Examining the linkages between electronic roadway tolling technologies and road pricing policy objectives

Hiroyuki Iseki and Alexander Demisch (2012)

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The surge of road pricing projects in the U.S. and around the globe over the past 15 years has been enabled by a variety of new communication and transportation technologies. While all of these technologies increase the efficiency of roadway tolling vis-à-vis manual collection, no “best” configuration has emerged. Rather, optimal configurations depend on the objectives of the tolling effort, such as facility type, geographic scope, desire to price externalities, integration with other operations, and so on. While such policy objectives for road pricing have been examined extensively, little has been written on the explicit links between tolling technology configurations and policy objectives. This paper addresses this gap in the literature through an examination of eight road pricing programs. For each program we evaluate the conduct of the three technical tasks via the nine technology sets in light of six principal policy objectives of road pricing.

We find that two policy factors most often determine the type of roadway tolling technologies adopted: (1) the geographical scale of the road network tolled, and (2) the complexity of calculating the fee to be charged. The combination of these two factors can vary greatly – from flat fare tolling on individual facilities, to nationwide road networks priced with dynamic tolls that vary by vehicle class, time of day, and congestion level. We conclude that the challenge to the expanded implementation of road pricing is less about either pricing technologies or the objectives of pricing, but the politically and economically effective linking of the two.