The Primer Series and the Purpose of this Volume
States and local jurisdictions are increasingly discussing congestion pricing as a strategy for improving transportation system performance. In fact, many transportation experts believe that congestion pricing offers promising opportunities to cost-effectively reduce traffic congestion, improve the reliability of highway system performance, and improve the quality of life for residents, many of whom are experiencing intolerable traffic congestion in regions across the country.
Because congestion pricing is still a relatively new concept in the United States, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is embarking on an outreach effort to introduce the various aspects of congestion pricing to decision makers and transportation professionals. One element of FHWA's congestion pricing outreach program is this Congestion Pricing Primer series. The aim of the primer series is not to promote congestion pricing or to provide an exhaustive discussion of the various technical and institutional issues one might encounter when implementing a particular project; rather, the intent is to provide an overview of the key elements of congestion pricing, to illustrate the multidisciplinary aspects and skill sets required to analyze and implement congestion pricing, and to provide an entry point for practitioners and others interested in engaging in the congestion-pricing dialogue.
The concept of tolling and congestion pricing is based on charging for access and use of our roadway network. It places responsibility for travel choices squarely in the hands of the individual traveler, where it can best be decided and managed. The car is often the most convenient means of transportation; however, with a little encouragement, people may find it attractive to change their travel habits, whether through consolidation of trips, car-sharing, by using public transportation, or by simply traveling at less congested times. The use of proven and practical demand-management pricing that we freely use and apply to every other utility is needed for transportation.
Applying tolling and road pricing to solve local transportation and sustainability problems gives localities the opportunity to address transportation problems without Federal or State funding. It could mean that further gas tax, sales tax, or motor vehicle registration fee increases are not necessary now, or in the future. Congestion pricing is a first step, not a complete plan of action. It has to be coordinated with other policy measures and environmental measures for sustainability.
While project managers for congestion pricing strategies and systems are focused on traffic management, technology, toll rates, and design, other critical issues related to operations, policy, and rapidly changing technology tend to arise. In this primer, these challenges are collectively referred to as "back office issues" as they impact operations that are behind the scenes. There are eight such topic areas discussed in detail in this primer: policy decisions drive business rules, interoperability, back office efficiency, enforcement, data analysis and warehouse, transparency, privacy, and private sector involvement. The primer also includes case studies for each describing experiences of implementing agencies. Readers are encouraged to identify elements of the case studies that are similar to those they may be dealing with on local congestion pricing projects.
Table of Contents
List of Figures
Figure 4. Photo. Example of a tolled high-occupancy vehicle lane separated by lane markings from normal travel lanes
Figure 6. Photo. Changeable displays on an overhead gantry indicate the cost of using SunPass tolled lanes in Florida
Figure 11. Illustration. A dynamic traveler information sign indicates the amount of time it will take to reach a destination via high-occupancy vehicle lanes versus normal travel lanes
Figure 12. Photo. A sign on a gantry shows rates for using a high-occupancy toll lane to reach different destinations
Figure 14. Photo. Video and transponder detection devices mounted on an overhead gantry on the I-495 Express Lanes in Virginia
Figure 15. Photo. A dynamic sign mounted on a gantry depicts the cost to travel to different destinations using the I-495 Express Lanes
List of Tables