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Publication: How to apply ITS on charging in an acceptable way for key actors of transport?
Ideje: 2004.06.23. 13:05
Kategória: Mészáros Ferenc
Mészáros FerencAuthor: Prof.Dr. Katalin Tanczos, Ferenc Meszaros
Published: ITS in Europe Conference, Budapest 2004

Intelligent transport systems (ITS) are an appropriate solution to solving charging problems in various ways according to the different kind of systems. This study presents the acceptability barriers of ITS for the stakeholders of transport. Their problem perception is to satisfy their demands in equal, fair and effective ways. The policy implementation process also plays an important role to generate sufficient conditions to implement these solutions. This contribution is to discuss these objectives in applying the ITS in an acceptable way.


The implementation of transport policies is even more important because of the increasing traffic volume, the parallel deteriorating traffic conditions, and the growing need of financial resources in the road sector. The most important measure is the road pricing, which is a good alternative in solving the problems of road infrastructure development, capacity, congestion and environment protection. Therefore to have an equal and fair pricing system, the most important objective is the correct and precise, valid settlement of revenues-expenditures and traffic data which is the fund of the marginal social cost based pricing; for the ITS (including the EFC system) seems to be the best practice.

Naturally, it is not so easy for infrastructure users to accept road charges: it is a new resource of expenditure which for car users seems to be unfairly in comparing with lorry users, because of the huge differences in impositions of environment. There are many barriers, which set back the fair and efficient implementation and use of pricing policy instrument (1) and influence the behaviour of different groups or stakeholders.

These barriers can be sorted on different reasons, i.e. on which level for the policy institution are the defects of implementation. Therefore, the two main groups are the institutional and the acceptability barriers.

It is important to mark that the media is more and more important and stronger actor of the acceptability process. There are a few conceptions that label the media as an equal actor to the customers, the politicians and the industry, so this contribution will also focus on the effects of media system.

In this resolution there are four main differentiated stakeholders' acceptability categories of pricing policy: the providers’, the politicians’ and regulators’, the public’s acceptability and the role of media in this problem. This contribution is focusing particularly on acceptability barriers.


Providers’ acceptability

The provision enterprises are mostly involved in financing (because of the lack of national budget) and in operation (effectiveness) of infrastructure. This is proven theory that comparing public versus private operated infrastructure, in case of private operated it is more financially efficient than a public one because of market approach, a private investor wants to get the best interest for its invested money. Furthermore, the providers are more interested in the infrastructure development if their risks can be mitigated through governmental guarantees, i.e. the regulators warrant the expected level of revenues with financial help (in several forms) to prove their profit maximisation (2). Therefore, the providers manage their information sources according to the principle of service and consideration.

Political/regulatory acceptability

There is a significant difference between the political and public behaviour regarding acceptability. While the public stakeholders want to get fair road pricing based on traffic management and environment protection issues, the politicians and regulators are instead focussing on their own careers and their party interests, by concentrating on public voters and a successful (re)election process.

The results of previous studies stated, that the political stakeholders manage the topic of traffic by less comparing to the most highlighted level, for example the sustainable development of economic or the financial problems. However, their personal acceptability in appreciation of pricing policies is positive due to its fair properties. The reasons of the low socio-political acceptability (based on behaviour of political stakeholders) is identified, which on one hand, the marginal cost based road pricing is not fully accepted in the professional sphere (politicians representing their interests). On other hand, they prefer to justify their policies in terms of practical arguments, rather than in terms of arguments regarding efficiency and equity (fairness) benefits at a general level (3). Further reasons include the less sufficiently featuring the positive effects of the pricing-measures to the politicians’ action and these positive effects (like environmental benefits) promise less success than other policy issues (like employment or regulation policies).

To improve the political acceptability it may be a better solution if the pricing policies are implemented by politicians who consider the needs of politically influential groups, and they allocate the revenues to these stakeholders, and they spread out the costs to groups who has less political potential or who are not well organised in validation of interests. There is a good example the situation of foreign customers in case of vignette based charging system on road, in which situation they are loaded relatively more regarding expenditure than the domestic customers (4).

Public acceptability

Most problems affecting people are principally appearing in areas with high population density, where people do not have enough living space to reach their individual goal of living in family houses, and are therefore pressed to live in block houses (5). An extremely high density can be evolved into the city area, which causes standard traffic congestions, parking problems and lack of capacities in peak-hours. These are the mobility-related problems. Other problems arise involving highways, bridges and tunnels, but these infrastructures cannot be built-up in one day or moved away, so their problems need policy-related solutions, rather than a regular capacity development. Fortunately there are various possibilities to moderate the effects of these propositions, but in case of few measurements it is necessary to make a relationship between the success of policies and the public acceptance. Namely, the concerned public stakeholders are certainly not involved in questions and solutions of mobility problems, but the great majority of measures, including, strangely the pricing-measures, have an effect on voting population related to expenditure changes.

The social perception of mobility-related problems has two layers: the first one is built up with the straight problems according the traffic volume (congestion, parking), the second one contains the collateral problems as the impositions of environment (noise, air pollution). People tend to not think that road pricing is an appropriate solution in solving straight problems. This means they reject the pricing-measures, also after focusing on other positive effects for implementation of road pricing, such as reducing congestion costs and lost time. They only feel that added taxes and charges are good possibilities for the decision-makers to get more money for other political aims. Several studies reached the important result that the level of incomes mainly does not influence the acceptability of road pricing, but naturally the level of charge does (6).

