HOT lanes and variable pricing on existing facilities. Where new or rehabilitated capacity is an option, new lane pricing with or without HOT treatment is an option. However, when congestion is concentrated in an area of streets such as in downtowns or activity centers, the most applicable concepts are areawide pricing, mileage fees varying by time of travel in the congested area, and parking pricing. All of these concepts can reduce traffic congestion in a particular location, while encouraging a shift to alternative modes and travel times. It is important to note that all the road pricing concepts in the table are most effective when coupled with alternative travel options set out in the second part of the table. These options include HOV services; transit; travel demand management (TDM) programs; and bike, pedes- trian, and park-and-ride infrastructure. For HOT lanes, variable pricing based on time of travel on new or existing toll facilities, mileage fees, and flexible work hours for commuters will aid effec- tiveness and acceptability. For areawide pricing, alternative free routes for through traffic and park and ride options outside the priced zone to support a change in mode will boost effectiveness and acceptability. Finally, in the last part of Exhibit 2, certain policy and institutional conditions are required or, if not required, are supportive and important to consider for implementation of the road pricing concepts. For instance, all the concepts require policy and institutional support not only to authorize their implementation but also to ensure proper enforcement, appeal processing, and data privacy. Other policy and institutional points are outlined by road pricing concept in Exhibit 2. 1.4 Planning, Acceptability, and Engagement Bringing about successful road pricing plans and programs requires attention to many planning approaches as well as engagement and communication strategies aimed at the public, decision makers and stakeholders. Planners and decision makers should know that road pricing is not an easy concept to plan and bring to successful implementation. Road pricing has taken many years to gain its current successes and several major planned programs have failed to come about because of insufficient support from the public, stakeholders, and decision makers. Fortunately, docu- mented experience to date and a substantial literature on engagement and acceptability (detailed in Part 2) have derived useful lessons for planners and decision makers about how to maximize the prospects for success. Exhibit 3 provides brief checkpoints of the main planning, engagement, and communication practices important for acceptance and successful implementation. Exhibit 3 begins with pointers related to planning. To date, road pricing has emerged mostly from planning around single projects rather than from formal regional and state plans. As projects proved their success, they then appeared through amendments in regional and state plans required by federal law, along with other policies supporting road pricing. Regions and states having little or no experience with road pricing should anticipate that a road pricing plan may first emerge fol- lowing this same path. However, regions with more experience in road pricing are now adopting transportation plans that include road pricing projects, networks, and broad, supporting policies. Some of these projects are underway or nearing final approval.
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Decision-Making Guide: Evaluating Road Pricing Potential for Local Areas and Conditions 13 Exhibit 3. Success considerations for planning, communication, and engagement. Planning Plans for road pricing are most likely to succeed where: Problem Focus, Project Experience, Link to Regional Planning Pricing plans address severe congestion-related problems or problems of "crisis" nature to decision makers, stakeholders, and affected parties. Individual pricing projects already have taken place or can take place before broad pricing policies, goals, and strategies are developed for adoption in regional and state plans. Pricing can help meet requirements for fiscally constrained metropolitan plans balancing revenues and costs, especially larger projects and/or networks versus small and first pricing projects. Pricing is linked with conformity, environmental justice, and environmental impact review requirements, especially in non-attainment regions. Pricing has potential to generate capacity sooner than traditional state and local funding sources, especially in light of ongoing and projected shortfalls in revenues from such sources. Modeling and Analysis Expertise Planners have experience and familiarity with one or more specialized microsimulation models; familiarity with unique revenue and financial models for private sector involvement is also an important consideration. Planning addresses investment and finance requirements with attention to debt-backed proceeds for future tolls and investment grade analysis. Policy and Institutional Situation Agencies and authorities already exist to support, advocate for and implement pricing, instead of planning for whole new organizations and policies. Task forces, commissions, or committees are created and used to support and develop pricing plans, especially to negotiate policy particulars such as price levels and the use and distribution of revenues. Plans account for current restrictions on pricing federally aided facilities. Communication and Engagement Communication and engagement encourages acceptance where: Focus and Content The focus is on the most resonant congestion-related problems and the degree to which they are characterized in terms and tones familiar to affected parties and stakeholders. In some settings, the most resonant problems may be pollution or the need for revenues in a time of shrinking traditional revenue sources. The problem to be addressed and the effect of pricing are clearly explained; pricing experienced to date is referenced to build familiarity and acceptance; content and tone are free of economic, planning, or engineering jargon; and all information is available in multiple language versions representing the demographics of the area. Program details are addressed, including enhanced publicly acceptable alternatives to driving; enforcement to ensure equitable access and avoid "free riders"; simple rather than