Singapore’s Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said the radically new ERP system won’t be here till many more years, and that it will only start with roads that are already priced today. I say we should start as soon as possible, and have it islandwide.
Distance-based charging is not only a much sharper tool to optimise road usage, it is fairer. Motorists should think of it as an equivalent to the minute-based cost format in “electronic” carparks, versus the ancient per-entry model.
You pay for what you actually use. In the case of distance-based charging, you cough up cash for the amount of congestion you contribute to. So, it will encourage people to drive judiciously, and to map out their routes carefully. Those who circle mindlessly, such as cabbies cruising while they await phone bookings, will have to fork out more for their motoring inefficiency. Drivers who are efficient and plan their journey properly could well pay less than they do today.
If we remove road tax and perhaps reduce fuel duty, there is no reason why we cannot have islandwide ERP. Because the system will be infinitely adjustable, we can have dynamic and differentiated pricing for roads according to their congestion levels. Many stretches can be free, so to speak. Also, it is only if the system is islandwide that its other applications – such as paperless street parking and “on-the-fly” Off-Peak Car levies – can be used.