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Making road users pay could clear infrastructure gridlock

This week, Australian motoring groups decided to back road user charges, arguing that it would be a fairer system. At the same time, the groups said the change to user charges would secure sufficient funding…

A proposal to remove registration and petrol taxes and replace them with distance charges should get the green light. AAP/Lukas Coch

This week, Australian motoring groups decided to back road user charges, arguing that it would be a fairer system.

At the same time, the groups said the change to user charges would secure sufficient funding for new infrastructure and provide incentives for drivers to avoid driving during peak hours.

This is an unprecedented move for motor lobby groups in Australia.

And it’s a win for Australians. Charging road users would mean payment based on distance travelled and the time driven, and the additional revenue would facilitate the removal of fixed fees like registration expenses and the fuel excise tax.

For many years car drivers have complained about the increasingly congested roads in Australian metropolitan areas, and have asked governments to do something about it. Governments have responded by building new road infrastructure and introducing new public transport services.

But governments clearly do not have sufficient funds for all required investments, so they do not make the necessary investments in public transport, and they propose toll roads to let motorists (partly) pay for the investments.

In the past, motoring groups have argued car drivers do not want to pay more for what they consider already high costs for driving a car.

This creates an impasse, and essentially we get what we pay for, which is heavily congested roads. The proposals put forward by the motoring groups follow recommendations for further user pay roads in the Productivity Commission’s draft infrastructure report, quashed by prime minister Tony Abbott.

The aim of the new proposals is to ensure sufficient funds are available for investments in roads and bridges, and develop a mechanism that provides incentives to drivers that result in less congestion. It is important to note that the motoring groups do not say the average car driver needs to pay more. Instead, they argue that they should not pay less and they should pay differently.

Doing the maths

A quick calculation (based on average prices and average fuel consumption) shows the average car driver in Australia pays between A$700 and $800 a year in fuel excise tax, which is currently $0.38 per litre (plus 10% GST). Car owners in NSW pay around $300 per year in registration fees and between $200 and $300 in toll payments (although this varies widely).

A fixed registration fee seems unfair to people who drive very little. And toll roads only in certain locations seem unfair to people who happen to live in the area. But are Australians paying a lot? It depends on the point of reference.

Compared to the USA, where the fuel excise tax is about US$0.14 per litre, and where the annual registration fee is around US$46, Australians do seem to be worse off. But compared to many European countries we actually pay very little. For example, the annual registration fee in the Netherlands is around €600, and the fuel excise tax is €0.78 per litre (plus 21% GST). However, toll roads hardly exist in the Netherlands. The average number of kilometres driven by Dutch people is similar to Australia, and net incomes are lower.

So compared to car drivers in the Netherlands, Australians pay very little. Looking at the difference between transport systems in the USA and in Europe, it is clear where the extra money goes, namely to public transport. While the USA is a car-oriented country, European countries typically have strong public transport networks.

So why should car drivers pay for public transport? The answer is actually quite simple. If public transport was much more expensive (or did not exist at all), many more travellers would be driving their cars on the roads, causing massive gridlocks.

But current revenues aren’t enough to cover investments in infrastructure. The maintenance of existing roads is already very expensive, costing between $200 to $300 per person in NSW, around $300 to $400 per car. Expanding infrastructure is extremely costly. The WestConnex project in Sydney, for example, is expected to cost around $10 billion, or around $2000 per car in NSW. And revenues from fuel excise tax are actually going down since cars are becoming more fuel efficient. This is one of the reasons why motoring groups worry about future investment.

A fairer approach

A report prepared for the motoring groups by Deloitte suggests a user charge based on weight of the vehicle, distance travelled, and based on location and time in which a rural car driver outside rush hours would pay much less per kilometre than a city driver in the peak hours. This can be done in a revenue-neutral fashion such that the average car driver does not pay more.

In fact, it can be introduced in such a way that the majority of people would pay less than what they currently pay by removing the fixed annual registration fees and making all costs based on usage of the road system, so people who drive less will pay less. Brendan Lyon, the chief executive of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, is right to say this is a fairer way.

Its use in other countries has shown that offering car drivers incentives to avoid user charges is an effective and efficient way to combat congestion. An important underlying assumption here is that car drivers have alternatives to choose from. These alternatives are, for example, departing outside peak hours, taking public transport, working from home and car-pooling.

Surveys in NSW have shown that people in general are in favour of user pays. This means we need to consciously think about our mobility, where we work, and where we live.

It means that the government should offer viable public transport alternatives. It also requires a conversation with companies to offer more flexible working hours and provide facilities to work from home. The time seems ripe for a change. Simply investing in road infrastructure, letting more cars into congested downtown areas, and waiting until cities become completely gridlocked is not an option.

Motorist groups are now advocating what economists have been recommending for years: remove fixed annual costs and introduce a pricing system with avoidable costs to make travelling more efficient.

The ball is now with the politicians.

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105 Comments sorted by

  1. Ron Bowden

    Entropy tragic

    It might suit me - but taxis and the transport industry?
    But it doesn't suit Abbott, so that's that.

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Ron Bowden

      Taxis will likely charge a few extra cents per km to their clients, which should be relatively minor. Transport industry typically carry valuable goods and time = money, so they are likely happy to pay a few extra $ if congestion is less (or at least not increasing).

