Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Congestion tolls in Sydney

One interesting announcement in yesterday's NSW state mini-budget was the introduction of "congestion tolls" on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tunnel: the toll will vary depending on the time of day. Tolls will increase from $3 to $4 during peak travel times, stay the same during a shoulder period and drop to $2.50 at night.

Time of day tolls can be a sensible measure to reduce congestion: they encourage motorists to avoid driving at peak hour. The demand for road space varies throughout the day so a price that also varies to reflect that changing demand is likely to improve efficiency. Commuters accept variable time-of-day charges for rail in Sydney, so why not roads?

A few thoughts on the new tolls:
  • The government should closely monitor traffic densities and speeds at different times of day now and after the toll comes in to see what impact the toll has.

  • Time of day tolling should also be applied to other Sydney toll roads such as the M4 and M5 (the government has flagged this) - at least if the Sydney Harbour tolls are effective in reducing in congestion.

  • The public is cynical about this change and sees it as a revenue grab (which it probably is). If the government genuinely sees this as a congestion measure and wants it to be embraced, they should consider making it revenue-neutral or, more simply, reducing the night toll by the same amount as the peak toll increases. Alternatively, the additional revenue could be clearly earmarked for additional peak hour public transport so that people have a decent alternative to just paying the toll and continuing to drive.

  • Isn't there an issue because the toll is only collected from southbound traffic? So there's no new incentive to avoid the peak hour when you're travelling north...

What do you think of the tolls?


Anonymous said...

I'm fascinated by how these things work - I would have thought that most people wouldn't have much choice in when they travel. Yet there's so much evidence that they do.

I think it's definitely worth a trial - though I would be interested in the answer to your question about the toll being southbound only...

Anonymous said...

Another note - the Premier has stated that all increased revenue from the toll will be for funding new buses:

Anonymous said...

I think some members of the public are also cynical about the fact that this toll will favour rich people and put an even greater burden on working class people. Not to mention that many people's jobs aren't as flexible as they'd like, which may impact on the elasticity of demand. However, as you pointed out, the data stands to be seen.

Anonymous said...

I find it to be another monetary scam. Most people whom utilize these toll area's today are already getting ripped off. Charging extra proves nothing to the environment just allows government to access more funding for projects that already have funding. If anyone believes that this action is environmental friendly is kidding themselves. This country makes plenty of money with their made up monetary schemes. Next they will be charging you per person in a vehicle at one given time. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

If the revenue generated was put back into public transport and/or non-consumptive road networks like bicycle ways, then I would say this is a good idea.

In Japan, the use of bicycles are high in both rural and city areas, far greater than back in Australia.

This is one reason (among many) why Japan has a smaller per-person ecological footprint than Australia. It is something I think Australia can learn from as a developed nation just like Japan.

Anonymous said...

Also interesting is those who have to cross over the Harbour and do not go into the City at all. If you live on the Northern Beaches and for example work as a tradie and need to be on a job site say in Alexandria you have to go over the bridge or tunnel.

These people are not going into the city but if travelling in peak times will be slugged the extra fee.

I am all for supporting projects that encourage people to use their car less but this needs to be balanced with projects supporting people to use public transport - so the government stops the Manly jetcat???

I am happy to pay the extra fee if I have to drive into the city and even past the city BUT ONLY if all the money goes towards making it easier for people to use public transport.

David I am interested in hearing what you think about yesterday's announcement of the encomomy stimulous package. Do you think this will help and what advantage will it be for our environment??

Ivan said...

If it's to be genuinely neutral, considering peak times have the greatest number of cars pass through, it wouldn't be a case of $1 more for peak times and a $1 less for non-peak times (unless the number of cars in peak times equals the number of cars outside of peak times). Likely it would offset a larger component of off peak toll.

I would think the increase in peak hour tolls would be best put towards capability building in public transport infrastructure.

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