Congestion charging back on the agenda

This week, the NSW State Opposition has called for uniform congestion tolling on roads, with per-kilometre charging as the basis of a ‘fairer deal’ for motorists.

The leader of the Nationals and opposition spokesman on roads, Andrew Stoner, believes that the current system (all toll roads operating independently) is limiting the ability to develop a consistent ‘network’ of tolling, with all entrances and egresses from the city being considered in the management of time-of-day congestion charging.

Mr. Stoner says he is interested in exploring the model outlined by consulting firm Evans & Peck in a paper published last year, proposing the creation of a Sydney motorway network company as a public-private partnership between toll road companies and the government. The body would be responsible for the planning, building and operating additions to the motorway network, using toll revenue.

Meanwhile, top Australian transport expert Graham Currie told The Australian this week that the $20 billion-a-year cost of traffic congestion in Australia’s city centres, the highest in the world as a proportion of GDP, was unlikely to remain high because so many commuters do no pay their own parking bills.

He believes that the provision for car parking in city buildings is a cost borne principally by employers, flowing through into the price of goods and services, and ‘in effect subsidising car owners who drive into the city’.

Whilst State Governments have introduced levies on parking spaces in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne to raise money from car park owners to be reinvested into other forms of transport, these do not necessarily get to the root of the congestion problem.

Cristina Lynn, Managing Partner of Parking Consultants International, says that a levy on parking spaces in which cars don’t often move during the entire day, does not help ease city congestion during work hours. A London- or Stockholm-style tax, payable on entry to the CBD would be a more targeted way of addressing congestion issues particularly from highly polluting vehicles (in Stockholm, for example,  zero-emission cars aren’t subject to the tax)

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