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    2. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      How about a more accurate title then. "Keeping the poor off the roads and forcing them to use substandard public transport", where they will spend a substantive portion of their working day travelling between work and isolated distant residential locations for the poor at undesirable locations.
      How about jobs for life so that people can locate near their places of employment and walk to work. How about major mixed used structures that incorporate light industrial, commercial, retail, public services…

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    3. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Just wait a few years, Robert. Expensive fuel for non essential driving will cause a clamor for public transport. Already in the USA there has been a decline since 2005[erroneously attributed to gas] in use of oil and it's been due to a reduction in travel by citizens. One plane in 6 lies idle.
      http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-02-25/oil-supply-and-demand-forecasting-with-steven-kopits
      It makes one think we should shelve a second Sydney airport because it will become a white elephant sooner than later. [It is 100% certain to be eventually a white elephant]

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    4. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Hi Robert, I do not have the power over the title, that is the editors choice :)
      My original title was "what we pay is what we get", but you may not like that one either.

      Your point about the poor being forced to public transport is well undestood and is (and has always been) the major point in order to get public acceptability. So this is something that needs attention. So let's try something creative. How about giving discounts to low income people when they drive less than 15000 km per year…

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    5. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      You really fail to grasp the problem. I sorry you have the mind set you have but it is really wrong headed. Poor people have the right to spend time with their family and no discount imaginable can make up for spend 10 to 20 hours a week or more travelling to work away from their families.
      I hardly think, your working poor so be thankful we discount your 10 to 20 hours a week travelling to a from work away from your family and as for currently being lobbied for unpaid overtime in that and well…

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  2. Notta Mehere

    logged in via Facebook

    i would have liked a clearer understanding of what this would mean to rural road users, whose car use is extremely high due to no other forms of transport available?

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    1. David Martin

      Naturally talented sleeper and eater

      In reply to Notta Mehere

      ditto

      How are road users to be charged? A tax on fuel would take care of the high kilometre users and those with big and/or thirsty cars, but
      how do you charge road users for driving at peak hour?

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    2. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Notta Mehere

      That is a good point, and this is mentioned in the Deloitte report. They seem to suggest that rural users will pay a much lower km price, as they do not cause much congestion. So the rural drivers will pay much less according to my understanding.

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    3. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to David Martin

      This is a question about the technology, and most often is mentioned to use simple GPS device in the car that registers in what area one drivers and also knows the time, so it can store kms in peak and off-peak hours. So that would mean a small device (like the e-tag) in the car.

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    4. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      Big brother (GPS) won't go down well with folks - Indeed it smacks of George Orwell

      However, address this one first .......

      Drivers taxed almost 40 cents on a litre of fuel get less than nine cents back in the form of spending on roads.

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  3. Felix Acker

    Health Promotion

    There is a risk with with proposal to be inequitable. Rural users, as Notta Mehere pointed out, are disadvantaged as are people who have been priced out of inner city suburbs and will have to pay more. In that sense the proposal once more factors the rich, who also, typically, are the ones with some leeway to avoid peak congestion hours. If these issues can be addressed, then maybe this is a better system to finance transport.

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    1. Ron Bowden

      Entropy tragic

      In reply to Felix Acker

      I agree. I would be concerned about the ability of any government to address all the issues.
      However, it seems to be academic any way, in view of Abbott's statement: ""I think it's not one that's ever likely to be accepted by any government,"
      Seems he can speak for future governments as well as the rest of us.

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    2. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Felix Acker

      That is indeed the plan. The general idea is that one pays per kilometer, but it is very important to take into account that low income people are not too hard hit. Of course there will always be winners or losers when introducing something new (some people are currently losers because they drive little and live close to toll roads, and they would win). This is what is often referred to as an equity question, which I agree is very important. So this should be very carefully thought through and any transition should be smooth.

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    3. Boyd Milligan

      Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, CUSP

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      On a broad level this will also address several other environmental and social issues as well, but I remember graphics doing the rounds showing distribution of financial stress at the peak of the GFC in the mortgage belts of our major cities. These people are those with least capacity to pay for either changed transport behavior or to retain current behaviors, and generally are the last to get good transport infrastructure, but have the greatest need to use transport.

      On another matter the fuel…

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    4. Chris Standen

      PhD candidate in Transport Policy & Planning at University of Sydney

      In reply to Felix Acker

      There are better ways of addressing income inequity than subsidising inefficient transport use. For example, lower taxes for low-income households.

      Not everyone who lives in the fringe suburbs does so because they can't afford to live closer to work; for many it is a lifestyle choice.

      Currently both high-income and low-income fringe dwellers have their transport use heavily subsidised (both driving and public transport). Let both pay a fair price for their transport use/choices, but compensate those on low-income through the tax system.

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  4. Doug Fletcher

    Associate Lecturer in Statistics, Murdoch Unitversity

    A charge based on weight of vehicle and distance travelled (as suggested by Deloitte) is of course already in place. It is called the fuel excise. A rough location component could be added by varying the excise according to location of the point of sale. Varying the charge by time of travel would, of course, need a different approach.

    The major difference between the Australian and European approaches appears to be that our infrastructure funding methods don't sufficiently reflect the fact that…

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  5. Russell Hamilton

    Librarian

    Am I missing something? The author writes that "It is important to note that the motoring groups do not say the average car driver needs to pay more. Instead, they argue that they should not pay less and they should pay differently."

