Managing Public Perceptions of Tolling and Road Pricing

Road pricing and tolling projects have employed different methods to measure public acceptance. Regardless of methodology, a significant lesson in the public acceptance of road pricing can be learned from these projects: Initial skepticism about and openly expressed opposition to pricing do not prevent such projects from carefully and judiciously moving forward. Post-implementation feedback reveal that public attitudes about pricing has shifted from negative to positive as a result of the public having directly experienced pricing’s benefits.

New toll corridors, lanes, and bridges will face a different type of scrutiny from the public than will existing corridors; namely, whether there should be a new facility. Ideally, these questions should be addressed in the project’s purpose and needs analysis, alternatives assessment, and environmental documentation.  The role of tolling should not influence the need for a facility. In reality, however, it often does. Opponents of a facility, regardless of how it is paid for, will use the public’s default apprehensiveness about tolls as a reason to try to defeat a project. Only through the careful and deliberate process of planning, documenting, and educating the public about proposed projects can negative attitudes toward tolling be overcome.

TOLLWAYS, INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE, TUNNEL, AND TURNPIKE ASSOCIATION, AUTUMN 2006.

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