The unexpected "yes!": Explanatory factors behind the positive attitudes to congestion charges in Stockholm

Publisher's full text
Jonas Eliasson
Lina Jonsson

Several authors have argued that acceptability for road pricing is likely to increase with familiarity. The experiences in Stockholm, where a trial period with congestion charges changed the public opinion from negative to positive, support this hypothesis. Analysing acceptability and attitudes in Stockholm allows us to study a situation where the population is in fact familiar with congestion charges, and explore what the decisive factors for acceptability are in such a situation. By analysing a survey collected after the referendum and the subsequent reintroduction of the charges, we analyse the prerequisites to achieve acceptability given that the public is familiar with congestion charges.

As expected, low car dependence and good transit supply are associated with high acceptability. But the two most important factors turn out to be beliefs about the charges' effectiveness, and general environmental attitudes. The importance of beliefs and perceptions of the effects of the charges underscores the importance of both careful system design and careful evaluation and results communication. The strong connection between environmental concerns and positive attitudes to congestion charges underscores the importance of considering and “marketing” the charges' environmental effects. In Stockholm, the politicians' decision to “re-label” the congestion charges to “environmental charges” and emphasising their positive effects on air quality may very well have had a positive impact on acceptability.

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