    So the impression is that we have reduction in some charges - registration, fuel excise - and start to pay instead by user charges. But if we don't pay more overall, a lot more, because trains and tunnels cost billions, then the government doesn't get the extra money…

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Currenty, the government gets less and less income from fuel excise tax each year, so the current trend is that car drivers are actually paying less in fuel excise tax each year. The motor lobby want to keep sufficient revenues, so they want to introduce a system that is distance based. The current fuel excise tax is fixed per litre, and with cars getting more and more fuel effiicent, the tax that people pay is going down. So one option indeed is to make the fuel excise tax variable and no longer…

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    2. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      Michiel - so your proposal is to make motorists pay a lot more than they do at present?

      As cars become more fuel efficient, you can just raise the excise - not hard, you can increase it monthly. If the cost is great enough you should find some of the single-commuters-in-a-car (like me) changing to motor cycles - that should help congestion.

      If people are not changing their travel times it is because their routines suit their lives. If you force them to change you are forcing a cost on them that you aren't measuring: maybe they can't take their child to swimming training or music lessons, or drop off shopping for an elderly parent on the way to work, or whatever. If we want to make our busy lives work we need to pay for the infrastructure that supports us.

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    3. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      No I am not arguing that we need to pay more (the title btw is chosen by the editor). I would propose to let the average road user not pay more (and the majority actually less) by introducing a distance based scheme. Most people would pay less, the people that drive more than average pay more. This is by most people seen as a fair system. The argument of sufficient funding is raised by the motorist lobby, and I am trying to point out what the considerations are.

      I would definitely not want to…

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    4. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      I'm still not clear about what you want. You say "I would definitely not want to have people -pay a lot more than they currently do" yet you then go on to offer two scenarios: one is more congestion - obviously bad - and the other is for governments to raise a lot of money for new transport infrastructure. I take it you are in favor of governments spending a lot more on infrastructure - so where is the money to come from?

      Also, you propose that 'the average user doesn't pay more and the majority actually less' .... so that would seem to leave a minority of motorists with a big increase.

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    5. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      I am in favour of using the current road infrastructure as efficient as possible, so I think we should offer people a way to save money by letting them pay less if they choose to drive during the off-peak hours. For example, this could be done by giving them discounts on their current registration fee, in absence of a current distance based charging scheme. There are ways for doing this. This would already lead to significantly less congestion (as shown in other countries) without increasing the…

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    6. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      "so I think we should offer people a way to save money by letting them pay less if they choose to drive during the off-peak hours" - is it a choice for many people? Their times of work etc.

      Another trade-off with your proposal is presumably to allow the government to collect all this data on where everybody is at what time. How might this data be combined with other data being collected on us, and to what ends?

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    7. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Why not offer people who DO have the opportunity to change their departure time an incentive to do so? In Europe we did an experiment in which 5000 people between two cities could volunteer and we paid them money to avoid the morning peak. About 30% of them drove before 6.30 or after 9.30 to work by offering them money each day, and it actualy dissolved most of the congestion between the two cities. This has been done in about 6 more cities with the same result. Not everyone has to be able to change…

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    8. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      "I think we should look for solutions, and not come up with problems"

      Some people have a talent for spotting solutions and others for spotting problems - it takes all kinds. But this problem-focused view of life is tiring, which is why I don't want to have to think of how much it will cost to do drive here or there at this time or that. I would quite approve of doubling the excise and spending it on transport infrastructure - I don't have to think about that. Academics are probably people who love complexity - the rest of us, not so much.

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    9. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      Michael, would your proposal also apply to heavy/large vehicles such as trucks? I think it should as it seems to me that they cause a lot of congestion on roads.

      I do agree with the overall thrust of the proposal.

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    10. Graeme Blore

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Well said Russell. However, motoryclists in Victoria are charged MORE for registration than 4 WD's, courtesy of the Bracks tax on motorcycles, which has still not been removed by Baillieu's government, even though he called it a 'b....y disgrace' whilst in Opposition. Michiel, I note that you haven't commented at all on the Leaven study in Belgium, nor on the clear benefits of motorcycles and Powered Two Wheelers (PTW) as a partial solution to our congestion issues. See the following:

      "encouraging…

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    11. Phil Irvine

      Grazier

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      The rate for trucks should reflect the road pavement damage which they cause. A B-Double causes thousands of times more pavement damage than a car does and building roads for heavy vehicles is also much more costly than if only light vehicles used the roads.

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    12. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Russell Hamilton

      Russell, I am very much in favour of simple systems! Like the system in the USA where they simply read the odometer each year when the car gets a check up. I think that's great.

      I hope I am not one of those academics that likes complexity, I hope to at least contribute to solve real world problems, and the simpler the solution the better. Personally, I would be in favour for doubling the fuel excise tax as a second solution. The first best solution of having it differentiated by time of day is indeed more complicated and although it would use the current infrastructure more efficiently, you may be right that people rather prefer something really simple. But is knowing that driving each kilometer costs $0.05 too difficult for most people to understand? We can put taxi metres in cars :)

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    13. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry, yes it would include all vehicles, and heavy vehicles such as truck would pay significantly more because of the damage they cause to roads (as in Germany where they have to pay per kilometre).

