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The Forum > Article Comments > Congestion charging schemes for Australian cities > Comments

Congestion charging schemes for Australian cities : Comments

By Dick Wharton, published 25/7/2005

Dick Wharton argues federal government should take a lead and co-ordinate an infrastructure plan to combat traffic congestion.

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Congestion levy 2.5 % of gross income for personal and 5% for business income for those living within 50kms of CBD. Maybe double for that hell hole in NSW.
Posted by Kenny, Monday, 25 July 2005 10:37:31 AM
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Dick Wharton asks

"What then are the underlying causes of the congestion problems we are now facing?"

, however his discussion misses one of the most crucial points of why congestion is increasing, i.e. population growth in our cities and Australia as a whole. Due mainly to high immigration rates, Australia's population continues to grow at very roughly 1/4 of a million a year. Most of these new people will help to congest the transport system even further. With rapid population growth one is faced with the prospect of continually upgrading roads etc just to keep congestion the same as it would be without population growth. Eventually, as all mega-cities have found, you will lose the battle to keep traffic flowing above walking pace.

Possibly the most important person affecting future congestion is the federal minister for immigration who sets the annual immigration quota. The other is the treasurer whose half-baked calls for every family to have three kids does not help our problem of growing population - and inevitably congestion in the cities.
Posted by Ridd, Monday, 25 July 2005 11:41:14 AM
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This article is a continuation of the prevailing metro-centric view of theses problems. For example, the ink is barely dry on the South East Queensland Regional Plan, designed in major part to manage the unsustainable growth that produces the major diseconomies of scale outlined in the article.

This plan compells higher densities and high rise on suburbs that do not want them while funding expensive educational, health and road infrastructure in bare paddocks beyond Ipswich where no-one wants to live. Development rights on 80% of the region have been stripped away so that the forecast million extra settlers by 2025 have no choice but to settle on the State and Local government's existing 40,000ha stock of freehold land. In short, the entire development business in SEQ has been "oligarched", as it were, between big business and big government.

But what does Premier Beattie then do? He swans off to Melbourne and Sydney to attract even more settlers to the SE Corner of the state. Brisbane is to be "rebadged" as a sophisticated place to visit (and then settle)while prospective settlers to other parts of the state have dried up due to the disaster in country health services.

The relationship is hardly new. Settlers follow prospects. Jobs and investment follow settlers. Seats of Government attract more investment and create better, head office job prospects which attract more settlers. And if there is only one seat of government in one large state then an increasingly unsustainable metropolis and all it's congestion is the only likely outcome.

Disperse the governance, disperse the benefits, disperse the impacts and reduce the scale and difficulty in metropolitan diseconomies. Any duplication of functions by new states would cost a lot less than $8-9 Billion a year.
Posted by Perseus, Monday, 25 July 2005 12:20:52 PM
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My first problem with the article is the concept of "congestion cost". The report upon which it is based (BTCE 1996) does not appear to be available on the net, and it is difficult to work out its methodology from the plethora of follow-on reports that use its data. But it would appear to be pollution-based, and therefore health-related, and if so, we are in territory very similar to "smoking-related" or "obesity-related" costs.

How these translate into what you or I would recognize as actual dollars is something of a mystery, and tends to fluctuate wildly with different researchers.

I suspect they are not real dollars at all. With real dollars, you can find out who has them now, and between what points are they presently moving. Then you would be able to work out who would actually trouser these dollars in future, if we solved the problem of congestion.

If on the other hand we are looking at the same kind of "social" costs as smoking and obesity, why don't we tackle them in the same way? With pointless advertising campaigns and patronising slogans...

My next problem is the whole "user pays" concept, which is based upon dubious logic. The "pensioner", that Mr Wharton argues should be charged the same to use the road as the commercial traveller, is surely going to be driven off the road, thanks to the additional cost. Meanwhile, the travelling employee continues to drive and congest, allowing his employer to pay, and to then pass on the additional cost to the consumer.

E.g. the pensioner, who thereby suffers a double whammy.

Flaky stuff. Very Flaky.
Posted by Pericles, Monday, 25 July 2005 3:09:52 PM
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The proposed $0.5 billion dollar "upgrade" of Kuranda Range Road in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of FNQ,(near Cairns) from a scenic forested 2-lane road to a 4-lane concrete and steel highway is a case in point.

The proposal is driven by regional planning which has recommended an urban node supporting 63000 people by 2036 (current population 4000)- totally dependent on a road corridor to access employment and most services, 25km away in Cairns.

It's time the government started investing in rail - for freight and public transport - and planning urban centres which are largely self-contained. Getting the freight of the roads and onto rail would be a good place to start. In the meantime, we need to impose a curfew on heavy freight vehicles to avoid peak traffic hours.

Australian's will never totally lose their love affair with the motor car and the independence/mobility that mode of transport provides - but public transport incentives (effficient, reliable and affordable) and conversely, private transport disincentives, is a step in the right direction to reduce our dependence on and demands for more and more road infrastructure.

A reduction in traffic congestion is not the only benefit. Good quality public transport services also has a lot to offer in terms of social equity and environmental benefits.

It's time to stop talking about integrated, strategic transport planning which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, delivers environmental outcomes and offers social benefits (eg: the lofty ideals of AusLink) and start making it happen. There's no excuse in the 21st century to put it off any longer.

As for population growth pressures - I dont know too many local or state governments who don't encourage it - and then bleat about the need for more dams, roads, power etc etc. Some sustainable population planning would be a step forward as well
Posted by Frogmouth, Monday, 25 July 2005 4:10:25 PM
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Instead of all the talk about traffic congestion, and more regulations to solve it.

Why donít we talk about why itís as cheap to take you car as go with 30 others in a bus or train when you remove the public transport subsidy?
Even with it, it still does not attract enough people to keep the roads at a reasonable traffic density.

One way to help would be to tool all roads, but only when traffic density reaches 80% of max density.
Would work like the electronic tool roads in the east coast?

Cheers
Posted by dunart, Tuesday, 26 July 2005 12:26:32 AM
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