Satellite ERP (Electronic Road Pricing), or ERP 2.0, will supposedly be rolled out in 2020.
The system will replace the current one, and consign those familiar gantries into e-waste recycling centres.
But what is satellite ERP? In a nutshell, it is a way for the Government to charge motorists based on the distance they have travelled, instead of the charging them for entering particular zones that include town areas and the CBD.
Distance-based charging is fairer. It is definitely the way to go.
In theory, satellite ERP could reduce congestion because motorists would be incentivised to drive shorter distances, or even use their cars less altogether.
But I am sceptical that this would actually work.
First, because most Singaporeans are very practical, they would do a bit of research to find the shortest possible route to their destination, in order to minimise ERP charges.
So, if nearly every motorist is going to try to go via the shortest distance (most motorists already do this), the shortest routes to town and CBD areas are going to remain congested anyway.
Secondly, distance-based charging means motorists won’t hear any beeps or see how much they’re being charged every time they pass a gantry.
I’m assuming, of course, that the ERP charges are going to be totalled and billed to car owners at the end of the month. You’ll probably have the option of having the fees deducted through GIRO, or billed to your favourite credit card to earn points/miles.
If you don’t see how much you’re spending till the end of the billing cycle, you’re probably going to keep using your car without giving it a second thought.
If authorities want to prevent this, they’ll need an app that motorists can use to check how much their road usage is costing them.
Thirdly, let’s assume that even when ERP 2.0 is rolled out, ride-hailing and private-hire services will continue to offer unbelievably cheap rides through various promos.
Let us also presume that this will remain the case, despite such services having to pay hefty ERP charges for constantly being on the road and clocking about three times the average distance of a private car.
That said, folks who don’t own a car, but want to enjoy the privilege of being chauffeured in one at relatively low prices, will continue to utilise such services. This will inevitably contribute to congestion.
Many questions have to be answered before ERP 2.0 can be successfully implemented. Policies may have to be tweaked, and new regulations are likely to be introduced.