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    14. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Graeme Blore

      Graeme, The Dutch kilometre charging scheme that was proposed a few years ago in the Netherlands stated that motorcyclists would not pay any kilometre charges, since they do not cause congestion (much) and do not damage the roads much. So I would support to keep motorcyclists free from paying a distance based charge, and let them pay a fixed registration fee that is much lower than for cars.

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    15. Eddy Schmid

      Retired

      In reply to Graeme Blore

      O.M.G. I can't believe the ignorance of some folks here.
      So according to the 'plot,' people need to be DISCOURAGED to using their bought and paid for vehicle,( including the taxes paid during that purchase), leave it at home in the garage and find alternative means to get about ? Have I got it right ?
      So overnight that expensive purchase is now simply a dead useless weight, and just another means of ripping off the customer. (I'm sure the auto industry will like that.)
      No where have I read the…

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    16. Russell Hamilton

      Librarian

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      "But is knowing that driving each kilometer costs $0.05 too difficult for most people to understand?"

      Now, now, Michiel - we can all understand it. It's just whether we want it. Some people will - they'll love working out when to put the washing on (for cheaper electricity), or when to drive to the shops (for cheaper road user charges)etc etc. What a pleasure that life of constant calculation would be. But it's not for me.

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    17. Gary Dean Brisneyland

      Sustainable Environments and Planning Student

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      Yes, I agree Michiel. City lights are on 24/7 and yet peak traffic is set to a couple of hours, morn and eve, Mon to Fri. What's with that??

      Then, I understand that many Brisneylanders prefer the Saturday morn trek to the Gold Coast and return on Sunday. When will we come to the understanding of the seven day week? Currently, plenty for all if it's meted properly. But currently it isn't.

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  6. grant moule

    Consultant

    The fuel excise tax is already a tax per kilometer and automatically factors in the weight/efficiency of a car.

    Firstly before doing anything else a big improvement would be for the government to actually spend all of the current fuel tax excise on road infrastructure not just the small proportion that they currently spend (I believe only a quarter to a third of this tax is actually spent on road infrastructure).

    This need to improve infrastructure is caused by an increasing population, and is expensive. This is only one of the costs that should be factored into the cost/benefit analysis of a larger population.

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to grant moule

      In my original text I clearly mentioned that all revenues should be hypothecated to investments in transport (by which I mean both road and public transport). This part was edited out because of length. So I agree they need to spend the full amount on infrastructure and public transport services.

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    2. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to grant moule

      Also, please note that the fuel excise tax goes to the federal government, while the registration fees go to the state government. So the state government at this moment has no distanced based charging mechanisms.

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    3. peter mackenzie

      Transport Researcher

      In reply to grant moule

      Grant, there is research (for example by Philip Laird at Wollongong University), concluding rather than overpaying via fuel excise, motorists don't pay enough money.

      Coupled to this is that governments at both state and federal levels, whether Liberal, Coalition or Labor, have wasted tens of billions of public $ on unnecessary or poorly chosen transport infrastructure projects, and by sheer waste on oveer-priced projects. The current federal coalition is continuing that process, as are most, if not all state governments.

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  7. David Dean

    Brain Surgeon

    This seems like it would hurt poor tradies who need to go all over the place more then anyone.

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    1. David Dean

      Brain Surgeon

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      Maybe those who work for themselves but those who work on big industrial sites and don't get any call out fees won't be able to.

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    2. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to David Dean

      Would they be able to see more clients in a single day if there is less congestion? Assuming it will only cost them about $1 extra to see each client, one extra client may already make them even more money? I am trying to find ways to make them more money :)

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    3. peter mackenzie

      Transport Researcher

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      Michiel, it's well known that courier companies for example in the most congested cities spend a lot more time and fuel per unit of delivery than those in other locations.

      I have read where certain businesses have relocated away from the more congested locations for those reasons.

      Governments regularly justify new roads or upgrades to existing ones for the reasons that for example, such and such bypass costing $300m will save each motorist 3/5/10 minutes travel time (and presumably less fuel).

      There are stats around about how much time (and fuel?) are spent idling in traffic. So we should be able to do some comparative stats on extra costs from pricing versus opportunity costs of saved time and less fuel from less congestion.

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    4. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to peter mackenzie

      Thanks for your comment Peter. Yes there are extensive studies that compare the cost from pricing with the reduction in costs from less congestion. The average value of time in Australia is around $10 an hour, which means that people are willing to spend $10 for an hour of travel time savings. Clearly, business people have a much higher value of time, trucks have also a much higher value of time, and students probably have a lower value of time. But from many studies all over the world it is clear that the costs of pricing are much lower than the opportunity costs, so we have the potential to save billions in welfare each year. This is a well-known fact and also the reason why all economists already agree since 1920 that road pricing is the most effective way to increase welfare. But it is an extremely difficult message to sell. So having the motorist lobbies like the NRMA, AAA, APA etc on board now will hopefully help in the acceptance.

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  8. Jay Wulf

    Digerati at nomeonastiq.com

    I was under the distinct impression that road users already paid hefty price for the roads.

    Income tax, Driver license levies, Rego stamp duty, petrol tax etc etc etc.

    But maybe the 'Free forests' Abbot administration is actually closet Greens. Maybe they really want to tax all the massive road burden imposed by heavy trucks and force those onto the rail system. But what is the bet that whatever onerous road tax regime is introduced, is going to provide corporate welfare for the Lindsay Foxes and tax ordinary folk?

