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Title: Addressing equity in political debates over road pricing: Lessons from recent projects

Author(s): Taylor, Brian D. and Rebecca Kalauskas

Published: 2010 by Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2010: 44-52. DOI: 10.3141/2187-7

Online Access: http://trb.metapress.com/content/g57810h18n862341/

Abstract: Recent technological advances have made it easier and cheaper to charge vehicles for road use, and indeed electronic roadway tolling applications are gradually increasing worldwide. Although road pricing holds the promise of reducing congestion, emissions, and fuel use while raising needed revenues, the growth in toll programs and projects is halting and falls short of a groundswell. The idea remains generally unpopular with businesses, voters, and the people whom they elect. One of the concerns about road pricing is unfairness. While considerable ink has been spilled on the philosophical and empirical dimensions of road pricing, less has been written on how equity concerns have been addressed in practice. This paper addresses this gap by reviewing the broader road pricing equity literature and examining road pricing case studies in which equity debates played a prominent role. Four strategies have proven important to mitigating equity concerns and overcoming opposition to road pricing: addressing equity issues in planning, building support from the public and interest groups, establishing trust between elected officials and transportation agencies before project development, and enlisting the support of influential constituencies for toll revenues. The politics of transportation finance, especially road pricing, is complex and contentious, making it difficult to separate measurable equity outcomes from perceptions of fairness and beliefs about tolling from tactics to avoid paying them. However, the gradual operational and political success of a growing number of road pricing projects suggests that equity concerns can be satisfactorily addressed.

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