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Explaining Drivers' Support For Tolls And Their Toll Avoidance Behavior

Juita-Elena (Wie) Yusuf, Lenahan O'Connell, Meagan M. Jordan, David Chapman & Khairul A. Anuar
PFM, Vol. 21 No. 1, 30-56 (2022)

There is growing reliance on road tolls for revenue and for highway congestion management. However, there is limited research, in the U.S. context, on how drivers change their behavior in response to tolls. But experiences in Europe and Asia find that drivers respond to tolls through a variety of behavioral shifts. Such behaviors have implications for the revenue generating capabilities of tolls as well as the effectiveness of tolls as a traffic management tool. This research applies the Theory of Planned Behavior to examine drivers' behavioral responses to tolls. We connect a preference for tolls as a funding source, ability to pay, and perceptions of toll benefits to the support for tolls, and, subsequently, to a number of toll avoidance responses. We examine the following toll avoidance behavior: changing home or employment location; changing commute; avoiding travel to destinations that require tolls; and telecommuting or working from home. Using data from a 2014 survey of drivers in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, conducted nine months after toll implementation, we find that a higher willingness to pay decreases the likelihood of toll avoidance behavior and that the preference for tolls over taxes and the timing of travel impact willingness to pay, as well as race of the driver. Age, gender, education, and race influence toll avoidance behavior. Our findings suggest social justice be considered when developing a toll system, especially the impact on short-term and long-term toll avoidance behaviors.

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