The policy process and urban road pricing : an incremental approach to decision-making
The issue of urban road pricing is currently receiving a great deal of attention. The subject matter has a long history, stretching back to the economic literature of the mid-19th century with a significant renewal of academic interest during the 1960's. Whilst the theoretical basis for urban road pricing has been cogently put forward, an apparent sound economic rationale does not, of itself, ensure political and public acceptanceH. ow then should decision-makingp roceed if the aim is ultimately one of implementing an urban road pricing scheme in the UK? As such, the aim of this thesis is to analyse the process of decision-making with respect to urban road pricing, to develop a theoretical framework for the subsequent empirical research undertaken on road pricing, and to suggest policy options, thus informing the development of policy and furthering the debate among policy-makers. In effect, an incremental approach to urban road pricing decision-making is proposed, which stresses that decisions are generally taken in small adjustments from the existing state of affairs and invariably necessitatet he attainment of agreementb etweent he various stakeholders. Two empirical methods are used in order to analyse this framework. First, a national survey of key stakeholder groups (most notably decision-makers), who have an interest in urban road pricing; and, second, a local case study based on face-to-face interviews with decision-makers who had first-hand experience of the first ever trial of an urban road pricing scheme in the UK - namely congestion metering in the city of Cambridge. This research finds that an incremental approach to urban road pricing decisionmaking is the most appropriate. In order to increase the acceptance of urban road pricing, schemes should be designed so that the various interest groups can gradually adjust to the changes in an incremental way by starting with policies that are currently in force and then considering only step-by-step change. It is still possible however, for change to take place beyond that envisaged by the incremental approach. For this to occur, it would require factors such as the existence of a policy entrepreneur, in situ, who is able to drive the process forward.