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Is congestion charging a good idea?

TV interview with Jane Jacobs, circa 1969, on the planning of Toronto and Montreal

Every time Governments contemplate massive investments in urban road infrastructure, it’s instructive to bear in mind there’s a much better alternative. Instead of building something gargantuan like a road tunnel, they could instead elect to implement congestion charging across the metropolitan area.

This involves charging motorists for the use of road space. Ideally, the charge will vary with demand, rising to whatever level is necessary to keep traffic flowing at some minimum speed (which would in most cases still be well below the maximum permitted).

Congestion pricing has been introduced successfully in some cities e.g. Singapore, London, Stockholm. These implementations use simple cordon systems but the technology exists to implement far more sophisticated forms of pricing e.g. using transponder and GPS technologies.

Here are ten reasons why charging motorists to use congested roads would be a good idea – it would potentially:

    1. Mitigate congestion and the associated costs of time lost, emissions and pollution
    2. Delay or possibly even eliminate the need to build major new freeways or widen existing ones
    3. Reduce aggregate kilometres of travel
    4. Enhance horizontal equity by enabling high-value trips to take priority over low-value trips
    5. Shift some travellers from cars to public transport
    6. Provide a source of revenue for funding public transport improvements
    7. Increase the speed of on-road public transport modes like buses and trams
    8. Increase on-road speeds for business travel and freight, thereby increasing productivity
    9. Shift some demand to the shoulder and thereby help make non-peak public transport more sustainable and financially viable
    10. Give residents an incentive to live at higher densities in more central locations.

These are potential benefits. Whether all of them could be achieved in practice – and to what extent – would depend on how the pricing regime was designed and implemented and how forcefully it was administered.

The key objection to road pricing is it’s vertically inequitable – those on higher incomes pay a lower proportion of their income in charges than those with more modest resources. However the option exists to compensate those on low incomes as we do with other essential services like electricity, gas and water (usually in the latter cases via tariff concessions).

The vertical equity implications also needs to be balanced against the benefits for lower income groups of spending the proceeds on improved public transport (I’ve discussed this aspect at greater length before – see here).

Some also argue that congestion pricing could increase aggregate kilometres of travel by enabling those who pay the charge to travel faster and further. This directly contradicts my point 3. Even if the critics of pricing are right on this particular point, no change is without some negatives – the key issue is that the overall benefits should clearly exceed the costs.

Congestion pricing is politically fraught in Australia, but is recognised as the obvious policy in most quarters (although not all – in Victoria, it is opposed by the PTUA and the Greens). It’s possible the rate of increase in congestion in Australia’s capitals might be slowing in some relationship with the fall in per capita passenger travel, but even so congestion is still a big and expensive drain on the efficiency of our cities. And it’s still creating pressure for big new road projects.

It’s important to understand, though, that congestion pricing is not “the solution” to all transport and land use issues. Cars still need to be made more sustainable and their negative impact on the amenity of cities reduced. Other sources of funds would still be needed to fund expansion of public transport.

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  • 1
    Last name First name
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Parker Alan • OAM
    It is necessary to tackle the underlying cause of road congestion rather than the symptoms. The cause of unsustainable road congestion is that existing strategies and will not create ESD but will result in transport behaviour that increases per capita oil consumption, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and road congestion costs in the next 30 years. The evolution of a ecologically sustainable transport system will not take place.

    The Census Data show very clearly that the cost of congestion in Metropolitan Melbourne is primarily caused by car dependent commuters who use a vehicle designed to carry three or four people to drive alone to work. Commuting trends are unsustainable and the Census Data for 2006 and 2011 will clearly show this to be the case unless their is a serious attempt to reduce single occupant car commutes. Road congestion and excessive oil consumption due to car dependence is not caused by the minority of commuters who share cars, use public transport, ride a bike, walk to work or work at home.

    Furthermore, most of these unsustainable commutes originate from the sprawling outer suburbs with between 20 and 800 households per square kilometre; where around three quarters of all residents live. In 80% of these households there 2 or more cars and around 85% of the employed household occupants commute by car and are responsible for around 85% of the distance travelled by all capital city commuters. Plans are needed to crack the commuter transport problems and change commuter behaviour. Do that and transport behaviours will change for other motor vehicle trips as well.