    Anyway, our world's best treasurer Mr.Corrman (go back to where you came from ya efnik!) has just solved our infrastructure woes by selling Medibank private. So why this new 'mining tax' + 'carbon tax'? Good luck at the next election Mr. Abbot if you introduce this. With Julia gone, people might actually start examining just how onerous Abbots 'policies' actually are.

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  9. Frank Moore

    Consultant

    Stop the congestion at its source!
    That is the bloating of our population.
    The biggest single source of congestion is Australia's record levels of immigration.
    Call it - as it is!

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    1. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Frank Moore

      Our nearest town is Mackay in Nth Qld. 30 Km away. The CBD can't handle much more off-peak traffic now and there is gridlock on the three bridges over the river every peak hour. One brand spanking new bridge is subject to flooding for extended periods which just about brings all traffic to a total stand-still. The public transport can't even be considered marginally effective and it is infrequent for the suburban dwellers and does not cover near rural areas and towns at all where a substantial number…

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    2. Graeme Blore

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Frank Moore

      Frank, on what evidence do you base this assertion? Just for your information, and trust me, my credentials to state this are extremely strong, many many refugees are unable to afford a car, and even if they do drive, many do not travel long distances for a number of reasons.

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Frank Moore

      Frank,

      A lot of road congestion is arguably the result of building more freeways- which initially seem the answer but the result is more people living further out from their places of work, people driving more etc- hence we foster congestion.

      We need to improve public transport to encourage more journeys using it rather than vehicles. Also needed is greater in-fill development to increase urban density rather than urban sprawl.

      I do agree that increasing population by means of immigration is part of the equation but our governments seem committed to it so for now we have to adapt to that reality.

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    4. Frank Moore

      Consultant

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry Verberne, freeways - are just roads. They are inanimate objects only.
      The cars that choke them are a direct result of our "all you can eat" immigration policies. You need to accept that immigration is the only real and substantial reason for pop growth - given that we breed under replacement numbers - in line with most developed nations.
      Why do we create these interminable infrastructure problems? Think about it. Follow the money trail. Who benefits from "The Bloat"?
      Could it be import…

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    5. Frank Moore

      Consultant

      In reply to Graeme Blore

      Graeme Blore - the vast majority of our subsidy for importer billionaire based immigration policy is not constituted of refugees.
      How you have read my comments to that angle is a credit to your imagination. You are an imaginative guy Graeme - well done.

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    6. grant moule

      Consultant

      In reply to Frank Moore

      Totally agree. It makes me wonder if increased infrastructure costs and degredation of living standards are ever properly accounted for when considering a "big Australia", I suspect not.

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    7. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Frank Moore

      A radical but probably an effective measure :)

      Growth in population indeed increases the congestion problem, but it also is mostly responsible for the growth of the economy in this country. Economic growth and increases in welfare are good for us all, so why not sacrifice a bit of this welfare to improve the transport system?

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    8. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      Mike, This sounds like a land planning problem in which the CBD is attracting too many people than what it can really handle, while there is likely not more space to build more roads. Rail is able to carry a lot of people to the CBD, but rail is only useful between highly urbanised areas. Unfortunately, in Australia a lot of areas are quite low density outside the CBD, which is the real problem.

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    9. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      I completely agree with Henry. Building roads makes the cars more attractive, such it is results in more cars on the roads. With the current strategy of building more roads we will in a few years have even more severe congestion because we neglect public transport. We need better city planning. Create some high density areas and create efficient train/metro connections between them. Australian cities with single houses spread over very large areas is really very difficult, as low density does not allow efficient public transport systems and not cost-effective. For example, Sydney is 50x larger in size than Paris, and because it is so spread out it cannot have a metro system, since it would need to be 50x as large, which no no government could ever afford. So land planning and public transport planning go hand in hand.

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    10. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Frank Moore

      You forgot one interest group that supports a larger population Frank: big business.

      But your views raise points about the pros and cons about immigration. Migrants can and do contribute to society with skills, culture etc.

      The real question is whether negatives outweigh positives. I would suggest the positives outweigh the negatives or have up until the recent past.

      Sure, there is a question mark over the size of the annual immigration number. I would certainly support a critical look at the size of our intake.

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    11. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Big business, in supporting a larger population, just highlights how irresponsible they are, or worse, how wilfully ignorant they are.
      Australia is a dry country and we have plundered its natural resources. In 200 years we have done major damage compared to what we found when we arrived 200 years ago. Big business just wants to keep doing the same and will avoid any real discussion of the damage caused [not just by them, by all of us - however they refuse to contribute to a program to safeguard what is left] Obstructionists.
      Political parties allied to this attitude are toxic. It is our duty as individuals to alter this toxic attitude. If we don't then Nature will do it for us and out of our control. I don't mean nature through climate change, which will occur too slowly, I mean the bust up will be because the depredations on our environment will make us unable to recover.
      In the past people could migrate away but that's not an option in a world wide bust.

