How can policymakers improve compliance with private vehicle regulations?

Restrictions on private vehicles are extremely difficult to implement, given resistance from existing users. Across both developed and developing cities, these regulations have had limited traction. But successful reforms across developed and developing reveal some key principles for enforceable regulation:

  • Public consultation and awareness campaigns. Before the congestion charge scheme was introduced in London in 2003, for example, the Mayor invited feedback on proposed legalisation from a wide range of stakeholders, in particular those citizens who were most likely to have their journeys and residential areas affected. Based on feedback received, modifications were made which allowed for greater public ownership and acceptance of the scheme8. Awareness campaigns can help to inform the public of the social benefits of regulations in terms that reduce traffic in the city.
  • Investment in expanding and improving public transport alternatives. These investments are needed to assure means of mobility for those otherwise restricted. Attempts to ban motorbikes to improve safety in Kigali, Rwanda in 2006, for example, without adequate affordable alternatives for mass transportation, have been met with strong political resistance. In Oslo, resistance to the introduction of a toll charge in 1990 was overcome by use 20% of revenues from toll charges for public transport investment.
  • Incremental expansion of policies. If people are able to experience the benefits of private vehicle regulation through reduced congestion (and improved public transport services as a result), they are more likely to support the expansion of regulations. Singapore introduced the principle of congestion pricing in the 1970s through a very simple paper-based system when income levels in the country were comparable to many African countries. Over time, the city has gradually upgraded this into a state-of-the-art electronic pricing system. Introducing the principle of a congestion charge early enables people to understand that they need to pay for the social costs of car usage, making future reforms much easier.

Congestion pricing in Stockholm, Sweden

In 2006, Stockholm introduced a seven-month trial congestion charge in the inner city that reduced traffic volumes by approximately 22%, resulting in significant reductions in congestion and travel time9. Significant investments at the national level in technology to enforce the charge were accompanied by communication drives that clearly linked congestion charge payments to the benefits they brought.

Stockholm’s roads before and after the congestion trial. Extensive mass media was used to highlight the effects of the charge on congestion.

Following this trial, a public referendum was held to determine whether the scheme would be introduced permanently. 53% of Stockholm’s citizens voted in favour of the charge. By incrementally introducing the charge, citizens could see the benefits of the charge for themselves before deciding on whether they supported this policy change. Public participation in a referendum ensured that whatever the outcome, it would be politically acceptable. As a result, the congestion charge was permanently introduced in 2007 – with similar continued reductions in traffic volumes as a result.




  • 8 Dirk van Amelsfort, ‘Introduction to Congestion Charging: A Guide for Practitioners in Developing Cities’ (Asian Development Bank and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH., 2015).
  • 9 Jonas Eliasson et al., ‘The Stockholm Congestion – Charging Trial 2006: Overview of Effects’, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Stockholm Congestion Charging Trial, 43, no. 3 (1 March 2009): 240–50,