    Over the last forty years Australia has become addicted to cheap oil, especially for transport which uses almost 80% of Australia’s petroleum; 55% of road transport fuel is petrol, 39% diesel and 6% is LPG. The cost of congestion in the Australian capital cities in 2011 was around $50 billion. The disparity between the growth in oil consumption and oil imports and the decline in indigenous oil production predicts a serious loss of self-sufficiency between 2006 and 2020 . If peak oil occurs early it will be disastrous for the world economy which is cracking up. Even if occurs late there is a proven need to act now because research shows that a painless adaptation to peak oil by the developed nations will take 20 years.

  • 2
    hk
    Posted May 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    When there is congestion on our roads, it means by definition the demand for road space exceeds the supply of space to handle the number of vehicles in the transport network. However, this shortfall of road space is totally and completely a function of specific time slots. There is no congestion for much of the twenty-four hour day in Melbourne. A pricing mechanism and management that facilitates more efficient use of existing road space over the whole day is to be encouraged.
    For urban Melbourne to remain economically competitive, the movement of freight and tradesmen needs to be better prioritized. The management of commuter traffic could be a lower priority as in general commuters are in a position to re-allocate their travel time budgets, use other modes or pay a high premium if they want to travel in peak times.
    All ten points are agreed with.

  • 3
    Herceg shayne
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    I spend a lot of time in London and São Paulo, both of these cities have traffic control schemes in place and from what I’ve observed they both work well.

    In São Paulo the city went for the low-tec approach with ‘Operação Horário de Pico no Município’. All traffic is banned in the central city on weekday’s from 07:00 to 10:00 and 17:00 to 20:00 according to the vehicle’s license number plate numbers (Mon 1-2, Tue 3-4, Wed 5-6, Thur 7-8, Fri 9-0). Break the ban and you’re heavily fined and lose points on your driving license. Restricting traffic by license plate numbers was felt to be less discriminating against the poor as it doesn’t matter how rich you are you’re still going to lose point’s off your license if you ignore the law.

    London’s central city ‘Congestion Charging’, which was costly and complicated to implement, and to run, but now London’s road’s have gone from unbearably clogged to busy but moving. Although a lot of lower paid worker’s have found it very expensive.
    Less traffic has had the effect of making bus journey’s quicker, so a lot more people stared to use the bus network which required a lot more buses to be bought.

    Both cities still have nightmare traffic but if they’d none nothing they’d have ground to a complete halt.

  • 4
    Austin M
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    The real problem I see with the whole road pricing thing is that to have a real effect i.e. drop congestion to levels so that infrastructure like new freeways are not needed you probably need to have a large price due to our relatively prosperous city. By doing this you really penalise people on lower incomes who are taking essential travel to work etc.

    For example the monash section of citylink has a fairly high cost and fairly low benefit in terms of time savings compared with taking a road like Dandenong Road to the city during peak yet there is still an extremely strong demand. At what level would you need to price all roads at to have a significant enough effect on travel and what would be the social implications of this be in a city with 90% of trips by car.

    Not withstanding all that and using the Monash again as an example a significant upgrade to the monash in the form of an additional lane has been done costing say around $1b. This would have had a fairly minimal additional social and economic cost and had a large potential benefit to the economy in terms of economic activity and movement etc. I strongly suspect the toll to prevent the need for such an upgrade to happen would have to be very high constraining economic growth. (the only benefit of which is it would quickly generate income for upgrades).

    Also a lot of the rationale behind road user pricing is to rob Peter to pay Paul. Taking money largely from outer suburb residents in the lower socio-economic space who cant really change there essential travel to work etc. and using it to largely subsidies further expansion to the public transport system which best serves wealthy inner suburbs. Lets also not forget that most large expansion to public transport has an upfront capital component and an ongoing operating subsidy. Road user pricing effectively makes people who will never likely benefit from improvements to public transport pay for and subsidies its upgrade.

    To me the best way to subsidise PT would be in some kind of land use capture method that takes into account the public transport services within 400m of a property (similar to rates etc.).

    All that said replacing registration with a reasonable road use price to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the road system along with some additional money for investment and upgrade to both road and public transport infrastructure seems reasonable.