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    12. Frank Moore

      Consultant

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry, you just don't want to face it!
      The negatives include debt - foreign ownership - and structuring the economy - even the ecology - to be more and more import intensive.
      The roads are imported.
      The Cars are imported - along with the spares etc.
      The bridges and technologies employed are imported.
      The Government hires foreign owned consultancies to advise on which foreign owned construction firms are brought in to build the foreign shareholder controlled infrastructure.
      etc, etc.
      At the…

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    13. Frank Moore

      Consultant

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      ANd No Henry, i didn't forget Big Business. Mostly they are in fact big importers.
      Remember Newspapers Henry?
      Buy one and buy a red and green pens.
      Highlight the imports they advertise in RED
      Highlight locally made products advertised in GREEN.
      Now Henry - can you see any GREEN?
      Did you take the Green Pen's Lid Off.
      Money doesn't talk chump - it swears! and Big business - Big Politically Engaged Lobbying Business is Import Orientated.
      The pollies are lining up to take their dollars.
      And pollies are trained from birth to betray Australia's Interests for money...

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    14. Frank Moore

      Consultant

      In reply to John Doyle

      And John Doyle, Australia's environment is no where near as robust or as future proof as other nations enjoy. The lack of topsoils, water, and sensitivity to imported plants and animals.
      The other day i heard a former? head of the RSPCA defending - DEFENDING - the importation and breeding of cats and dogs in Australia. When you listen to an otherwise intelligent individual going out on a limb to defend the indefensible, it goes to show how hard it is to talk sense to morons...
      Yet talk sense we…

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    15. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Frank Moore

      You paint a pretty picture, but it is more realistic than the fiction spread by rent seekers and governments.
      I often say we the people are supposed to have a Grand Bargain with the government in that we 'Allow' ourselves to be governed and in return government looks out for our welfare, our safety, our infrastructure etc.
      It's been betrayed. Governments look out for us in some ways, but they spend more effort on rent seekers and policies aimed at enriching the already wealthy. They cow to vested interests and let these organisations write the rules. "to save money" they say. They have to save money but if they taxed properly they would have money to do the right thing by us all.
      So what do we see? Epidemics of obesity, ruined forests, ruined fisheries -you name it.
      No attempt to leave something for our children that is not degraded.
      The resilience we need to survive long term is made less likely with every passing day.

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  10. Vince Moore

    Retired

    What about me? My home is my fifth wheeler and I travel OZ nonstop on the pension. Odlies screwed again.

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Vince Moore

      You will not be forgotten :)
      People in retirement can usually avoid the peak hours, and travelling outside peak hours is proposed to be much cheaper. In their report, Deloitte gives by example that the rural kilometre price is 4x cheaper than an urban price in the peak hour. So this would mean that you can drive 4 times as much as a city commuter and pay the same amount of money.

      Personally, I believe that people who drive more should pay more, because they are using (and damaging) the roads more. The days that water and electriticy could be used unlimitedly are over, and so are the days that we can unlimitedly use the roads for a fixed registration fee.

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    2. Frank Moore

      Consultant

      In reply to Vince Moore

      No Vince - you will be forgotten!
      Once the academics green light a tax for the pollies - there's no going backwards...

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  11. Brian Keyte

    Potter

    Thanks Michiel. A subject that needs a lot of discussion.
    Although quite impractical at the moment, electric vehicles will soon start to come to the fore with technical developments currently in the pipeline, giving us three times the range and minutes, if not seconds of recharge times, depending on power available at the recharge point. The existing fuel excise regime will see them not contributing to the revenue pool, regardless of how much or little of that is spent on transport.
    Some system of charging for use of ( predominantly city based) infrastructure by these vehicles would seem to be in order.
    It would also generate a huge industry of avoidance no doubt.

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    1. Eddy Schmid

      Retired

      In reply to Brian Keyte

      Brian, please refer to my earlier post regards the TESLA situation in the U.S.
      I should also point out, that with the TESLA vehicles there is no range restraint, therefore that would negate the fallicy of lack of range.
      The truth is there is LESS MONEY to be made by the introduction of electric vehicles, and that's the sole reason for the lack of acceptance of this mode of transport.
      This belief is fostered and pushed at every opportunity by the vested interests in the motoring industry AND the fossil fuel industry, as well as the MSM.
      The TESLA manufacturers had PROVEN their vehicles are sound and reliable, and excellent replacement for the current gas guzzlers, however the greed of multinational corporations and their shareholders, that have had a stranglehold on our lives will ensure things are as difficult as they can be to prevent the successful introduction of electric vehicles

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    2. Frank Moore

      Consultant

      In reply to Brian Keyte

      Yep, that's great!
      We can replace the entire petrol fleet with imports of overseas manufactured electric cars etc.
      And drive that stuff around - in our bloat driven traffic jams.
      Imports - imports imports!
      Aint free trade grand!

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    3. Mark Amey

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      I am in Italy, now, and every street in the big cities already have charging points for electric cars. They are small, safe, carry two humans plus a loaf of bread and a six pack. Let's face it, most of our journeys are one or two people, for fairly short distances. A great pity that most of these little vehicles don't meet our Australian standards. Perhaps our standards need revision?

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    4. Frank Moore

      Consultant

      In reply to Mark Amey

      Last I heard, the foreign debt owed by Italy equals the sovereign funds of the PRC - so complete is the mismanagement of mafia driven Italy.
      Lets not replace imported fleets of petrol and diesel cars with a new importation of electric vehicles!
      That sort of thinking turned Italy into the basket case of Europe!

