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Effective Approaches for Advancing Congestion Pricing in a Metropolitan Region

Executive Summary

Congestion pricing strategies offer potential benefits to communities from an economic, environmental, and social perspective. However, these strategies face significant political challenges in gaining acceptance as a viable option in regional planning. While some success has been achieved on individual pricing projects, such as conversion of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes and demonstration projects funded by Federal grants such as the Value Pricing Pilot Program, many of these efforts have been focused on individual projects, and there has been limited consideration of the broader role that congestion pricing can play in a regional context.

This primer is intended to raise awareness among staff at MPOs and their partner agencies about the potential role of congestion pricing in supporting regional goals as well as the most effective approaches for advancing congestion pricing strategies in a region. It draws upon lessons learned from pilot and ongoing programs implemented around the United States as well as efforts to integrate congestion pricing into regional transportation plans. Using illustrative case studies, this primer provides detailed information on:

  • How congestion pricing can support various regional planning goals, including providing needed funding for transportation system investments; and
  • Effective approaches for addressing the challenges of advancing congestion pricing in a regional context, including addressing public acceptance, equity concerns, interagency collaboration, and analytical issues associated with the metropolitan transportation planning process.

The content of the primer is primarily based on discussions that took place at four peer to peer-to-peer practitioner workshops organized by FHWA in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, DC in September 2011. The workshops included presentations and panel discussions focusing on lessons learned by practitioners from different regions of the country who have implemented, planned, or conducted studies for congestion pricing programs. Participants at the workshops included MPO planners, Federal and State DOT staff, and representatives from transit agencies, tolling authorities, and consulting firms.

The key themes around which the discussion and examples in this primer are centered include:

  • Building Public and Decisionmaker Acceptability
  • Linking Congestion Pricing to Regional Goals and Objectives
  • Achieving Interagency Collaboration
  • Analyzing Congestion Pricing Impacts as Part of the Planning Process
  • Addressing Implementation Challenges and Sustaining User Support

The primer ends with recommendations of initial steps that planners, policymakers, and others can take in developing comprehensive regional congestion pricing plans, while maximizing the chances of acceptance from the public and decisionmakers.