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IRF Publishes White Paper on Future of Road Pricing

Charging road users is an age-old concept that is currently experiencing a renaissance thanks to pressing funding concerns and the concurrent emergence of a wider range of technology options. IRF’s new White Paper builds on expert consensus to provide key policy and technology trends.


1. Charging road users for access to transportation infrastructure is an age-old concept that is currently experiencing a renaissance thanks to pressing funding concerns (arising from fuel tax revenue loss) and the concurrent emergence of a wider range of technology options. However, the underlying principles of fairness, contributing to road quality, internalizing external costs, and revenue creation remain some of the cornerstones of current and future road pricing schemes.

2. In the United States, Federal, state and local jurisdictions continue to rely on fuel taxes to fund upkeep and new road construction investments. A combination of greater fuel efficiency in the vehicle fleet and higher road projects costs observed in the last two decades has had a significant and detrimental impact on the investment capacity of these jurisdictions. Many now recognize the need to address this challenge through fixes which frequently include road pricing as a major policy alternative.

3. Hurdles to introducing road pricing include the cost & complexity of administering these programs (relative to the relatively ease of managing today’s vehicle and fuel taxes), data protection concerns, enforcement of payment, as well as questions related to interoperability with other systems.

4. Where tolling programs already exist, these have prepared road users to the idea of paying for the upkeep of a high-quality network (and in the case of managed lanes, being able to make a trade-off between journey time and cost), while providing operators with the capabilities to administer wide-scale systems.

5. At the urban level, lack of space to grow road capacity in the face of increasing travel demand and declining public budgets have created a compelling case to consider pricing systems for access to Central Business Districts. The argument for congestion charging is typically built over a number of years with the assent of the business community and a range of incentives and investments designed to reduce reliance on private transport while increasing the attractiveness of public transport and “last mile” options.

6. Whether at the urban or interurban level, road pricing programs frequently affect the travel patterns of hundreds of thousands, and can bring about important societal benefits that extend well beyond the funding equation. But these programs also provide mobility actors with the opportunity to take advantage of the dynamic data now available to them via new data points such as vehicle health and driving data, which can provide value outside of traditional charging services, such as in the realm of road safety, telematics-based insurance, fleet management, or congestion analysis.

7. The societal pressures we know today – increased population and economic activity around geographic hubs – will all worsen over the next decade, placing additional stress on transportation infrastructure and increasing commuting times, absent demand management policies. The need to charge according to a growing number of parameters (such as location, destination and number of occupants) will thus become even more appealing to policy-makers. For drivers, journey time will no longer be the only variable, since frequent trade-offs will need to be made between time and cost, possibly embedded within the vehicle’s navigation system. Increasingly, road pricing applications will expand across jurisdictions and reciprocal arrangements may progressively make way to unified pricing systems working off a harmonized technological platform.

Download the full White Paper “Future of Road Pricing in North America” here https://www.irf.global/white-papers/

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