Addressing Equity and Fairness in Tolling and Pricing

National experience has shown that perceived inequity to disadvantaged communities can derail the consideration of proposed toll and pricing projects. Even in areas with existing toll facilities, new proposals are not immune from fairness criticisms. Left unanswered, fairness issues may overwhelm public opinion and potentially elicit legal concerns. Five general types of equity apply to toll and priced facilities: geographic, income, participation, opportunity, and modal equity. The first two issues are generally more important in the planning process. Issues with geographic equity are largely reflected in public opinion, which in turn reflects participation and modal equity. Income equity also incorporates elements of opportunity equity and modal equity. Through the careful and deliberate planning process, issues pertaining to income equity can more easily be mitigated or alleviated than geographic equity, fulfilling the requirements of environmental justice. As toll and pricing policies are developed, planners and policy makers should address key questions designed to identify (a) potential income equity concerns and (b) ways to mitigate those concerns that may occur. Although no assessment can completely address all potential issues of equity and fairness, the principle of environmental justice requires transportation professionals to evaluate proposed projects with an open eye and an open mind. Ultimately, no project needs to be delayed or tabled because of issues of equity. Rather, correctly identifying concerns and addressing them through deliberate and transparent policy and action can help further the case for tolls in a broad transportation financing and planning context.

TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH RECORD 2013, TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH BOARD, 2007.

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