Achieving Majority Public Support for Urban Road Pricing: Preserving the Driver's Right to Choose


Alasdair Cain

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, planning - surveys, policy - congestion, economics - pricing, place - urban


Value pricing (Road pricing), Traffic mitigation, Traffic congestion, Trade off analysis, Surveys, Road pricing, Public support, Public opinion, Modal shift, Mitigation measures, Gridlock (Traffic), Edinburgh (Scotland), Comparison studies, Automobile use, Automobile usage, Automobile travel, Alternatives analysis


This paper contends that majority opposition from the voting public is the major barrier to urban road pricing implementation. The reason that majority opposition typically exists is investigated at the aggregate level by a consideration of the main factors that determine whether an individual will vote in favor of or against such proposals. Responses to a 2003 survey of southeast Scotland’s population were used to assess public views toward Edinburgh’s road pricing proposal. Majority opposition to the proposal was observed in aggregate terms. A bivariate correlation analysis showed that car usage was the primary determinant of stated voting behavior. Further analysis showed that a significant majority of car users and non–car users agreed that urban congestion was a significant problem that needed to be reduced and that considerable support existed for implementing road pricing as a way of achieving this. It appears that the public dislike the concept of employing road pricing as a demand management measure and would prefer to view road pricing as a means of raising revenue for public transport improvements, which they believe will lead to congestion being reduced. The paper contends that achieving majority support for urban road pricing implementation requires winning the acceptance of voting car users. The existence of reasonable alternatives to car travel was identified as being crucial to achieving this. Car users who would not change their travel behavior and those who would be forced to change their travel time or destination showed majority opposition; those who would change their travel mode or make fewer trips showed majority support. This finding reinforces the hypothesis that providing high-quality modal alternatives to car users, ahead of road pricing implementation, is a minimum requirement for any proposal seeking to achieve majority support.