This had been a topic of debate between my friends and I because the jams are still there despite all of them paying a premium to get to their destination. Well, we thought that the premium wasn’t high enough to deter people from using the road and something like S$10 may probably have an effect. However, having said that, if someone has to use the expressway/roads to get to their destination, then they would have to use it no matter what. This is especially so if the people who are using it need it in the course of their work and that the companies they work for are paying for it.

So really, they should really start with a high premium – like S$10 (seriously) – which may either:

  • deter everyone from using the roads – which then questions the purpose of the expressways/roads
  • fail and be crowded with cars again since almost every Singaporean has short term memory (STM, aka mice memory)

In fact, the jams got so bad at one time that we thought that someone should challenge *gasp* the LTA to turn off all ERP gantries for one week to gauge how effective the ERP system really was. Of course, we are in Singapore and such things never happen. Challenge the government? You must be kidding.

Anyway, the ERP rates will go up surely, but steadily so that people do not feel the immediate pinch and create a knee-jerk reaction that will scare everyone off – just like the taxi fare hike. However, again, Singaporeans being Singaporeans, everyone will bite the bullet (sounds familiar) and resume contributing to the building of the nation. =)

Nation above self.

Oh wait, sorry, this was supposed to be an ERP entry. =P

HAVING paid the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges, some motorists still find themselves still stuck in a jam on roads and expressways here.

Transport Minister Raymond Lim said yesterday that this happens because there are many more cars on the road today than 10 years ago when the ERP system was introduced.

‘Our ERP system has served us well, but it is coming under strain,’ said Mr Lim.

Cars are also used more intensively here, clocking 21,000km a year on average, compared to 9,100km in London.

Also, the 50-cent increases to ERP rates are no longer enough to keep traffic going, seeing as how after it went up nine times in 2006, another 25 rate hikes were needed last year.

The new changes announced yesterday aim to fix this problem:

  • ERP will kick in much earlier under a new formula;
  • The basic ERP charge will go up from July to $2, from $1 now, and each subsequent jump will be $1, instead of 50 cents;
  • Sixteen more gantries will be put up, all to help ease congestion in the city area as well as on major roads islandwide.

Currently, the gantries go active once the speed of half the motorists travelling on a particular stretch over a 30-minute period falls below the optimal level of 45kmh for expressways and 20kmh for major roads.

However, in practice, many motorists will be travelling far slower. For example, speeds measured from 7.30am to 8am on a stretch of the Pan-Island Expressway this month showed that up to 38 per cent of the motorists were actually travelling below 45kmh, despite paying the ERP.

‘This also explains why there is at times a disconnect between what the Land Transport Authority says and motorists’ actual driving experience,’ said Mr Lim.

Under the new formula, ERP charges will kick in when, in line with international practice, just over 15 per cent of vehicles fall below ideal speeds.

So, at least 85 per cent of motorists will be assured of smooth travel when they pay the ERP charges,Mr Lim said.

Mr Lim expects that with the higher basic charge and larger increments, rate changes will be less frequent.

The new formula and higher charges will be phased in to give people time to adjust.

They will start in July in the Central Business District (CBD) and Orchard Road, after more bus and train trips come on line, and then to other roads in due time.

The number of gantries will also go up in phases, from 55 now, to 60 in April, 65 in July and 71 in November.

The focus is on the city area. Speeds on major roads in the CBD have fallen by over 25 per cent, from five years ago.

To cross major junctions, say, between North Bridge Road and Bras Basah Road, motorists must wait for three or more traffic light changes.

So, ERP will be used to discourage those motorists who are just passing through the already packed Suntec City, Bugis and Marina Square shopping areas in the evenings, and on Saturdays. They make up a third of the traffic now.

The ERP changes will have an effect on motorists like retiree William Chan, 65.

He said: ‘If ERP prices keep rising, we may switch to public transport, but we’ll still retain the option of driving to places that are far away.’

Others, like manager Chua Xin Kai, 28, will not make a switch – yet.

‘I’m paying so much for the car and after driving for 10 years, I am just lazy to take public transport. Maybe when I have to scrap my car in three years, I’ll reconsider.’

Until then, the Government expects to collect from such motorists $70 million more a year as a result of the changes.

And to show that this is not an excuse to raise revenue, but really to curb congestion, road taxes will be cut 15 per cent to the tune of about $110 million.

Mr Lim said: ‘If motorists were to drive less, the Government would be happy to collect less ERP revenue.’

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMY TAN

chinlian@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 31st January 2008



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