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BITRE | Working paper 74

3.13 Conclusions

Congestion charging can be used to influence traffic flow at any given time, increasing

both throughput and overall traffic speeds. While the theory behind congestion

charging is extensive, practical examples are limited. However, different independent

and unrelated incursions into congestion charging increasingly provide insights

into the practical problems to be encountered and options for overcoming these

problems. Possibly most relevant for large-scale charging are the models adopted for

the Oregon trials and for the commercial PAYD insurance schemes.

Ultimately, assessing whether a charging scheme is successful depends on the

benchmark criteria used. These criteria include political, financial, technical and

economic. However, to be in the overall interests of the community, a congestion

charge needs to be an economic success. For this to be the case, the efficiency gains

of the scheme (the change in road user behaviour) must exceed scheme set-up and

operation costs.

The current high costs of schemes cast doubt about the wisdom of using congestion

charging as a fund-raising mechanism. The case for this strategy depends on the need

for funding revenue shortfalls that would otherwise be incurred in road provision;

and the absence of more efficient, alternative sources of revenue. There are often

better ways of raising funds.

What is to be done with the net revenue raised Revenue can be pooled into

government consolidated revenue; returned to the road network; or directed

to alternative (public transport) modes. However, whatever the allocation, good

governance requires that the allocation of funds be subjected to standard public

finance assessment.

Finally, there is an issue of the merits of national coordination of congestion charging

systems. The case for coordination rests on the degree of interdependence of the

schemes and on financial, technical and/or in-traffic use. There is no public finance

reason for there to be financial interdependence between the congestion charging

systems of different cities. Traffic management is a local issue and, apart from learning

from the experiences of other jurisdictions, is best managed at the local level.

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