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International Case Studies on Public Communication and Consultation Strategies for Low Emission Zones and Congestion Charging Schemes

The working paper will be part of the “Low Emission Zone/Congestion Charge (LEZ/CC) Public Communication Strategies” series of papers to offer a comprehensive package of public communication strategies to safeguard successful implementation. It is the first paper in the series, and studies 10 cases from Europe, Asia, and the United States to highlight the variety of social, political, and environmental contexts within which CC and LEZ schemes were planned and implemented. From the examples studied, two types of consultation process were identified; scientific/professional and consultative/political. All of the international case studies highlight how public communication is woven into the policy development process, which itself may be split into two stages: ‘internal’ and ‘external’ for a LEZ or CC within an integrated transportation package.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

Highlights

  • Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and Congestion Charge (CC) policies are usually controversial, and effective public communication is one of the factors contributing to their successful implementation.
  • Public communication involves a process of dialogue with different stakeholders and a process to interact with the general public for feedback.
  • Successful international experience shows that public communication for LEZ and CC should start as early as possible with a feasibility study and should continue through all stages of scheme design, implementation, operation, and management.
  • Public communication should be integrated with the LEZ/CC scheme design so as to allow enough time for scheme changes and for proactive public education.
  • Public communication should be integrated with data collection to allow for an informative evaluation process.

Background

Public acceptance plays a significant role in the successful implementation LEZ and CC policies. LEZ and CC policies have been implemented in many cities worldwide, especially in Europe. These policies have been proven to be effective in congestion mitigation and emissions reduction. Securing public acceptance for LEZ and CC policies requires several components, including a statement of initial policy objectives, political will, a deliverable operational strategy, and scheme design scalability (i.e., whether the scheme can be increased in size). With comprehensive references to a variety of international examples, this working paper focuses on stakeholder communication, outreach, and consultation processes as some of the most critical measures to raise awareness and secure support for LEZ and CC schemes.

The impacts of LEZ and CC are often complex, affecting entrenched habits of commuters, commercial operators, and other businesses. Cities adopting a CC policy collect a surcharge on congested sections of road. The policy is an attempt to alleviate congestion through curbing travel demand without increasing infrastructure supply. LEZ refers to a dedicated emissions control area set up to reduce vehicle pollutants with the aim of improving regional air quality. Charging a fee or imposing emissions-based restrictions on vehicles entering a well-defined zone needs to be viewed, not as the outcome of a law-making process, but as a policy that mitigates the effects of widely accepted problems, either increasing congestion or declining air quality.

The successful delivery of LEZ and CC schemes depends on public communication that includes comprehensive notification, promotion, intensive monitoring of changes in public attitudes and timely adjustment, willingness to change, and prudent decision-making. Public communication also involves a process of dialogue with relevant stakeholders, known as public consultation. Although necessary, public consultation is not sufficient to make a scheme successful. Political and public acceptance also depends on a policy that mitigates visible problems in a way that satisfies the self-interest of informed users.

About This Working Paper

This working paper studies 10 cases from Europe, Asia, and the United States to highlight the variety of social, political, and environmental contexts within which CC and LEZ schemes were planned and implemented. From the examples studied, two types of consultation process were identified; scientific/professional (such as used in Singapore and Germany) and consultative/political (such as used in New York and Milan). All of the international case studies highlight how public communication is woven into the policy development process, which itself may be split into two stages: ‘internal’ (to define one or more possible policies in sufficient detail to enable a meaningful stakeholder consultation with a small group of experts and politicians) and ‘external’ (to short-list and refine a single policy to a wider range of stakeholders and/or the public) for a LEZ or CC within an integrated transportation package.

The working paper will be part of the “Low Emission Zone/Congestion Charge (LEZ/CC) Public Communication Strategies” series of papers. The series will summarize international best practices in public communication and consultation strategies and show the various ways of communicating with the public in decision-making, preparation, and implementation of LEZ/CC policies. The LEZ/CC Public Communication Strategies series aims to offer a comprehensive package of public communication strategies to safeguard successful implementation. This is the first paper in the series. In later papers, we will focus more on how public communication will be carried out, what measures and tools can be considered in the context of public communication in China, and what various public opinions are and how they change over time.

The Research Problem

This paper was developed based on interviews with experts in LEZ/CC communication strategies, observations made during study tours in some of the case study cities, and literature reviews of the studied cities. This paper identifies typical cases of LEZ/CC public policy communication with both successful and unsuccessful cases analyzed. Telephone interviews and discussion with international experts on public communication of LEZ/CC were also a major channel for information collection. Most of the experts come from the LEZ/CC implementing agencies that were or are heavily involved in the development and operation of public communication schemes.

This paper is structured to answer the following questions

  • What are the key stakeholders for LEZ/CC public communication, and what are the negotiation strategies with stakeholders?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of respective government departments (including city and state administrations) in public outreach?
  • What are the institutional arrangements (e.g., existence of dedicated communications department, government communication liaison, outsourcing commercial companies, and the respective reporting lines) to support the public communication process?
  • What are the communication measures, contents, skills, and plans in different phases?
  • What public participation and feedback mechanisms are used, and how to respond to negative public feedback?

Recommendations

Securing sufficient levels of public support through public communications is important. Without public support, the necessary development of local regulations may be blocked, operating costs may increase, and the reputation of the implementing authority may even be threatened. On the other hand, when support is obtained and the benefits of CC or LEZ are delivered, this presents the best opportunity to ensure that a scheme is sustainable and regarded as a regional or national precedent. With no LEZ/CC implemented in China, a successful pioneer implementation supported by effective public communication strategies will make it easy to promote the policy elsewhere nationally in the future.

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