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Good Move: Fixing Transport Congestion

The challenge: Can transport network pricing be an acceptable alternative to Victorians and current decision-makers?
Partner: Infrastructure Victoria
Year: 2019/2020

Victoria’s rapid population growth over the past decade has led to a transport network struggling to meet demand, with congested roads and crowded public transport. This is expected to worsen in future, leading to increased and unpredictable travel times.


Infrastructure Victoria – an independent advisory body – estimates that the cost of congestion, including time, operating costs and extra pollution, will escalate to $10.2 billion in 2030, up from $4.6 billion in 2015.


In response to this, Infrastructure Victoria is looking at transport reform to ease the pressure on our roads and public transport services, while also complementing the Victorian Government’s heavy investment in transport infrastructure.


Transport Network Pricing (TNP)

A pricing model was one of the top three recommendations in Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy, published in December 2016.


The recommendation outlined a system where prices were set to influence how, when, and where people use the transport system.


Infrastructure Victoria has continued its research on Transport Network Pricing (TNP) to ensure that the reform is efficient and fair, addresses congestion, helps manage demand and gets the most out of our transport system.


In Infrastructure Victoria’s consultation with the community, it was clear that Victorians are open to change with conditions that are practical, fair and easy to implement.


In addition to its new research with enhanced modelling, international case studies and direct access to community opinion, Infrastructure Victoria sought to further understand the potential barriers to implementing TNP by working with BehaviourWorks Australia (BWA).


What did we do?

Using a variation of our Facilitated Dialogue model, BWA was asked to design and conduct a three-hour forum with former political and professional leaders.


The forum was held to gain insight into promoting and refining TNP to be more attractive to the community and current decision-makers.


Led by BWA Director, Professor Liam Smith, the forum addressed the following topics:



  1. How can Infrastructure Victoria make TNP a feasible and implementable solution to Victoria’s congestion problem for decision-makers and the community?

  2. What would make the proposed policies, as part of the ‘TNP suite’, acceptable or attractive to the community and decision-makers?


Who was involved?

To accommodate for frank and meaningful discussions, forum participants agreed to take part on the basis that their affiliation and identity would remain anonymous.


Drawing on the background information and their own experiences and opinions as leaders, participants discussed how to:



  • make the proposed policies more attractive to the community and current decision-makers

  • identify alternative policies or modifications that might make the proposed policies more acceptable.


 

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What did we find?

Forum participants suggested that Infrastructure Victoria consider the following refinements to the proposed TNP policy, potentially increasing its acceptability to both the community and decision-makers:



  • Remove the complexity around the scheme and make it easy for the layperson to understand.

  • Remove terms like ‘revenue neutral’, as it implies there are winners and losers, creating groups who may actively oppose the policy.

  • Address perceptions of TNP being an economist-centric solution to the congestion problem and ensure that multiple other perspectives are considered.

  • Address privacy concerns around the use of GPS data to track consumer movement for accurate charging.

  • Bundle the policy up with other more popular or easily implementable policies to facilitate acceptance.

  • Consider how to make the TNP more equitable for those who are vulnerable or have limited choice in how and when they travel.


Strategies

Forum participants proposed using the following strategies to promote TNP to both the community and decision-makers as a positive shift from the status quo:



  • Sensitise the market using messages that align to things people know and care about.

  • Present the full argument; describe future challenges of the transport network without reform.

  • Focus on the benefits of TNP rather than simply what is taken away; for example, more time with family, more productivity at work, less congestion, better health outcomes, better environmental outcomes, deals with some of the issues created by population growth.



  • Promote TNP through demonstrating tangible benefits of the new policy, such as increased public transport services or proposed infrastructure investment.

  • Form alliances with promoters (e.g. media outlets and community advocacy groups). Stage the introduction of TNP.

  • Identify groups who can most easily change their behaviour and work with them first (e.g. people who travel outside of peak times and those who are passionate about environmental issues).

  • Be aware of, and prepare for, the fact that opposers of the policy may try to capitalise on people’s perceptions (right or wrong) of being ‘winners’ (e.g. those who get a faster trip) or ‘losers’ (e.g. community members who feel they are being asked to pay for something that they previously perceived as being free) in political cycles.


 


*The full report, written by Dr Brea Kunstler, Prof Liam Smith and Conor Wynn, can be downloaded here. 


**For further information and context, please visit  Infrastrucure Victoria’s website.