    Austin M: If you follow your line of argument (“Road user pricing effectively makes people who will never likely benefit from improvements to public transport pay for and subsidies its upgrade”) you’d never make any investments in public transport because at present circa 90% of all motorised trips are made by car! Also, who said anything about expanding public transport in “wealthy inner suburbs”? My priority would be cross-town trips in the suburbs. It’s worth noting though, that the great bulk of public transport commuter trips to the city centre originate in the suburbs, not the inner city. AD

  • 5
    melburnite
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The major problem with congestion charging here is not only that it might penalise low income earners, but that it can’t happen until the capacity of public transport is increased – the trams and trains are too crowded already – imagine what they would be like with congestion charges sending many more onto them ! Not to mention the already huge lack of parking at railway stations. Also public transport in the outer suburbs makes it very difficult for those residents to change to PT, though perhaps most don’t work in the CBD or inner area.

    My own similar but more radical idea is that all freeways should incur a charge, with the funds (once existing ones are paid off) going to PT. The charge could be pretty small, like 20c for 5 ks, capped at say $5 /week max, so as not to overly penalise anyone, and pension card holders except (somehow), the technology exists, and it would lower the price for existing tollroads. Though of course the outcry if charges were laid on freeways would be huge ! But why should they be free ?

  • 6
    David Corbett
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    As long as further investment in public transport is sufficient as to provide a viable alternative to commuters, as well as being cheap enough, then some sort of congestion mitigation would be fantastic. However, if not, it will just be seen as more revenue raising by the majority of constituents.

  • 7
    IkaInk
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Also a lot of the rationale behind road user pricing is to rob Peter to pay Paul. Taking money largely from outer suburb residents in the lower socio-economic space who cant really change there essential travel to work etc. and using it to largely subsidies further expansion to the public transport system which best serves wealthy inner suburbs. Lets also not forget that most large expansion to public transport has an upfront capital component and an ongoing operating subsidy.

    Hear! Hear!

    Once again Alan, you’ve ignored many of your own arguments, that relate to a similar, but different topic.

    For simplicity here are your 10 points and my responses:

    1- Mitigate congestion and the associated costs of time lost, emissions and pollution

    This hasn’t happened anywhere congestion charging has been implemented, without much more important measures. In Singapore, the total number of cars is capped by the government and to own a car you must own an *insanely expensive* permit from the government. This is the reason Singapore is relatively congestion free, not road congestion charging. Perversely enough, people that do own cars in Singapore on average drive further and more often than people in Australia.

    London on the other hand, massively improved its bus services and reduced the amount of road space for private vehicles in the central area. There was a large increase in passenger numbers on buses, but most of this didn’t come from people getting out of their cars, but instead from Tube passengers! The decrease in cars has been mainly as a result of the reduction in road space for cars in the central area, and increases in road space on nearby by-pass roads.

    2- Delay or possibly even eliminate the need to build major new freeways or widen existing ones

    This assumes point 1 is true. It’s not.

    3- Reduce aggregate kilometres of travel

    See Singapore example. If congestion charging is prohibitively expensive enough that the poorer sections of Melbourne’s community decide to drive less, you can bet that the richer will drive on the less congested roads more.

    4- Enhance horizontal equity by enabling high-value trips to take priority over low-value trips

    You’ve pointed out before that the biggest ‘cost’ to transport isn’t money, but instead time. Congestion therefore will have a much stronger effect at getting people to take low-value trips outside of peak times than any pricing scheme.

    5- Shift some travellers from cars to public transport

    For the same reason that making public transport free will have little effect on a mode shift, this number is likely to be very small, unless accompanied by big improvements to public transport services (once again PT improvements and the reduction in road space for private vehicles are the main game)

    6- Provide a source of revenue for funding public transport improvements

    Yes, this I agree with, but its not a very equitable solution, as pointed out by Austin above.

    7- Increase the speed of on-road public transport modes like buses and trams

    Like the points above, not unless there is more road space dedicated to these modes.

    8- Increase on-road speeds for business travel and freight, thereby increasing productivity

    Once again, not without these modes getting priority

    9- Shift some demand to the shoulder and thereby help make non-peak public transport more sustainable and financially viable

    This doesn’t even make sense Alan. Presumably congestion pricing will be at its highest during the peak, thus supposedly pushing more people onto peak public transport services during the peak hour. When congestion pricing is as its lowest, when the roads are less congested there will be very little incentive to switch to shoulder peak or counter peak public transport services.

