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Introduction The transportation system in the United States faces a number of significant challenges, includ- ing inadequate funding, persistent traffic congestion, and associated problems related to pollution, global climate change, sustainable energy, and neighborhood and community quality of life in an automobile-oriented society. As governments attempt to cope with these pressing issues, the concept of road pricing has been receiving increased attention. Road pricing has gradually moved from economic and policy analy- sis to implemented projects both in the United States and overseas. It has proved effective in addressing the above challenges, while new electronic technologies have eased implementation without the need for manual toll connection. Also, the pilot testing and implementation of vari- ous road pricing approaches have spurred greater understanding of benefits, costs, operations, policy development, and acceptability. Evidence regarding successful implementation of road pricing projects points to the importance of carefully designed and targeted information dissemination and outreach efforts. Without excep- tion, early and continuing communication and engagement with the many stakeholders and potentially affected parties have been critical for public and political acceptance of pricing propos- als. Several road pricing proposals are known to have failed where communication and engage- ment were inadequate, intermittent, or not in line with lessons about practices most likely to bring success. Successful applications of road pricing have required attentive, responsive, respectful, and tailored communication and engagement. In addition to best practices in engagement and communication, successful road pricing plans and programs require sound planning practices. Planners need to analyze and present road pric- ing concepts that are most suitable and effective given local goals and high-priority problems that road pricing can address such as congestion, pollution, sustainability, and finance of transporta- tion infrastructure. Plans must be financially feasible, address equity issues, be operationally feasi- ble, and be sensitive to privacy concerns. Planned implementation must be in the hands of agencies trusted to carry them out and the planning process itself must be perceived as credible, responsive, and engaging of all affected parties. Required state and regional transportation planning processes can also play a role in the imple- mentation of road pricing. Thus far, road pricing has primarily emerged from planning involving individual corridors and areas but it is increasingly appearing in formal regional and state plans. In these plans, there are many analytic, policy, and institutional issues related to road pricing that must be attended to. For instance, long-range planning conducted by metropolitan planning organiza- tions (MPOs) and state departments of transportation (DOTs) relies on travel demand forecast- ing models, which typically are not well suited to address road pricing. There are challenges not only in projecting travel impacts accurately, but also for meeting federal requirements of air quality conformity in non-attainment areas. Projecting revenue generation reliably is another 3
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4 Road Pricing: Public Perceptions and Program Development important issue, both for successful project implementation as well as for balancing costs and rev- enues as part of fiscal constraint requirements in regional transportation plans. Thus, the key chal- lenge is to address all these issues in both project and long-range planning processes so as to increase the chances of success in the near term and leverage that success toward greater acceptance in the future. In sum, road pricing is gaining favor as an effective way to cope with a number of issues that are now at the top of the agenda in state and local transportation agencies. Road pricing has strong potential to reduce congestion, address air quality issues, help raise transportation revenue, and address livability and sustainability issues. However, local and state planners need lessons and checkpoints based on the latest experience to evaluate and integrate a full array of road pricing strategies into transportation planning and project development. They also need approaches for addressing public and decision maker acceptability through effective communication if road pric- ing is to have the best prospects for successful adoption and implementation. The NCHRP Proj- ect 8-73 addresses these twin needs. Purpose of the Project and This Report The overarching goal of this project is to help state, regional, and local decision makers and planners to: · Understand a range of road pricing concepts · Determine which concepts may be most applicable, effective, and acceptable in light of the local environment and objectives · Provide lessons on communicating pricing proposals and developing project plans for best chances of successful implementation · Integrate pricing plans into regional and state planning processes to advance implementation This report focuses on road pricing where the primary objective is the reduction of congestion and associated problems while potentially supplementing or replacing declining traditional sources of transportation finance. Flat rate tolling is not included. With the intent of encouraging atten- tion to and implementation of road pricing beyond current programs, this report aims at the audi- ence of planners who are not very familiar with the concept but interested in knowing more about its potential, status, and key planning considerations. Structure and Use of This Report This report is divided into two parts. Part 1 offers guide points for planners and decision mak- ers needing an overview and introduction to pricing, as well as planning and acceptability lessons learned from a wide range of pricing projects. Section 1 of Part 1 describes the following six road pricing concepts for possible application to local goals and conditions: · Conversion of existing high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) or other lanes to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes · Variable pricing on new or rehabilitated facilities and regionwide networks · Variable pricing on existing toll facilities · Pricing of an area of existing roads and streets ("areawide" or "cordon" pricing) · Distance-based pricing or mileage fees · Variable pricing applied to parking Each road pricing concept is briefly described in Section 1 and then arrayed in tabular form showing its applicability and considerations for project development. The overview and tables are
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Introduction 5 not only useful for planners interested in understanding the pricing options and possible applica- tion to congestion-related problems in their area, but also provide valuable information for deci- sion makers on success considerations, policy and institutional requirements, and factors affecting acceptability. After reviewing Section 1, planners and decision makers can then decide which, if any, concepts are of interest for further and more in-depth consideration. Part 1, Section 2, begins with more detail on engagement, communication, and achieving accept- ability critical to the success of any of the six road pricing concepts. Next are pointers on planning road pricing at the project level and integrating pricing into formal regional and state planning processes. These processes include goal setting, evaluation of alternatives, conformity and environ- mental reviews, fiscal constraint planning, public and stakeholder engagement, and other key ele- ments of the planning process as set out in federal law and guidance. The section ends with detailed descriptions and examples of the six pricing concepts and information on their impacts, costs and revenues, equity, and other particulars related to implementation. Section 2 also is use- ful for planners and analysts already familiar with road pricing who wish to review lessons and recommendations specific to one or more road pricing concepts. Part 2 is a resource document for two audiences. It provides planning, engagement, and com- munication resource material along with findings supportive of the lessons and directions in the guide points. It aids all readers to understand the basis for the conclusions underlying the pointers and guidance provided in Part 1. It also provides detailed literature review and interview findings for readers already familiar with road pricing who want to review the latest pertinent information from research studies and local pricing programs. It includes references and links to many U.S. project websites, documents, and outreach materials.