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American motorists experience more hours of congested conditions every year, but planning models rely on relatively thin behavioral information to take congestion into account. Highway operations and road pricing strategies are being employed to address congestion, but the planning process is not well equipped to describe the effective capacity available when roads are congested or to describe the relief obtained by improvement strategies. Variable tolls are being considered to encourage motorists to shift travel time out of congested periods, to use less congested roads, or to change mode. Current travel models are not capable of simulating all of the factors needed to calculate the effect of tolls on congestion because they do not include disaggregated models of choice behavior for a range of users under various choice conditions. A disaggregate approach is required that deals directly with the decisions faced by individuals rather than large groups of people.
The objective of this project was to develop mathematical descriptions of the full range of highway user behavioral responses to congestion, travel time reliability, and pricing. This included formatting the mathematical descriptions of behavior so that they could be incorporated into various travel demand modeling systems in use or being developed. Another objective was to examine network assignment practices needed to support models that simulate behavioral responses to congestion, travel time reliability, and pricing.
Over the past 30 years, research has advanced the understanding and prediction of travelers’ behavior choices in response to changes in traffic congestion and changes in the price of travel. This project synthesized that research to select the important and well-founded behavioral hypotheses, and it tested those hypotheses statistically on the most suitable data sets available in the United States. The project identified the most important contextual influences on behavioral sensitivity to highway congestion and pricing, and it provided guidance on the relative magnitude of those influences. Travel demand modeling studies are typically limited in scope and time frame, and they are usually tied to a single survey data set. This project had the unique opportunity to carry out a comprehensive series of hypotheses tests on data sets that were available from multiple areas across the United States.
TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 377: Compilation of Public Opinion Data on Tolls and Road Pricing explores how the public feels about tolls and road pricing, examines public opinion concerning charging for the use of roads, and highlights factors associated with the acceptance or rejection of road pricing.
Prepared by: ICF International and KT Analytics for NCHRP
This report describes road pricing concepts and discusses its potential effectiveness and applicability. It also provides guidelines for communicating strategies and engaging affected parties, and guidelines for project planning and integrating pricing into regional and state planning processes. The report is structured to aid both readers familiar and unfamiliar with road pricing, allowing both a brief overview of the concepts as well as in depth information on the latest applications, impacts, operations, costs, and policy and acceptability considerations.
The report is divided into two volumes. Volume 1 provides a review of the six concepts and planning pointers sufficient for planners and decision makers to evaluate the potential of the concepts and understand the best engagement and communication strategies. Volume 2 provides interview findings, literature reviews and references to resource materials on planning, engagement, and communications related to road pricing strategies.
Prepared by: ICF International and KT Analytics for NCHRP and AASHTO
Communicating with various affected parties and stakeholders in planning for road pricing (RP) is vital to acceptable, effective and lasting programs. Certainly, decision makers authorizing proposals need to understand the objectives, the efficacy of pricing, equity considerations, overall costs and benefits, operations, revenue distribution, and other particulars to effectively provide their support. Likewise, affected parties such as travelers, residents, businesses, and other stakeholders likely to influence decision makers also must understand pricing strategies and their expected impacts for acceptable projects to develop. This research documents best practices in communicating with the public on all aspects of road pricing. The report identifies messages and delivery methods that have worked and not worked, along with the characteristics of successful road pricing communication campaigns.
With continuing growth in travel demand, worsening congestion, and shortages of funding available for increasing highway capacity, state departments of transportation (DOTs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and other transportation agencies are considering pricing strategies such as user-based fees or tolling as options for generating transportation revenue and for managing transportation system performance. Although a number of DOTs have initiated projects that rely on pricing as an alternative to traditional funding sources, policy makers and planners need a framework for better decisions on pricing: When to price? What to price? How to price? They also need a framework for fully understanding the potential impacts of these major projects on the performance of the entire transportation system. While pricing strategies can provide new sources of revenue to fund expanded transportation capacity, they clearly will also have impacts on travel demand and congestion. As such, there are questions to be answered regarding who pays for such improvements, who will use these facilities, and how these facilities will be operated to improve the overall performance of the transportation system. Pricing decisions must be based on accurate, reliable, and credible forecasts of their impacts on travel behavior and the revenue to be generated from the tolled facilities. Additionally, of equal importance, planners and decision makers need a broad framework that can effectively inform their consideration of pricing options in terms of their policy implications, performance expectations, and financial impacts.