    10- Give residents an incentive to live at higher densities in more central locations.

    What? How? By making them not want to drive? If anything it will just encourage suburban living. As you’ve pointed out most people living in the suburbs and don’t need to drive into central locations because they already work and play in the suburbs. Congestion charging will likely make central locations less attractive because that’s where the congestion charging will occur!

    IkaInk: Do you also oppose peak pricing of electricity? AD

  • 8
    beetwo77
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I do not think congestion charging is a good idea as a first step. As others have mentioned, the first step has to be improvement in public transport. Here is my emperical evidence from Sydney with no science to back it up:

    - I used to live close to the city in an affluent suburb. I could drive to the city relatively quickly from the north side at any time up to say 8 am
    - The main constraint on city driving was not in fact traffic, but access and price of parking
    - I now live in the south western suburbs in a much less well off area where I could afford to buy a townhouse, no not a big mc mansion but just a humble townhouse on a small block for my family and myself to live in and work from home
    - I sometimes still drive to the city on school days. I leave home at 5am, take photographs in affluent beachside locations and can still drive to the city because the traffic isn’t so bad from those spots
    - I can’t drive to the city from where I live if I leave home later than about 6am

    Congestion charging won’t change my propensity to drive because the traffic from the less well off areas is terrible and too heavy to warrant driving to the city. It may very marginally improve traffic conditions by taking a small number of city bound cars off the road, but I’m guessing almost no one from where I live drives to the cbd and that the traffic is generated by cross city routes for which there is generally no acceptable public transport option.

    Congestion charging won’t affect the well off people that much living in affluent parts of the city close to the CBD where most of the traffic is generated from as they are ‘on average’ far wealthier than the average person in the outer suburbs. So what is all this congestion charging achieving? not much as far as I can see. A few whinging business people will be able to move some good more easily or get to their chairmans networking breakfast a bit quicker with an insignificant cost penalty.

    Will it improve peak hour PT services that are already maxed out? No.
    Will it improve cross city travel routes that have no viable PT options? No.
    Will it generate revenue that is adequate to cause PT investment? No.

    How about incentives for businesses to offer flexible working hours? how about parking taxes that contribute funds to PT? How about repurposing of existing lane space for PT services? Well actually I don’t like that either because again the PT buses only serve (generally speaking) the already well serviced more affluent suburbs close to the CBD.

    My vision is essentially this:

    - improved bus services to all areas including freeway buses that take cars off the outer suburban freeways and possibly even parking stations near freeways serviced by buses
    - repurposing of existing lane space for PT services with punative measures like bus lane fines rather than congestion charging
    - parkign taxation controlled by the state government not mini regimes like City of Sydney and North Sydney Council’s running their own at times rediculous agendas
    - investment in major PT infrastructure that ties it all together
    - perhaps implement a plan where any road infrastructure expansion can only be allocated to PT services that will serve to reduce the load on existing lane space.

    Again no science to back it up, just my ramblings based on my 17 years of full time city communiting from Penrith, Crows Nest and Liverpool. Three very different areas with very different quality of PT and road access to the city.

  • 9
    suburbanite
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    This is an interesting discussion. Singapore controls congestion with road pricing as well as high car ownership costs. Even taxi trips into the CBD get hit with the congestion charge and it is considerable. I doubt this solution would be workable politically here.
    Hong Kong seems to control car numbers mainly through the high cost of parking. I’m not sure if they employ other methods as well, but traffic didn’t seem to be in gridlock. Interestingly some areas in Hong Kong don’t have any car access, both on islands and in the new territories, so people choose to live without the possibility of car ownership. I wonder how many households in melbourne have no cars at all?
    The equitability issue is an interesting one. Whenever a new charge is being discussed people focus on the disadvantage the poor will face. How about opening this up to all the existing inequity the poor face, for those who aren’t aware of the bleedingly obvious the poor lose out in any charge that is fixed (like the cost of a railway ticket – notwithstanding concessions that don’t cover all the poor), or is that somehow preordained?

