ERP RATES IN TOWN SHOULD START FROM $20

Edric thinks that mo­torists should be charged more un­der Elec­tronic Road Pric­ing. Is he nuts?

Torque (Singapore) - - FRONT PAGE - EDRIC PAN

CAN we please in­crease our ERP rates? They’re too low. Wait, hear me out.

The long-touted ra­tio­nale for car prices in Sin­ga­pore be­ing among the world’s high­est, is that road space here is in such short sup­ply that al­low­ing every­one to buy cars would re­sult in hope­less grid­lock.

Ex­cept the ra­tio­nale over­looks the fact that it’s ve­hi­cle us­age, not own­er­ship, which causes con­ges­tion. After all, who con­trib­utes more to traf­fic jams – the of­fice-bound chap who only drives to work in the morn­ing and back in the evening, or the Grab driver who spends all day ply­ing the roads (and oc­ca­sion­ally stop­ping ran­domly mid-junc­tion to let his phone’s sat-nav app catch up)?

Even the wealth­i­est tech bil­lion­aire with a dozen su­per­cars tucked in the base­ment of his dis­trict 10 GCB (Good Class Bun­ga­low) can only ever use one car at a time. It’s the pri­vate­hire driver or the rov­ing sales ex­ec­u­tive who drives about all day, who is the prob­lem.

So let’s do away with our hun­dred-plus per­cent ARF taxes and COEs, and let peo­ple buy as many cars as they want – with the pro­viso that they must first show that they have suf­fi­cient off-street park­ing to house each car, so that we don’t end up with es­tate roads and HDB carparks clogged with parked cars in­stead. And then raise ERP rates to the point of pain – make it pro­hib­i­tively ex­pen­sive to drive into town on week­days, for in­stance. Some­thing at the level of cen­tral Lon­don’s £11.50 (S$21.30) con­ges­tion charge should do the trick.

The main con­ges­tion cul­prits – pri­vate-hire driv­ers, cab­bies, de­liv­ery com­pa­nies – will all feel the pinch. But that’s be­cause the rest of us are no longer ab­sorb­ing the cost of the neg­a­tive ex­ter­nal­i­ties in­flicted by their cho­sen liveli­hood.

And by mak­ing it pro­hib­i­tively costly to drive into town (or to other con­ges­tion hotspots), trans­port de­ci­sions (and, in the longer term, city plan­ning) will hope­fully change – more busi­nesses will re­lo­cate to sub­ur­ban hubs, peo­ple will switch to MRT, buses or cy­cling in­stead of waste­ful sin­gleper­son pri­vate-hire car or taxi jour­neys, and mar­ginal trips will be fore­gone.

And what’s in it for the petrol­head? With no more ARF and COEs, a more ex­otic ride or per­haps a multi-car col­lec­tion may now be within reach for the aver­age car-lov­ing Joe, as it is else­where in the world.

I would hap­pily give up the daily drive to work and ride the train in­stead, if it means that I can af­ford a 911 GT3 for the week­ends. If rais­ing ERP rates leads to lower car prices, bring it on.

The colum­nist sug­gests that ERP rates for cars driven into town on week­days should be painful, like $20.

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