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Pascal Lemonnier
Business Development & Marketing Director, MENS BU
Published on May 06, 2021

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Positive tolling: helping to change behaviour and reduce congestion

Egis has innovated positive tolling as an initiative to reward drivers for not using busy roads during peak hours. The scheme continuously improves traffic congestion by offering a financial incentive which encourages people to change their behaviour towards travel.

positive tolling

- Crédits : © Egis Projects

Overcoming barriers to future economic developments

Traffic congestion is currently a significant barrier to the economic development of large and medium-sized cities. On average, people who drive during rush hour will be on the road 40% longer over a one-hour journey than they would be if they drove at off-peak times. This lost time represents a significant cost for the economy and community in terms. Congestion wastes fuel reduces working times and increases road maintenance costs.

Reducing daily stress and addressing the challenge of global warming

Cities with congested traffic are also far less attractive and affects its residents’ wellbeing. Congestion is particularly high in the morning and evening rush hours. This increases the daily stress levels of individual commuters, affecting their quality of life. The concentrated, high emission levels of toxic and greenhouse gases and microparticles also affect a city’s air and environmental quality, overall contributing to global warming.

Positive tolls will help change the behaviour of people travelling to city centre locations, thereby mitigating the negative impacts of these problems.

Egis’s Innovation of Positive Tolling in the Netherlands

People continue contributing to rush hour congestion because of long-established organisational and societal models, and deep-rooted individual behavioural patterns. These include synchronous morning commutes, concurrence of driving times for individuals and other transportation, the phenomenon of single occupancy car use, longer distance commuting, low use of public transport, door-to-door car journeys, and so on.

Pilot programme incentivising behavioural change

Two alternatives are traditionally implemented:

  1. Maximising road capacity and public transport;
  2. Using tolls or taxes to regulate traffic. However, the Netherlands piloted a programme which actually incentivises people by offering a monetary reward if they reduce their time on the road.  

Since 2008, Egis piloted multiple projects in the framework of “Spits Mijden”, a rush hour avoidance scheme, in the Netherlands. It aimed to reward users of road infrastructure for its “non-use” during peak hours and therefore their contribution to reducing traffic congestion. Monetary rewards schemes are part of this innovative approach to encourage drivers against using their cars during peak hours. Today, the Netherlands is implementing plans to change motorists’ behaviour across various regions. They are subsidised by Europe and supported by the Regions. To avoid unnecessary expense, the Dutch government has chosen to invest in the optimisation of use, rather than the construction of new infrastructure, drawing on the lessons of “Beter benutten”.

Sharing best practice across Europe

Other local authorities across Europe have drawn on the example from the Netherlands as part of their wider strategy to help change the behaviour of people who use city centre locations.

How it works

On average, with a minimum reward of €2.50 per avoided or deferred journey, the rate of active participation observed has been 33%. This creates a 5–10% reduction in traffic, which is enough to decongest a motorway during rush hour. ANPR cameras are used to identify motorists and ensure control of fraud. The field equipment and systems integration are reliable is and effective, although its use requires some technical precautions (no data retention, anonymity, etc.) and the submission of files to the relevant authorities.

Seeing results in Rotterdam

The system, developed by Egis in Rotterdam, was tested with 30000 participants in 5 year period. The initiative seems to be proving its effectiveness, reducing traffic by between 5–10% during peak hours. Thanks to this system, 4,100 journeys were avoided every day in Rotterdam, with an average of 40% participation per day for €3 credit in cash or a €3.50 transport card.

Case Studies of Positive Tolls in France

In the wake of Egis’ success in Rotterdam, the Greater Paris through The Société du Grand Paris and Lille Metropolitan Urban Community have also rolled out the positive tolling model in their respective cities.

Reducing nuisance and mobility issues around construction sites on The Greater Paris Project

The Greater Paris Project chose to use Positive Tolls in partnership with the STIF, the supervising transport authority for Île-de-France. They implemented the scheme during the framework’s second call for projects on the ‘mobility around the construction sites of Big Paris’.  The framework called for new solutions to reduce the nuisance and impact on mobility and local residents caused by the construction sites of the Big Paris Express. Out of 71 received project proposals, Positive Tolling best answered, ‘the challenge of mobility’. Five prize-winners whose proposal included Positive Tolling were selected in September 2016.

Changing people’s behaviour in Lille

Lille Métropole has trialled a mobility eco-bonus inspired by the Positive Toll initiative Egis developed in Rotterdam. The aim was to ease traffic congestion when entering and leaving Lille and reduce air pollution. According to an initial study, the mobility eco-bonus could reduce road traffic by 5–10%, reducing the travel time of commuters at rush hour. Several years later Lille moved to a large scale implementation through a  tender process.

Service user journeys

Road users have responded positively to the scheme and testify to how it has enabled them to change their behaviour about rush hour commuting.

Leila: “It was the push I needed to change my habits! Now I’m more prepared to take public transport and feel more responsible in the way I get around.”

Fabien: “I am a big fan of the initiative, which could have extremely positive results. I left after 7.30pm and I’ve pushed back my morning commute […] I’ve ended up saving 30 minutes of time on the road! The experiment was a very pleasant surprise.”

Cécile: “When I manage to shift my schedule, I save myself time and stress. At 8pm, the motorway is clear: less fuel consumed, less polluted air.”

An Award-Winning Solution

Egis’s pilot programme of positive tolling in Rotterdam was not only an inspiration for Paris and Lille, but it was also award-winning. In 2016, the media publishing company Le Vie-Le Monde, which owns France’s largest national newspaper Le Monde, organised the Smart Cities Innovation Awards for innovative solutions that enhanced urban living. Out of 200 entries for the category of “decreasing road traffic congestion”, Egis came away with two awards*. Our “made in Egis” positive tolling solution also featured in a TV report broadcast by France 2 on the 8 o’clock evening news in July 2016. The report interviewed a citizen in Rotterdam who participates in the scheme and demonstrated how it is helping road users change their road use behaviour.

* Second prize in the Grand Prix for urban innovation awarded for technological or social innovations applied to cities; and second prize in the Mobility category presented for projects that “facilitate more economic and human traffic flows”.

Witnessing the impact of the project

Unlike urban tolling or road space rationing which issues drivers with penalty charges, reducing road traffic congestion appeals to civic responsibility. Drivers who agree to leave their cars at home during the rush hour are given €2 – or even more in the event of acute pollution. It’s an effective, well-accepted system because it is based on reward rather than punishment” - Elena Umanets, Project Pilot and Head of Innovative Mobility Services at Egis.

Xavier Odolant, director of the "Smart City" New Services Incubator at Egis adds, "We are really proud that our work has been recognised. These two prizes help reward over four years of work by our Group, especially those teams specialised in new mobility related services. This is a key milestone in our aim of becoming one of the leading international operators of smart city solutions”.

Replicating positive tolling and best practice across Europe

The success of our positive tolling model in the Netherlands and France proves our solution can be replicated in cities around the world: reducing traffic congestion, enabling behavioural change and ensuring a better commute for all road users.

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