  • 10
    IkaInk
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    IkaInk: Do you also oppose peak pricing of electricity? AD

    I don’t believe peak pricing changes consumer behaviour with regards to electricity use. If you have any evidence of the contrary I’d be interested in reading it, but regardless it is comparing apples with oranges and has little to do with the debate surrounding congestion charging. The main cost associated with using electricity is the charge. The main cost associated with travel is time.

    Re-read all your arguments surrounding whether public transport should be free or not. That piece is sound and based on rational arguments. Then apply the cost arguments to congestion charging. With the exception of the opportunity for revenue raising, your own logic shows that congestion charging will have little impact on mode-share, reducing congestion or convincing people to shift to different times for low-value travel.

  • 11
    Alan Davies
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the view of a number of readers that congestion pricing should be introduced in lock-step with better public transport. I think though that it probably wouldn’t be a one-to-one correspondence. I expect charging would lead to some trips being “lost”, e.g. chained with others or suppressed entirely.

    IkaInk:

    The operators in London, Stockholm and London say congestion pricing works (yes, I suppose they would), most economists and transport researchers favour it, and it certainly makes intuitive sense that you’ll get excess demand if the price is too low. So I think the responsibility is on your shoulders to come up with some evidence (like studies maybe?) to support your contention at #7 that pricing hasn’t mitigated congestion in those cities.

    The experience with tolls roads in Australia doesn’t suggest charges would need to be “prohibitively expensive”. Relatively modest tolls have had a big impact on driver behaviour. For example, in the 90s semi drivers in Brisbane would drive through the city rather than pay the toll on the Gateway Bridge (currently $10.57).

    Charging would increase the speed of all traffic including buses and trucks. Nothing to do with priority or adding capacity.

    I’ll add more……

  • 12
    michael r james
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    AD, did you see tonight’s TV footage of Bob Carr getting on the Shanghai MagLev? (I am pretty sure it was the MagLev rather than your ordinary High Speed Train. Rather stupidly the report did not say.) They even drove his limo right on to the platform!
    I wonder if that might make him a support/advocate of Oz HST? No, I suppose not if one looks at his track record in NSW. He seems to have a supreme indifference to such corporeal or banal matters as public transit.

    Michael: Probably not – O’Farrell’s endorsement of Canberra-Sydney HSR as a substitute for a SSA has probably turned them all off! Anyway, Albanese’s HSR study isn’t serious – its a sop to the Greens. AD

  • 13
    michael r james
    Posted May 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Here is some hard data on the impact of the London congestion charge on bike use and bus use. This article (from a few days ago) is a brief summary from the ITO site (itoworld.com); it has a number of interactive maps which are pretty but actually I am not sure it is the best way to understand or visualize the result.

    (smartplanet.com/blog/cities/find-out-whats-dramatically-increasing-biking-in-london/3060?tag=nl.e660)
    Find out what’s dramatically increasing biking in London
    By Tyler Falk | May 9, 2012

    Again, in both cases, the increase in biking and busing has increased dramatically throughout central London in the past decade. While there are a few spots where this isn’t the case, most of the city center is red. For biking red dots indicate a 100 percent increase in use and for buses they indicate a 30 percent increase.

    That ITO World was able to map this data is thanks to the Department for Transport in the U.K. opening their data to the public. (You can view it here.) The department collects the data on both major and minor roads and makes the numbers available each year.

  • 14
    IkaInk
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 2:00 am | Permalink

    Before I respond to Alan I’ll respond to michael above:

    Does cause mean correlation? Hand in hand with congestion charging London has introduced a huge number of bus lanes, has dramatically improved bike infrastructure, has introduced the Boris Bikes and has greatly reduced road capacity for private vehicles in the central area. Conversely, there is a big red circle surrounding the congestion zone, along the Northern Circular Road which has had a number of upgrades over the past decade, and there are pressures for more at the moment.

    Alan, I’ve got some Singapore figures here. Singapore introduced Certificates of Entitlement’s in 1990. These are required to buy any new car, which will be good for 10 years. After that you must bid for a new COE or more commonly get rid of the car and get a new one. The number of COEs is capped and they are auctioned off. The average prices in March this year were are about $50,000-$70,000AUD for a compact car, and a full sized sedan over $120,000AUD. These are average prices, because COEs must be auctioned the prices fluctuate from month to month. Yet because Singapore has such a limited number of cars on its roads, driving is very enticing and unsurprisingly those that can afford cars, drive a lot. Mee’s cites that in 2006 the average car owning Singaporean drove 21,100km. A very similar figure to LA, and nearly 60% higher than Australian 2006 census figures.

