Essential Insights for Decision-makers Considering Congestion Pricing.

Essential Insights for Decision-makers Considering Congestion Pricing.


J Eliasson, Royal Institute of Technology, SE


The paper summarises the most essential insights and advice for decision-makers considering congestion pricing.


Congestion pricing has been advocated for a long time as an efficient means to reduce road congestion, without much success in practice. In the last few years, however, congestion pricing has been introduced in various forms, with London (2003) and Stockholm (2006) attracting the most international attention.

The Stockholm experiences have attracted widespread attention from many cities that consider introducing similar schemes, and the people involved in the development and evaluation of the Stockholm system (including the author, who was responsible for the design of the charging system and forecasting its effects, and subsequently chaired the Expert Evaluation Panel) have acted as advisors to many policymakers from cities and countries all around the world. This paper is based on these experiences. A number of questions repeatedly surface in discussions with policymakers, politicians and planners. A number of facts and insights repeatedly turn out to be especially relevant and interesting, and to a certain extent surprising. The purpose of this paper is to summarise these questions, facts and insights, for the benefit of cities considering congestion charging schemes.

This paper is not meant to be a comprehensive survey of theory or experience. In fact, the aim is specifically not to be comprehensive but focused on the most essential insights and advice decision-makers need: the key facts and advice that should be emphasized to policymakers as early as possible. The contribution of the paper is the selection of the most relevant, interesting, important and sometimes surprising facts, insights, findings, advice and conclusions out of a vast literature on congestion charging in general and Stockholm in particular.

There are three areas that are necessary to consider for a successful congestion charging implementation. First, the charging structure needs to be well designed, in order to achieve large social benefits. Second, investment and operational costs must be kept low. Third, one must get public acceptance for the system. Below, the headlines of each of these areas are summarised. In each section, lessons, experiences and examples are given.

Why and how it works
- Car drivers are cost sensitive.
- There are many ways to adapt.
- Traffic isn?t just work trips.
- Many car drivers won?t even know that they have adapted.
- Retail effects are generally small

Efficient charge design
- Goals have to be explicit and relevant
- Designing charges is a job for experts.
- Getting a sufficiently good transport model.
- Get political and legal possibilities to adjust the system
- The conflict between ?effective? and ?easily communicated? design

Getting low costs: Efficient procurement and technology
- Clarify the legal conditions clear early
- Consider the cost-efficiency of service level targets.
- Choose cost-efficient payment channels.
- Handling transponders is expensive
- Align cost and risk responsibilities in functional procurements
- High political risks increase costs

Getting public and political acceptance
- Acceptability decreases with detail but increases with familiarity
- Plan the political process accordingly
- The system has got to deliver benefits
- ?Branding? matters
- Car dependence and transit satisfaction matter less than many believe
- ?Fairness? can mean many things
- ?Winners? and ?losers? gets difficult to identify over time
- Power issues are decisive for political acceptability


Association for European Transport