Users' Attitudes Towards Road Tolls - a Cross Section Assessment
A Kjerkreit, J Odeck, M B Lynum, Public Roads Administration, NO
Tolling of road projects are initiated on the basis that users will receive benefits earlier than is possible with the scarce government funds. It is a common practice that planners and researchers conduct feasibility studies on the viability of such projects. The results are then presented to the decision makers who take them for granted and therefore sanction tolling on that basis. In the process, roads users are often ignored at least as far as their attitudes are concerned. Yet an informed planning process requires full information to all involved parties, users and decision makers alike.
The failure to involve users in the planning process by for example informing them before hand on the intentions with tolling and how benefits will accrue to them may explain why several planned charging schemes throughout Europe have failed in the past. The rationale is clear; decision makers will be more likely to sanction projects that their supporters (users) are in support of. Ideally road users should understand and support tolling as it brings forth benefits at an earlier stage than would be possible with state funds alone.
Using Norway as an example and where the use of tolling as a supplement to government funds has been immense in the last two decades, we in this paper investigate the extent to which users acknowledge tolling as a good practice. We address whether users understand and appreciate the ideas behind tolling. The results should be of interest to countries considering tolling and hence may consider user attitudes rigorously in their planning processes. Specifically we consider whether users really understand the assumptions made by planners and experts; do they really know or acknowledge that tolling is for their own benefit? Two alternative answers are readily available: (1) users do not know or understand the aim of tolling in which case they are likely to be negative towards tolls; (2) users understand and appreciate tolls due to the benefits that accrue to them, in which case they will be positive towards them. In this paper we explore which of the alternatives yields.
Using about 6 Norwegian tolled projects our findings are as follows: (i) in situations where tolls are still in place and in situations where tolls are being considered, the percentage of support for tolls are all below 50 percent, (ii) however, in situations where tolls have been removed the percentage of those in support is higher than in situations where tolls are yet to be removed and, (iii) in situation where tolls are under planning the percentage of those against is the highest. Finally, we find that negative attitudes is highly correlated to the level of information given to users a priori on the motives with tolls; less information lead to higher negative attitudes and vice-versa. Other factors explaining these attitudes are also investigated. The above findings lead us to conclude with the following: (1) planners need to take roads users seriously when planning tolls; give them the information on why tolls are good for them before hand, (2) involve the decision makers in the planning process while letting them know what the users, their voters feel about tolling, and (3) combine (1) and (2) to understand that planning through communication is an essential part of any planning process, a terminology that seems to be forgotten.
Association for European Transport