    So does congestion pricing convince people not to drive in Singapore? No, people that can afford to drive in Singapore drive an awful lot, even more so than Australia and yet we’re a giant sprawling country of giant sprawling cities, whilst Singapore is a massive high-density metropolis.

    London is a bit trickier: there certainly was a drop in car traffic in London at the time of congestion pricing. However its impossible to separate how much of this is as a result of the charge and how much is related to the aforementioned changed road conditions in London. I think it is telling that there was such a huge drop in rail passengers after congestion charging was introduced though, that to me indicates that bus services must have become much more attractive than they were. Therefore, I’d say considering the Singapore experience the road spacing and bus improvements has more to do with reduction in car numbers. If you can get your hands on the episode of the documentary e2 regarding congestion charging it is also worth a watch, the film makers and indeed virtually everyone they interview seems to think the roads are just as congested, and it takes just as long to drive through the congestion zone as it did, but that the funds raised to improve public transport services and to make the city more pedestrian friendly have made the city more liveable and more environmentally friendly (except the cab driver, he hates everything to do with it).

    Vancouver is the only city in North America to have reduced car mileage, and created a significant shift to public transport away from the automobile and its done so precisely by allowing congestion to foster at certain parts of its road network whilst improving public transport services. This experience aligns much more closely to what’s happened in central London than anything that has happend in Singapore.

    As for your Stockholm example, well I’ve never read anything on the matter and I’ll have to look into it.

    I will end on one note. I’m not opposed to congestion charging if alternative modes of travel are good enough that congestion charges won’t just hurt the already vulnerable, but in Melbourne that is not the case. The suburbs identified by Dodson and Sipe will be the suburbs hurt most by congestion charging. These suburbs are already the most economically disadvantaged and the most automobile dependent. If our network ran as efficiently as Toronto’s or Vancouver’s I would not be opposed to introducing congestion charging, but our network doesn’t run that efficiently and congestion charging will hurt the already vulnerable and car dependent far more than anyone else.

    IkaInk: Some interesting and pertinent points, but surely there’re some independent analyses that support your interpretation, particularly in the case of London? BTW the effect of congestion charging on the “vulnerable” should be mitigated by direct compensation. You’re probably referring to the impact of charging on the Aussie battlers beloved of PMs. AD

  • 15
    suburbanite
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    So does congestion pricing convince people not to drive in Singapore? No, people that can afford to drive in Singapore drive an awful lot, even more so than Australia and yet we’re a giant sprawling country of giant sprawling cities, whilst Singapore is a massive high-density metropolis.

    Congestion pricing doesn’t stop people from driving but it does shift trips and trip times. Congestion pricing was first introduced in the CBD and cars could be seen waiting outside the CBD for the peak pricing to end before driving into the CBD. It isn’t at all evident that the congestion pricing hasn’t reduced traffic in the CBD.The sunk cost for a car is huge in Singapore therefore once someone has invested that amount of money they are motivated to get the most out of the car. Cars are often shared among multi-generational households so that instead of a family in Australia having a few cars they make do with sharing one car. To make an accurate comparison you would need figures that show how many people used the car and how many passengers travelled in the cars.

  • 16
    michael r james
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    IkaInk.
    Yes, your points about London were made in that article. But, whenever congestion charging is introduced it will always be accompanied by other major changes (improved public transport, improved ticketing/pricing, improved cycle provision etc. Bloomberg has introduced many such things in NYC/Manhattan before he tried to bring in congestion charging for Manhattan–which failed due to the complaint that the people from the outer boroughs would be disadvantaged compared to the richer types in Manhattan.

    The Singapore system is perversely designed and not likely to be sustainable in a real democracy. (I remember that when they used the system of alternate days for odd/even number plates, that rich types simply bought two cars.) Obviously one could have a lottery system and set prices and have non-transferable rights.

    The Stockholm example is worthy of study since they tend to run everything in a very egalitarian manner and have a high success rate in city & transport planning.