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  12. Alison Barber

    logged in via email @barbermurphy.id.au

    Interesting idea, but what is main game here - to reduce congestion or fund infrastructure on user pays basis? Rings alarm bells on rural infrastructure. Cost of rural roads is disproportionately high relative to number of users. You suggest rural users would pay less as not congested but would rural roads be subsidised by urban users or would greater transparency of costs leave rural users to foot high bill of building/maintaining rural roads.
    Also ditto Brian Keyte, anything that is based on specifics such as kms travelled and times is surely going to feed creative avoidance and generate a costly bureaucratic exercise in cracking down on the same.

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Alison Barber

      There are indeed two objectives that the motorist lobbies try to look at at once, ensuring sufficient funding, and when moving the a distance based payment system, then why not immediately also aim to reduce congestion.

      Their report states that particularly rural drivers would benefit, I must admit I have not read the entire Deloitte report so I do not know the details.

      I believe Brian Keyte agreed with the fact that we need a distance based charging scheme, as for example electrical vehicles…

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  13. Zeo maz

    Untrained Monkey.

    Well now, the motorist groups (which ones?) have been sucked in to agree with government rip off of road users. Until politicians get rid off their perks and snouts in troughs they can shove their new taxes where the sun doesnt shine!

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Zeo maz

      The following Australian motoring groups are involved: Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Australian Automobile Association, NMRA, RAVC, and RACQ.

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  14. Les Johnston

    logged in via Twitter

    When will road users start to pay based upon the damage done to roads?
    When will payments for roads include the cost of the sterilisation of the land for other persons? Road networks occupy large chunks of ribbon land. What is the value of this land? Who pays for the return on the investment in this land? The analysis in this report does not go anywhere near far enough. Casual references to transfers to public transport need to also include the investment in roads for non-public transport ie trucks and cars. Damage caused to roads by heavy vehicles needs to be included in charges without cross subsidisation.

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    1. peter mackenzie

      Transport Researcher

      In reply to Les Johnston

      Les, I agree with your comments. but of course Australians generally have far greater attachment to cars and roads than just practical (ie transport) value. Cars are so much an extension of self - ie ego/house and home on wheels.

      And the post-war boom of car-use and cheap fuel, and the promise of cars going faster and faster all mixed in their.

      And cars need roads, and more and bigger roads, no matter how much land they consume.

      And freight and other industry wants roads to move their…

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    2. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Les Johnston

      Yes the user charges will also be based on the damage done to the roads. Heavy vehicles will according to their proposal pay more than light vehicles. In particular trucks will likely pay a heavy km price.

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  15. Rory Cunningham

    Test Analyst

    Good idea in theory but how do you enforce paying per km? If it's a speedometer solution then you can't differentiate between rural/city roads which rules out being able to charge less for rurals (unless it's based on residence).

    The other solution I've seen posted, is an IT solution which will be incredibly expensive to setup. Every car would need a GPS, a GPS that is locked into the car otherwise the driver can take it out and let it sit at home. You would then need to consult with satellite companies to use their infrastructure, maintain records of the cars travelling between them (10 million as an estimate) and it must be a federal system as cars travel interstate. There would be privacy concerns to be addressed as well as the potential to block the GPS signals.

    As a rough estimate I say you'd be looking at $5 billion for a trial (probably ACT) then $20billion+ for a nation wide rollout.

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Rory Cunningham

      Very good point. So let's try to be creative here. I will give it a try.

      I will take the example of making the fixed registration fee variable. Let people continue paying their registration fees in advance, but offer them a discount when they show proof of driving less kilometres than the population average (around 15000 kms). They can annually show their odometer readings and get money back. This is of course all voluntary. Now we introduce something new, namely that people can get more discounts…

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    2. Rory Cunningham

      Test Analyst

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      Sorry for the delay, damn work ruining my procrastination! Looking at your example there would still be issues with privacy and the associated costs. To me the biggest issue isn't the infrastructure but how the data is going to be stored and how it interacts with current systems. The GPS system must work with all the different state networks, unfortunately I haven't worked for the road authorities so I don't know how much cross-over there is between the departments. Considering the state of the state…

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  16. Chris Standen

    PhD candidate in Transport Policy & Planning at University of Sydney

    When we use public transport, we pay a charge that reflects distance travelled and current congestion levels (off-peak/on-peak). No one ever whinges about this.

    So it's only fair that when we drive, we should pay different amounts depending on the distance we're travelling, and the amount we're contributing to congestion.

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  17. John Holmes

    Agronomist - semi retired consultant

    When I charge my electric bike, scooter, car or similar from my solar panels on my roof and I may also use the car battery as a eatery pack to help out at night what then?

    In some places that there are charges to go into the center of commercial districts etc so less traffic there - Singapore. That penalizes the actual users, yes the taxis pay too, and focuses attention on high demand areas. Will need to have good public transport, or a more diffuse CBD. Do that by differential ratings on property values. That concept also opens up the discussion re tax collection from those whose values are derived from the aggregate demand from the community for particular areas of land. Cf any CBD and a block at say Borroloola in the NT.

    Is this part of the answer? Fuel taxes do tax those long distance drivers, but if they are not in the CBD at peak hour, they are not costing others via delays or the need for better infrastructure.

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to John Holmes

      All very good points. If we can charge based on weight of the vehicle, distance, time of day, and location, then we can essentially achieve any goal we like, from increasing revenues, to reducing congestion, etc. Main political points have always been acceptability and affordable technology. The public did not accept it, so the discussion never really started. Now that the motorist lobby is actually proposing it, we may finally have such a discussion.