According to the current stand of sciences there is no proven relationship between social norms and acceptability. But if it is possible to attract attention on responsibility for causing the straight and collateral problems, and they feel that they have possibility and voice in solving these problems, than finally it seems to have more positive acceptance on pricing-measure than negatives in case of feeling individual utility maximisation. The main aims are the effectiveness, equity and fairness (7). This kind of knowledge is very important in the well implementation of pricing; it cannot be underestimated the role of the conscious education of people on protecting the environment and the need of traffic demand management issues, as we have to underline the role of media as well. Other researches demonstrated the need of equity regarding the well acceptability of charges, because on one hand the customers want to get what they paid for, and on other hand they feel the importance of considering the unequal situations, which means the different treatment in the case of different needs and abilities (e.g. cars and lorries). Some studies focused on the acceptability regarding the characteristic of pricing system, and they assessed that the customers are preferring rather simply, known fixed charge, i.e. open charging structures than difficult and complex, time or distance based, closed charging systems. On the whole it can be established that the public acceptance of road pricing is hanging on the presentation of reasons and issues for implementing the pricing-measures.

Finally it is important to analyse not only the effects of the customers’ expenditures, but also the allocation of taxes and the revenues from road pricing. There are two main dimensions which must be focusing on: the demonstration of people on the allocation fields for using revenues and on the decision-makers’ side the impact of guarantees to allocating the revenues in those fields.

The role of the media

The media theoretically stands between politicians and the public stakeholders (voters), independently on both sides. However, some people opinions are that there is an interaction between the media and the political decision-makers, which is not proven yet (8). The media has the power to inform the public about the decisions in (pricing) policies and about their impacts on their own discretion (or consciously not to inform them), so it is very important to both sides to have a good relationship with the media. From its role it can decide on problematic questions to either side, depending on which side can influences it. Recently, in all dimensions of media, there are different groups who stand for their interested stakeholders, so theoretically the market of media represents a balanced field in topic of acceptability. Naturally, there are more and less powerful media sources, additionally the governmental or politically interested media sources can get easier place to inform their customers. Their aims are as good as the audience maximisation due to maximise their budget or profit. The media enterprises take care on effectiveness, equity and fairness only if these are important for their audience. Aggregated it needs to be focused on the importance to have good relationship with the media to have accepted pricing policies with the stakeholders.


The main conclusion is that there is no best practice, there are only good practices. First it can be stated that implementation of road pricing as much as possible, should be accordingly parallel to the opening of new sections of infrastructure, or developing the level of service, not only introducing on previously existing sections.

The stakeholders’ acceptability will be higher if the new pricing-measure is installed only temporarily and not permanently. Thus, when the resistance of the public is extremely strong, the pricing-measure can be removed. If the customers are informed in high level about the reasons and expected results of pricing, there will be higher public acceptability. Accordingly, the emphasis should be rather placed strongly on environmental problems than congestion problems therefore the pricing policies can be very effective solutions, particularly if both the problems through pricing can be solved. The public stakeholders reach the public road network without charging, therefore there is a strongly acceptability barrier if they have to pay for it. But after implementing this measure, it could be a high effectiveness of transport pricing (on the side of decision-makers), naturally it depends on the well definition of objectives. Last but not least it is very important that the transport issues from pricing policies must be well transmitted to the public, thus they must also believe that their positive attitude on policy implementation assists in reaching conclusions to these issues. The ITS means are adequate to help this process.

On the side of regulators, the most important issue is to provide appropriate guarantees to the public and the providers as well. That means the government has to create the legal framework to implement pricing-measures, from the tendering of infrastructure until the collection of charges. It would be mitigating risk if there were a well-balanced risk allocation between government and the industry. Also, it causes a higher acceptability within the public if they are involved in determining the reason and expected results of pricing policies.

The providers’ acceptability also will be on higher level if in the planning phases there is a thoroughly preparation and analysis of the financial questions, and independent groups are involved assessing the economic conditions and traffic forecasts. Using intelligent systems during the operation can improve the data collection and forecasting processes for precise evaluations.

The media plays the linking role between the politicians and the public stakeholders, thus it is necessary to have good relationship with all dimensions of media.


(1) L.O. Johansson, G. Falkemark, T. Gärling, M. Gustafsson, O. Johansson-Stenman: “Political Acceptance of Road Pricing: Goal Conflicts in Municipality Decision Making”. In J. Schade & B. Schlag (Eds.), Acceptability of transport pricing strategies, Amsterdam, October 2003, pp. 269-278.
(2) K. Tanczos, G.S. Kong: “Experiences of Using Toll Road and Possibility for Public/Private Partnership with Special Respect to Eastern Europe and Some Asian Countries”. European Transport Conference, Cambridge, 10-12 September 2001.
(3) W. Rothengatter: “How good is the first best? Marginal cost and other pricing principles for user charging in transport”. Transport Policy Volume 10, Issue 2, Amsterdam, April 2003, pp. 121-130.
(4) A. Timar: “Road projects in transition Europe”. Transportation Equipment and Infrastructure Review Volume 5, Essex, 1998, p. 19.
(5) D. Milne, E. Niskanen, E. Verhoef: “AFFORD Final Report”. VATT Research Report No. 78, Helsinki, October 2001.
(6) L. Steg, C. Vlek: “The Role of Problem Awareness in Willingness-to-Change Car-Use and in Evaluating Relevant Policy Measures”. In T. Rothengatter, E.C. Vaya (Eds.), Traffic and Transport Psychology, Amsterdam, 1997, pp. 465-475.
(7) J.M. Viegas: “Making urban road pricing acceptable and effective: searching for quality and equity in urban mobility”. In Transport Policy Volume 8, Issue 4, Amsterdam, October 2001, pp. 289-294.
(8) B. Schlag, J. Schade: “Public acceptability of traffic demand management in Europe”. Traffic Engineering + Control 41, London, 2000, pp. 314-318.


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