  • 17
    suburbanite
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Another attribute of the Singapore system is Off-peak Vehicles. These cars have different number plates and pay a cheaper road tax as compared to normal private cars. They can drive on the roads after 7pm at night and before 7am in the morning and all day on weekends and public holidays. They have to pay a fee if they want to drive their cars in peak times. This obvisously wouldn’t be doable in Australia, but the Singapore transport system is sufficiently different from here to make comparisons difficult.

  • 18
    IkaInk
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    @Michael

    Yes but the question is which part of the policy is having the effects? Has New York seen reductions in car numbers in through the methods implemented in the hopes of introducing congestion charging? Vancouver certainly has, without intending to introduce congestion charging. Conversely Singapore’s car milage rates continue to grow despite congestion charging and other punitive measures.

  • 19
    michael r james
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    IkaInk “the question is which part of the policy is having the effects?”

    Is it really? For most of us (who have seen the light!) the importance is a change in city planning and transport policy that swings away from the old notion that car drivers should be able to drive anywhere, everywhere and at everyone else’s expense (both via taxes and inconvenience). Perhaps the biggest effect of congestion charging is the message it sends loud and clear: you no longer have this right so you better look at alternatives.

    Once the BMW series 7 and Merc drivers cannot easily get into their company-provisioned parking spot in the CBD, or are embargoed every second day, you will miraculously find more political support for convenient public transit. BTW Mayor Bloomberg apparently takes the NYC subway several days a week (not sure from where since Gracie Mansion (mayor’s official residence) is on Upper East Side in a subway black hole. (quick Wiki: he does not reside in Gracie Mansion!).

    I think we are all agreed Singapore is not a good model, either for their money-based charge system nor for their quite singular island-city-state arrangement.

  • 20
    michael r james
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Incidentally places like HK have a de facto congestion charge–at least for HK island because the only way to drive there is via toll tunnels. HK has terrible air pollution and is trying to do something about it. Traffic is a major cause (though a lot also floats in from neighbouring heavily industrialized China) as HK has the highest car-to-km-of-roads in the world. Of course it also has one of the best and easiest to use Metros in the world.
    Several of the bridges & all tunnels that cross into Manhattan also have tolls but not all.

    In Brisbane (possibly to this day) the CBD planners used to insist on a certain number of parking spots whenever a hi-rise goes up. I especially remember the MacArthur building (not especially tall but with a supermarket in basement) had to have 500 spots. Thus guaranteeing congestion with this crazy requirement. Graham Quirk (formerly in charge of transport, now mayor) has refused to provide a modest number of assigned parking slots for that company running a share car scheme (operating in Sydney) on the basis that it would be unfair to other car drivers even though it serves far more people and makes a contribution to reducing congestion. It was also Quirk under Newman’s reign as mayor who immediately removed bus lanes on major arteries upon being elected. That is the kind of mentality we have to fight against.

  • 21
    Zebee Johnstone
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Private transport for one person. Needs to be motorised to travel reasonable distances (and allow you to remain reasonably non sweaty) but take up little road space.

    Why has no one mentioned the humble motorcycle?

    Hell, the humble scooter! If you take 1 in 4 of the single-person-no-heavy-gear cars in peak hour and replace it with a 150cc or 200cc auto scooter what would happen to your congestion, your pollution, and your petrol use then?

    If someone has had a car licence for 5 years or so they would need a day course to a) get used to riding the thing and b) learn about the important differences (mainly about road surface and lane positioning) and they’d be fine for the regular commute.

    Best method would be:
    – 1 day course for experienced drivers as above.
    – legalise filtering stopped traffic as is now legal for bicycles to do
    – aggressive action on 3rd party insurance prices to reflect the actual damage vehicles do (meaning higher on large cars and 4WD and low on powered 2 wheelers)
    – Require motorcycle parking as part of development approvals
    – Add parallel to kerb parking at corners for one motorcycle.
    – Agressively price kerbside car parking as per Shoup to discourage car use
    – Road safety education campaigns to encourage use of motorcycles and driver actions to make the road safer for the motorcycles.

    If you promote motorcycles you don’t need to increase public transport. And public transport is difficult to increase.