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  18. Walking the byways

    Acc Manager

    I generally support the concept, having lived in London where congestion and public transport make owning a car foolish.

    If this encourages just 10% of Melbourne drivers out of their cars and into public or active transport then for those that wish to pay the congestion level will be the same as during school holidays. If 20% mode shift the congestion will be like the first week of January.

    Personally I oftern bicycle the 20K to work so not paying the rego on those days will be a bonus. The down side is I drive a small deisel so I do very little damage compared to the big V8 so hopefully the weight loading will work in my favour.

    For those in the outer suburbs they could use car/bike and public transport.

    Country driving should be cheaper and so it should be.

    As for Tony he will have an other thought bubble soon.

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  19. Susan Keirnan

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Travelling smarter rather than harder ought to be the underlying goal here. Does this model mean that Victoria might finally move into the 21st century and have a well thought out, energy efficient, cheap public transport system that is also a source of employment?

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  20. Steve Hindle

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Looking at the problem of congestion from another angle, many people either voluntarily or involuntarily change jobs that require them to commute considerable distances. Removing as many impediments to shifting house as possible could help many people reduce their commute times. At present the State Govts hit house holders a massive 20k plus penalty via stamp duty. When house holders do their sums it often ends up not worth shifting and instead putting up with the long commutes.

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      This is an interesting discussion. I believe we should all become more aware of our mobility when we choose where to live and where to work. Our travel now is actually too cheap (although many will disagree with me). Some statistics: in Australia in the past 5 years, 90% of young households (<35 years) have moved at least once, 45% of parents in couple families with dependent children have moved at least once, and 59% of lone parents with dependent children have moved at least once. So we should become much more aware when we move about our mobility situation, and if a distance based charging scheme making people live closer to work, then that is a big win. I agree that penalties for moving is not really helping.

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  21. Craig Read

    logged in via Twitter

    I'd be all for this if people had to pay higher rates the closer they lived to the CBD.
    Without that, it's simply not fair for those who live on the margins of our cities (which is most of us).

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    1. Michiel Bliemer

      Chair in Transport and Logistics Network Modelling at University of Sydney

      In reply to Craig Read

      The more congested the area, the higher the price in my opinion, so kilometres in the suburbs should be cheaper than kilometres in the CBD. But your comment is very important, as this is the main dilemma for politicians. I would support first investging much more in good public transport services in the suburbs, such that people actually have options when a distance based system is introduced. This problem is very well understood and therefore any distance based charging system should be devised with great care to take any equity issues into account. Not a simple problem to solve, but doable.

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    2. peter mackenzie

      Transport Researcher

      In reply to Michiel Bliemer

      Michael, thanks so much for joining in on the commentary as well as writing the interesting article. Not all authors join in the commentary, but I believe it is worthwhile, as has been the case here.

      Cheers

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    3. Gary Dean Brisneyland

      Sustainable Environments and Planning Student

      In reply to Craig Read

      You might be onto something there Craig. My understanding is that some premium suburbs do charge more for rates than others.

      Having said that, I wonder if long-standing communities should have their costs increased because of a lack of population control.

      Maybe an entirely new Conversation.

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  22. Eddy Schmid

    Retired

    Quote, "and the additional revenue would facilitate the removal of fixed fees like registration expenses and the fuel excise tax." Unquote. LOL, you had me rolling on the floor with laughter, is this a joke or something ?
    Where have I heard these FAMOUS words before ? Could it be during the GST debate ? Where we were told similar things, that many useless taxes/charges and fess would be dropped ?
    AND, WERE THEY ?
    Not on your nelly, we are even now charged a TAX ON THE GST component, how's that…

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    1. Georgina Byrne
      Georgina Byrne is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer at Farming

      In reply to Eddy Schmid

      Well maybe after July 1st you should ask the New Motoring Enthusiasts' senator to intervene on behalf of motorists. Pity there isn't a Public Transport Enthusiasts Party...oh I forgot...there is The Greens, whose members bang on about Public transport all the time! Great article and commentary by the way. Thanks for that.

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  23. Gary Dean Brisneyland

    Sustainable Environments and Planning Student

    I'm really lost as to why so many people as here think that a fairer and more equitable road-user system is not due. We need to totally re-arrange the taxi system toward a public transport relationship. I can not understand why some think it's fair for my car to sit parked for some five days each week while I take public transport (including a considerable walk) drive two days, ie to a hardware store or a visit to a friend or relaxation spot away from home and then expect all registrations be equal…

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  24. John Kelmar

    Small Business Consultant

    We are already paying taxes for using the roads - that is what the fuel excise charges are funding.

    If politicians and public servants used public transport instead of cars, then congestion would diminish, and keep trucks off the roads during the busy periods.

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    1. peter mackenzie

      Transport Researcher

      In reply to John Kelmar

      John, the widespread belief that we motorists pay for the roads is just that, a belief only.

      Michael Deegan from Infrastructure Australia recently stated that the shortfall every year is $1.5 billion nationally. ("The Bingara ccord Speech", Australia Day 2014).

      However, that doesn't include the $27 billion dollar cost of road crashes, much of which is not recovered from motorists.

      Add that to costs of congestion and emissions and the shortfall is much larger than the figure from Mr Deegan.

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    2. peter mackenzie

      Transport Researcher

      In reply to peter mackenzie

      Sorry John, that's Bingara Accord Speech - typing fingers not working too well at the moment.

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