Decision makers in both the public and private sectors of the transportation industry need a better understanding of pricing. The public’s knowledge and awareness of pricing issues are limited, and this places a greater burden on policy makers and planners to provide reliable and credible information. Traditional methods and analytical tools for transportation decision making, such as risk analysis, benefit-cost and other economic analysis, financial analysis, market research, and travel-demand forecasting fall short in addressing the complexities associated with pricing decision making. In order for pricing proposals to be fully and accurately evaluated and planned, these methods and analytical tools need to be applied consistently within a rational decision-making framework. In addition, there is a need for improvements to existing methods and analytical tools to resolve issues such as public acceptance, unique private sector involvement, and economic and social issues while supporting current and future pricing decisions.
This research project developed a decision-making framework that includes descriptions and evaluation of methods and analytical tools for establishing pricing policies and practices and for predicting their impacts on travel behavior and congestion. Gaps are identified, and improved methods and analytical tools are developed to fill those gaps. Improvements for travel-demand forecasting methods employed to support pricing decisions for new capacity and congestion management are provided. The results are presented two volumes: the first containing the decision-making framework and the second focusing on improvements to travel-demand forecasting methods and analytical tools.
Highway traffic congestion is one of the biggest challenges facing transportation agencies today. Congestion will likely become even worse in the future as demand for highway facilities increases and capacity remains limited. Increasing peak times, loss of productivity during congested periods, and underutilization of existing capacity during off peak periods are some of the current system management challenges.
There is a growing national momentum within government transportation agencies to explore congestion pricing and evaluate its performance. A number of states are considering or implementing congestion pricing projects such as High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes.Congestion pricing options face considerable political and public pressures. Transportation organizations need assistance in developing and tracking measurements for assessing the benefits and impacts of congestion pricing strategies. Effective performance assessment of pricing projects is essential at the planning, development, deployment, operation, and evaluation stages.
The objective of this research was to create guidelines for evaluation and performance measurement of congestion pricing projects that are designed to optimize the use of available roadway capacity. The guidelines will help agencies select or develop appropriate performance measures, collect the necessary data, track performance, and communicate the results to decision-makers, users, and the general public. As well as the guidelines, the products include a web-only document which provides an overview of the purpose, scope, and methodology, and a complete compilation of the work products that were used to develop NCHRP Report 694.
Prepared by: Cambridge Systematics for AASHTO and NCHRP, 2009.
FHWA introduced the concept of congestion pricing to the HERS-based Condition and Performance Report in the 2006 issue. This research-based approach dramatically diminishes investment requirements and generates vast amounts of revenue – creating a swing on the order of $50 billion per year. The report indicates that the average prices to produce this effect were on the order of 20 cents per mile, ranging much higher where necessary, and leaving many questions.
This NCHRP research examines the assumptions and analytical methods used by FHWA to quantify the relationship between cost and travel demand, concluding that several issues need to be better understood in order for results to be properly interpreted. Chief among them are that (1) daily traffic analysis understates the congestion charges, (2) ignoring network effects paints an incomplete picture of the potential changes, and (3) technological barriers cannot be ignored.
The economics and practical considerations of congestion pricing are discussed. The purpose of congestion pricing is to expose drivers to the full social cost of road use through directly charging for those costs that vary with congestion; congestion pricing charges everyone for something for which they had not previously been charged. The ultimate economic argument is dependent on the incidence of the direct and indirect benefits and costs of congestion-free travel, who pays the tolls, and how the toll revenue is spent. Practiacally, there are numerous ways that congestion pricing can be carried out, and each can produce different traveler responses. A related issue concerns the considerable barriers associated with the techonology of implementation. The equity and social justice effects of congestion pricing are not well understood.