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Chapter 4 | Congestion charging and community attitudes

While earmarking is pivotal in community attitudes, so too is the choice of the

specific transport project to which funds

will be directed. Allocating funds to lowreturn

transport projects that do not

make the grade under normal budgetary

circumstances would not necessarily

generate community support.

Earmarking congestion charging

revenue is pivotal to how the

community views the scheme.

Community attitudes to congestion charging are likely to be strongly influenced

by the application of the revenue to areas from which they would benefit directly

including transport investment and tax relief. The general options for the use of the

revenue are to enhance public transport, to improve the road network or to reduce

other, more distorting taxes. Each of these options is explored below, followed by a

brief analysis of the practical limitations that are often encountered.

Enhancing public transport

The proposition

An obvious use of revenues is to expand public transport, for two basic reasons.

Firstly, the demand for public transport is likely to increase following the introduction

of congestion charging (reflecting a fall in the relative cost of public transport).

Secondly, the desired behavioural change (‘getting people out of cars’) is likely to

be greater the more attractive are the alternatives to driving. Politically, enhancing

the alternatives of driving reduces the burden of the new charges on road users by

providing greater ‘transport choices’.

Box 4.2

Funding for public transport encourages community

acceptance of congestion charging

An important consideration of congestion charging schemes is the automatic

presumption that the revenue raised will be allocated to public transport.

However, the causality was reversed for one of the pioneering congestion

charging schemes in the US: the I-15 High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes in

California were introduced to fund a new bus service in the corridor (Schreffler

2003). While the service did not achieve the mode-shift aims, the charging

system is generally regarded as successful:

... the I-15 corridor bus service that provided much of the political support for

the HOT lane approach did not necessarily fulfil expectations. The intent was

to attract new bus riders in the corridor in order to remove cars from the I-15.

Instead, the new bus service attracted reverse commuters and riders who did

not switch from driving alone (Schreffler 2003, p. 21).

From an equity perspective, funding public transport is commonly regarded as a way

of offsetting the perceived ‘regressive’ nature of congestion charging. For instance,

when exploring the option of introducing congestion charges to the East River Bridges

in New York, it was observed that ‘using toll revenues to improve communities as

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