complex toll schedules; possible traffic and parking diversion in sensitive areas; and how data privacy and security will be ensured. Fairness across income groups and communities in different locations is addressed, as well as other fairness concerns: "paying twice" by traditional taxes and road pricing; hardship on certain population segments; availability of improved transit to some but not others; evasion of charges that is unfair to honest payers. Engagement and Communication Process The most important parties are involved given congestion-related problems and the pricing options of potential interest, typically businesses, truckers, residents, and environmental organizations who have the ear of key decision makers; consensus and compromise take place toward policy clearance, authorization, and implementation. Champions are encouraged and supported with timely analysis and information, where champions are influential program advocates, potentially including public officials, stakeholders, and decision makers. The appearance of "springing" proposals on the public is avoided, questions are answered promptly, and concerns addressed with plan changes, and where revenue plans avoid the appearance of growing government and instead support preferred services and operations. (continued on next page)
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14 Road Pricing: Public Perceptions and Program Development Exhibit 3. (Continued). Communication and Engagement Program managers and public relations staff continue contact with decision makers and program "customers" after implementation, and where newsletters, briefings and other communications feature continued input from stakeholders and evidence about program effectiveness regarding revenue distribution, services as promised, and positive experiences of program users. Role and Image of Government Government is not perceived as the culprit for congestion problems and instead appears as an honest partner in implementing congestion-reduction programs to date; multiple levels of government support pricing plans; and agencies responsible for implementation are considered credible and competent. Planners adapt to setbacks by developing and presenting altered or new concepts, revising failed communication messages, or halting engagement and waiting for more opportune times. Thus, Exhibit 3 provides pointers applicable to both project-level and regional planning. For instance, both project-level and formal transportation planning processes are advised to focus on the most severe congestion-related problems of "crisis" nature to decision makers, stakeholders, and affected parties. Likewise, all planning should reference U.S. and international experience to raise public and political awareness and enhance familiarity, acceptability and support. All plan- ning is advised to use task forces, commissions, or committees to support and develop pricing plans, especially to negotiate policy particulars such as price levels and revenue distribution. How- ever, where pricing is included in formal regional and state plans, unique considerations apply. Pricing should be linked with planning for air quality conformity, achieving environmental justice, and fulfilling environmental impact review requirements, especially in non-attainment regions. Planners also should consider how pricing might help meet the requirements for fiscally con- strained metropolitan plans balancing revenues and costs. Larger projects and/or networks may well help meet fiscal constraint requirements. The second part of Exhibit 3 highlights several chief considerations for successfully communi- cating road pricing and engaging stakeholders. Engagement and associated communications should be viewed as a multiway process that involves planners paying attention to the ebb and flow of influential actors, their interests, perceptions, and actions, while revising plans and working towards a sufficient consensus to bring about passage and implementation. In the process, plan- ners should be fully aware that uncontrollable changes in economic, political, and policy variables still may sink even well-conceived and responsive road pricing plans. Thus, the guidance offered here is not a course guaranteed to gain acceptance or adoption of any road pricing proposal. Instead, it is a series of steps, cautions, and checkpoints on engagement and communications for local, regional, and state planners to take advantage of lessons to date, avoid pitfalls, and create the best prospects possible for bringing forth acceptable road pricing proposals. Echoing a planning pointer, engagement and communications should identify and then empha- size the most resonant congestion-related problems. In some areas or corridors, those problems may include not only congestion but also pollution or the need for revenues in a time of shrinking traditional revenue sources. The lessons from studied projects also emphasize achieving consen- sus and compromise on revenue allocations, driving alternatives, good enforcement, toll sched- ules, privacy matters, and other program design elements. While these details may not arise in early discussions with decision makers and stakeholders while testing the waters about potential road pricing options, they are likely to arise once planning and engagement begins in earnest. Once sur- faced, these issues demand much interaction with many actors and interests and the particulars of the road pricing program will require careful, respectful, and flexible fashioning and compromise. Other pointers are offered on government image, using economic and planning jargon in commu- nications, and recovering from setbacks.
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Decision-Making Guide: Evaluating Road Pricing Potential for Local Areas and Conditions 15 The importance of planning, engagement, and communication procedures taking account of success lessons to date cannot be overemphasized. For readers interested in further information on one or more of the six road pricing concepts, Section 2.3 offers more detailed pointers specific to each concept. In addition, Part 2 provides still more information on the road pricing accept- ability literature, details from successful projects with examples of engagement and communica- tion practices, and more detail on integrating road pricing into the formal regional and state planning process.