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Executive summary

tool) could undermine scheme success. To succeed, it is essential to customise

charging frameworks to reflect local characteristics and priorities. There is no single

‘right approach to congestion charging’; attempts at coordinating charging schemes

across non-contiguous local authorities are likely to be counter-productive.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ in congestion charging

schemes

Location characteristics determine the suitability of an area or facility for congestion

charging. Internationally, there is great enthusiasm for transplanting the success

from one urban location to another. However, whether an area or a facility is a good

candidate for congestion charging is very location specific: traffic levels, flow patterns,

alternatives to driving and reasons for travel all impact on the success of a scheme.

Urban configuration is a major determinant of success. A scheme suitable for

a concentrated city centre with limited access points and where, say, over 80 per

cent of the commuters use public transport may have no relevance for a city with

different urban form and transport options. Thus, it is crucial that rigorous locationspecific

evaluation of congestion charging schemes (including sensitivity analysis)

be undertaken. Australian policy makers therefore need to keep this in mind when

observing overseas experiences.

High implementation costs can undermine congestion

charging

Alternative, lower cost options for reducing congestion can appear lacklustre when

compared to congestion charging. However, as London’s scheme demonstrates,

congestion charging can be resource hungry, absorbing a considerable share of the

revenue raised. The Dutch authorities have explicitly recognised the risk of high

implementation costs threatening the efficiency gains from a congestion charging

scheme. To this end, they have set an upper limit of 5 per cent of revenue for the

cost of a national scheme. On current experience of prevailing scheme costs, such a

scheme could be a long way off.

Added features of congestion charging

Behavioural responses to congestion charging generate valuable data for road

investment and other infrastructure improvements. Minimal behavioural change

in the face of non-trivial charges would indicate a high willingness to pay for road

access—information that can only be inferred in the absence of a charging regime.

In other words, as a direct-charging system, congestion charging provides reliable

information about network users’ behaviour. The most important information

conveyed is the value placed on travel at different times of day. This helps determine

whether the most efficient option is to allow increased congestion, to increase

charges or to expand capacity.

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