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.


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