Many urban regions contemplate investing in peripheral roadways that bypass the city centre in order to alleviate congestion, improve local environment and facilitate more efficient travel across the greater metropolitan areas. Increasingly, such proposals are accompanied by tolling as a means of finance. Indeed, an optimal policy from an efficiency point of view would be to consider tolling both the bypass and the existing central roadway that is relieved. However, this may be blocked by stakeholders and voter groups, or indeed never proposed to begin with.
The rarity of congestion pricing implementations, despite supportive economic arguments, has led to a considerable body of literature ranging from equity issues (e.g. Giuliano, 1994), to privacy (e.g. Ogden, 2001), and most recently, to acceptability aspects (e.g. Schade & Schlag, 2003), where the specific factors influencing voters and decision-makers, as well as the effects of acceptability on transport policy, take centre stage. Still, few papers (e.g. Levinson, 2001; de Borger et al 2007 & 2008) have systematically examined the political economic circumstances surrounding acceptability of road pricing, and none to our knowledge has addressed the possible role of special interest groups.
The paper analyzes the political acceptability of policies targeted at relieving urban congestion. The paper combines a stylized model of an urban transport network with a somewhat more detailed model of the political process that incorporates interactions between voters, special interest groups and politicians to explore the possibilities to reach political acceptability for efficient transport policies. In a case study of a proposed bypass in Lyon, France, the paper compares a set of potential policies in terms of efficiency, equity and political acceptability.
The analysis suggests that the difficulty to achieve political support for efficient road pricing policies is not because optimal tolling cannot get majority support; instead the difficulty arises because conflicting interests make other non-efficient policies more attractive to many decision makers. In order to achieve political acceptability for efficient road pricing, more attention therefore needs to be placed on how the political process can resolve the inherent conflicting interests associated with efficient transport pricing policies.
Dublin, Ireland, 2013.
AESOP / ACSP 5th Joint Congress 2013, Planning for Resilient Cities and Regions, July 15-19, 2013, University College Dublin, Ireland