From a voluntary approach to cordon-based pricing, Mark Smulian looks at how different places have adopted road pricing, and why it is on Vancouver's transport agenda.
The states of Oregon and Washington
America’s Pacific north-west is something of a centre for road pricing.
In Oregon, the state has introduced voluntary road pricing.
Drivers who do not join cont
inue to pay flat rate state fuel tax of 36 cents (about 25p) per gallon. Those who do join are charged per mile and the fuel tax paid is applied to their account.
Participants can also access services such as remote emissions testing and reduced vehicle registration fees.
A 2017 evaluation of the scheme’s early days says: “Revenue from gas tax is projected to decrease as federal fuel efficiency standards and the public’s desire to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, push vehicles to use less gas (or even no gas) increases.
“This trend jeopardises Oregon Department of Transportation’s main revenue generator and, therefore, the well-being of Oregon’s transportation system.”
It said the advance of hybrids and EVs meant “the more fuel-efficient vehicles we register in Oregon, the more vehicle owners will drive without paying for their road use”.
Miners has been involved with numerous American road charging schemes.
He says: “The flat rate has not proven popular as people think they will make a saving if they just pay for what they have driven.”
This approach may be followed in neighbouring Washington state.
Its State Transportation Commission has recommended “a slow and gradual approach to introducing road usage charging” with a start-up phase for five years for plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles.
These vehoicles currently pay flat annual fees regardless of miles driven, to “allow the state to continue to develop and test a (scheme) for at least five years before considering fleetwide implementation”.
There would be privacy protection measures specific to the charging system and revenues would be earmarked for highway-related spending.
A 2019 pilot tested a 2.4c (1.7p)-per-mile charge for lightweight, non-commercial vehicles including gasoline-fuelled, hybrids and EVs.
Singapore introduced electronic road pricing in 1998 and the infrastructure is reaching the end of its operational life, the island state’s Land Transportation Authority says.
Although implementation has been delayed by the pandemic, it will from the second half of 2021 replace the existing system with ‘nexgen electronic road pricing’, which uses a satellite system. Switchover is due to complete by mid-2023.
The authority says this “does away with the need for bulky gantries on our roads” and can include services such as traffic information. Vehicles will need new on-board units, which will be installed free for existing Singapore-registered vehicles.
Singapore will retain its mix of cordon-based congestion pricing for specific areas such as the central business district and congestion pricing for specific roads and expressways.
City authorities in Vancouver plan to introduce transport pricing as part of a Climate Emergency Action Plan approved in November 2020.
By 2025, the city wants to have a fee for vehicles to drive into its urban core though the exact pricing, boundaries and operating times remain to be settled.
Transportation accounts for almost 40% of Vancouver’s carbon pollution, and the city’s aim is to achieve a 50% cut by 2030 with two-thirds of trips made by walking, cycling or public transport.
There will also be a 5.7km extension to Vancouver’s subway system.
Pricing is being adopted because it “reduces driving during the most congested times… creates more road space for transit, walking and cycling and reduces pollution from vehicles” a city council report said, with revenue raised invested in public and active transportation options.