National Review of How the Public Perceives Pricing

With the creation in 1992 of the Congestion Pricing Pilot Program, later renamed the Value Pricing Pilot Program, the U.S. Department of Transportation endorsed an expanded investigation into new tolling and pricing applications throughout the United States leveraging electronic toll-collection systems, demand-managing toll rates, and various infrastructure additions and conversions. As of 2005, 15 states had enrolled in the program, and each was attempting some form of tolling or pricing on their highway and road systems. Systematic study of the feasibility of such systems, as required by the program, revealed definitive public attitudes concerning new applications of tolling and pricing. Furthermore, the knowledge gained by earlier practitioners allowed those working on future projects to refine their approach and messages, thereby better managing public perception. This paper identifies the prevailing trends in public opinion concerning tolling and pricing. Using case studies from California, Texas, and Minnesota—where substantial pre- and post-implementation public opinion data are available—the paper identifies common barriers to public acceptance, the selling points of tolling and pricing, the potential supporters and opponents of pricing and tolling proposals, and strategies for educating the public on a proposed program.


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