Road Pricing and Traffic Restrictions
Publication date: 31 March 2008
“Clubs must defend mobility in the current policy debates over internalizing the so-called external costs of traffic.” That is the conclusion of a two-day workshop on road charging held in Barcelona.
The issues of traffic restrictions and congestion charging as well as their cumulative impact on club members’ freedom of mobility were under discussion at a two-day workshop organized by Catalan club (RACC). The policy workshop, coordinated by the FIA European Bureau, took place in Barcelona in early February 2008. Chaired by Björn Dosch (ADAC) and Marc Renckens (ANWB), the workshop gave extensive consideration to the various schemes for road pricing as well as the economics behind such schemes including affordability of mobility. Internationally recognized academics and experts in economics, engineering, statistics and law were invited by RACC to give workshop participants an informed overview of the issues under discussion. Aside from the economic debate, legal and consumer affairs issues including legal certainty, access to justice to data protection for motorist were also examined. The object was to look at what could happen to the motorist if road pricing exists and consider the optimal legal framework required by motorists.
The workshop took a comprehensive approach to internalization of external costs from transport, including traffic restrictions and congestion charging. This also included consideration of the European Commission's Green Paper on urban transport and the European Commission's forthcoming assessment internalizing the external costs for transport. Additionally, studies were presented as to road pricing in Switzerland, the kilometre pricing scheme in the Netherlands, environmental zones and traffic restrictions in Germany as well as Barcelona (including speed limitation for environmental reasons).
Road pricing is often inefficient
Clubs are well aware of the reasoning behind various pricing schemes from financing road networks to, increasingly, measures to reduce congestion, negative environmental effects as well as improving air quality and fighting against global warming. After examining a wide variety of such measures, the workshop noted how road pricing schemes often fail to achieve their stated goals. The Swiss automobile club TCS presented a critical appraisal of road pricing concluding against such systems noting that “... road pricing is an inefficient method of financing compared with the mineral oil tax”. Following this same reasoning Austrian club ÖAMTC rejected any “one-sided” approach to calculating the external costs of traffic. This is especially so if the true cost of congestion and lack of mobility is ignored.
Mobility is an increasingly rare commodity
In his introduction to the workshop, Marc Renckens (ANWB) noted that mobility is becoming an increasingly rare and expensive commodity. Renckens, though, warned that clubs cannot resort to a simple ‘njet’ in policy discussions on financial and environmental measures with respect to mobility. “What we can do is test these measures against a number of legal principles and principles of mobility and make our findings known to the policy makers and legislators at both the national and European level,” noted Renckens. Such testing may at times lead to a rejection of a measure in question. “For example, environmental measures that do not serve the environment but that only increase costs or reduce possibilities should be opposed,” Renckens argued. He also pointed to the lack of harmony between the various Member State and regional measures. “In a maze of levies and restrictions, the road user will often be taken by surprise. Legal certainty for consumers is an absolute must. Systems must be transparent and users must have ready access to relevant and necessary information. Here, too, Claudia Schraufstetter (ADAC) pointed to the important issue of access to justice. “When challenging fines or actions by the authorities, motorists need an easy, fast and free or low-cost way to protest or appeal to an independent judge,” noted Schraufstetter.
In a paper on data protection for the motorist by Petra Schmucker (AvD), note was taken of the increasing amount of personal data collected and stored in the administration of road pricing schemes. Technologies such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) are increasingly capable of capturing and scanning mass data from traffic flows. Who holds this information, for how long and what it is used for were among the concerns raised.
The workshop led to not only fruitful discussions but also a number of conclusions that will be taken forward in developing positions on different issues related road charging.
• The Commission calculates that current congestion costs of EUR 50 billion annually, or some 0.5 % of EU GDP could rise to 1% of EU GDP by 2010.
Internalisation of external costs
• Avoiding negative effects of traffic is much more adequate then charging for them
• New charging schemes to internalise external costs are to be rejected.
• Transport subsidies and deficits incurred when covering full infrastructure costs across different transport modes also have to be considered as costs for society.
• Any changes within the fiscal system need to be revenue neutral
• Cutting car usage should not be a primary objective of charging because of the benefits of the private car. In reality, the potential to reduce motoring through higher prices seems very limited anyhow, because of the different quality of transport modes and the high valuation of individual mobility.
• In principle, revenues from road charging should be earmarked for road investments.
• Wherever possible, measures which do not restrict mobility should be preferred to reach given objectives (e.g. emission limits).
• Restrictions should be tested for effectiveness beforehand and then while they are in place.
• For the benefit of foreign travellers, local traffic restrictions where they exist, should follow common standards with respect to criteria, information (e.g. signposting) and procurement (e.g. access to permits) in the EU.
• European and national regulations must be respected and enforced appropriately
• Use of personal data must be limited exclusively to the clearly specified, explicit, legitimate and transparent purpose of road charging and to keep those data no longer than necessary for that purpose. And otherwise they should remain totally anonymous
Member states and the European Commission
• Must foster clarity and transparency in any systems of road charging or environmental measures for motorized traffic developed in Europe, ensuring that they are mutually road charging or environmental measures must be logical, simple and clearly understandable for all road users in Europe (i.e. give legal certainty) and when traffic infractions occur cases should be treated similarly everywhere in Europe (i.e. legal equality).
Access to Justice
EU Member States and the European Commission must ensure that
• Procedural steps are transparent and clear to all EU citizens.
• They fulfil the obligation of informing citizens about their rights in their own language
• Citizens have fast and affordable access to the correct jurisdiction