(Move your mouse over the vehicles)
In reporting a proposed congestion charge in Manchester, UK, some of the international media seem to have got a bit confused.
The Daily Mirror says: There are now also congestion charges in Stockholm, Melbourne and Toronto.
CNN reports: Melbourne, Australia, has imposed a charge for downtown driving since 2000.
No. Melbourne does not have a congestion charge. It has toll roads. They are completely different things. The toll only applies to Citylink (and shortly Eastlink), not to a myriad of other routes. It can be avoided.
Melbourne also has a CBD parking levy, which has marginally increased the price of central city parking. Unfortunately a lot of the money from this is being blundered away on a tourist bus service (they call it a “shuttle”, but actually it’s a loop).
At the Press Club luncheon yesterday, during the time for questions, I got up and reminded Brian Negus from RACV about the RACV’s 2004 prediction that petrol prices had peaked at $1.08 cents per litre, and asked what their current medium-to-long-term prediction is.
Brian didn’t give a direct answer, but instead said nobody really knew what would happen, and talked about wanting to get rid of excise, and replace it with a congestion tax.
It was a nonsense answer, of course, and I’m not really surprised he avoided a direct response, though I find it hard to believe the RACV hasn’t done some forecasting of global oil prices. (Hint: Supply is flat or has peaked; demand is up. Economics 101.)
Cutting excise would cost billions every year, and would benefit the rich (who buy the most petrol), and exacerbate emissions by removing the incentive to get off oil. It would also be swimming against the tide of expected oil price increases — with any benefit to motorists probably gone within a couple of years.
And a congestion tax? Perhaps it’s okay in theory, it’s certainly worked in London. But actually, in a world of increasing petrol prices, a tax on petrol does much the same thing. It stings you more for driving more. Unless you have a hybrid vehicle, it stings you more for driving in congested traffic. It stings you more for driving inefficient polluting vehicles. Why bother spending billions on vehicle tracking devices when plain ol’ petrol tax does a better job?
If anything, the tax should go up, with rego coming down, so you pay for driving your car, not having it in the garage 6 days a week. The problem is it would unfairly sting those in regional areas, who even if PT was genuinely competitive in urban areas would still have little choice but to drive.
If I’d had the chance, my second question to Brian Negus would have been about whether or not the RACV is properly representing its members in promoting endless roads expansion. They often quote polling saying their members think congestion will get worse, but never seem to produce anything saying their members want freeways under Melbourne Cemetery and Royal Park, or through the Yarra Flats and the landscapes of the Heidelberg School.
Not that I’m one of their members anymore.
PS. Vote today on whether you think the government should reduce the excise tax on fuel: Herald Sun poll.