    As part of this, increase the power limit on electric bicycles. Have a smooth and easy continuum from pedal power for up to 5km trips to electric assist for up to 15km trips or hilly areas to 150-200cc scooters for 15-30km trips or up to 80kmh roads, then motorcycles in the NSW LAMs power to weight class for longer/faster trips.

    Zeebee: Well I for one have been highlighting for some time the advantages of scooters, electric bicycles and (small) motorcycles – e.g. see here, here, here, and here. AD

  • 22
    michael r james
    Posted May 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    But I suspect Francois Hollande’s days of riding his 3-wheeled scooter around Paris are over!

  • 23
    Fran Barlow
    Posted May 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I’ve made some cmments on this in the other thread. Se here

    I support congestion charging (as part of a more comprehensive usage charging system) and also agree that the funds should be hypothecated so as to underpin public transport and high quality housing within about 25km of major urban centres.

    I also think we could make far better use of our existing road infrastructure. If for example major commuter routes into the city had (at intervals of roughly 12 km) major park and ride carparks (serviced at peak and shoulder times with shuttle buses) we could divert a substantial amount of single occupant traffic into these car parks and onto the buses. These buildings could be funded in part by retail, residentail and commercial usage. Allowing for the advent of PEVs you could have plugin-recharge facilities in them — effectively extending the range of the batteries. These could also (at the discretion of users) provide reserve power for the grid for load balancing. Overall, this would increase the utility of PEVs and cut pollution. The provision of facilities such as this would also encourage informal car pooling. Those with bikes could secure them there and take the bus if they wanted.

    Those who wanted to use the road could still do so, and they’d get a less congested and cheaper journey.

  • 24
    Burke John
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    A note to anti-congestion tax advocates is that its not that in cities that have implemented congestion tariffs people are just stupid. They were dragged kicking and screaming for the most part. For the most part after a period of time they prefer the new regime.
    As for the undemocratic nature of such a tax in penalizing the poor, as noted by the likes of Andre Gorz and Ivan Illich in the 1970s, there is nothing democratic about the nature of the car. It is a luxury item which lessens in value relative to its popularity and availability. That is the very essence of a luxury item and it is called congestion in car parlance.
    Non motorists currently subsidize the fundamentals leading to congestion by cars. Not a lot of democracy there either.

  • 25
    Dudley Horscroft
    Posted May 25, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    “Taking money largely from outer suburb residents in the lower socio-economic space who cant really change there essential travel to work etc. and using it to largely subsidies further expansion to the public transport system which best serves wealthy inner suburbs.” Oh? Of course the public transport system best serves the inner suburbs. It was developed there when Melbourne was small, and the outer suburbs were to be served by cars only, no public tramsport! (No misprint there!). But note that it is the inner suburbs that have the Housing Commission flats. Why? Because that is where the “lower socio-economic” people live.

    All taxes other than income and wealth taxes affect the poor more than the rich (encourages them to work harder and become rich??) But that is not a good argument for getting rid of them. And a congestion tax would affect people who drive less to a lesser extent. Re the humble tradesman who has to drive to his places of business? He just adds it to his bills, same as any other business that is taxed.

    Suppose that the proceeds from a congestion tax go into the Consolidated Fund. Then there is either more money to spend on other things (like public transport if the government is sensible) or less need to raise money elsewhere (nearly as good). Hypothecation is good if the public servants can be stopped from looking on it as a cash cow that they can divert to their own ends. Unfortunately, without hypothecation it is probably that money will be diverted to other uses, like building more freeways.

    Despite some comments, all your points 1-8 and 10 are correct. Re 9, there is no way that shifting traffic to shoulder times will increase off-peak public transport. Even if congestion taxes are applied to buses and trams, consider that it is generally reckoned that a bus is equivalent to three cars (a tram perhaps to five cars?) and applying a congestion tax of three car’s worth ($30?) to a bus carrying 60 people, or five car’s worth ($50?) to a tram carrying 200 people means a small increase passenger-wise.

    Certainly there are areas where the trams should be extended – the Doncaster Light Rail should be “first cab off the rank” as far as large projects in Melbourne go, but there are many small projects needed in Melbourne. And in Sydney, replacement of buses by trams on major arteries is even more desperately needed. Come on O’Farrell, get going!

  • 26
    Alan Davies
    Posted June 12, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    IkaInk @ #14

    Some evidence on London. It contradicts your theory.

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