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PLENARY SESSION 3 Public and Political Acceptance Issues Posed by Alternative Financing Methods Kay McKinley, PBS&J (Moderator) Brian Taylor, University of California, Los Angeles Frank Wilson, Frank Wilson and Associates Kathy Ruffalo, Kathy Ruffalo and Associates A s transportation agencies at all levels of gov- stakeholders. In the long term, there are major challenges ernment grapple with finding a long-term, sus- to overcome. Partisan debate is often abstract. In addition, tainable funding solution, a key challenge is there is no longer consensus on the benefits of transporta- effectively engaging the public, elected officials, and the tion investment. There is a need to educate stakeholders media in the debate. In this session, moderated by Kay about the reasons why more funding is needed. Federal McKinley, leading experts in the fields of transportation transportation programs are disintegrating, and there is policy making, public relations, and academic research a widespread belief in the inelasticity of demand. Ulti- addressed these four questions: Does the public even mately, transportation funding is poorly understood. perceive that there is a transportation crisis? Is there an Important questions about what an optimum motor fuel understanding of how transportation projects are funded tax level would be or how tolls and sales taxes could be today and what the user pays? What strategies can be used to maximize mobility benefits go unanswered. employed to communicate the message about funding The following are among the lessons learned: address- options effectively? What is the risk of inaction? ing equity early in the process, securing broad-based sup- port among the public and interest groups, building trust between elected officials and transportation agencies, Overcoming Equity Objections in and organizing constituencies for the toll revenues. Implementing Recent Road Pricing Projects Brian Taylor noted that there are a growing number of Washington State Tolling Study road pricing projects both in the United States and in Europe. However, many road pricing proposals have Frank Wilson pointed out that after Washington State failed to make it to implementation because of political passed a gasoline tax initiative, additional mechanisms objections that often involve the issue of equity. While for raising new sources of revenue were considered. The there is substantial literature on public attitudes toward Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) road pricing, less research has focused on how equity was tasked by the legislature to develop recommendations concerns have been raised and addressed in political for a comprehensive tolling policy for the state. WSTC debates over projects. wanted to present the state with a strategy that was action- Dr. Taylor stated that there is a need to engage the pub- able, so it embarked on a statewide tolling study to iden- lic and elected officials in long- and short-term dialogue tify the opportunities that tolling would facilitate. As part to overcome equity objections in implementing toll proj- of this effort, the commission reached out to key opinion ects. In the short term, project proponents should develop leaders, the media, and the general public throughout an information campaign that provides something for all the state and asked for input. The effort involved execu- 21