GOVERNMENT’S ERP REVENUE – WHY THE MYSTERY?
As ERP 2.0 approaches, communication must improve significantly for a better public buy-in.
have lived with the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system for 20 years now. Whether we like it or not, believe it or not, the system has helped to keep traffic congestion in check. How do we know this? Well, one clear sign would be how smooth traffic is when ERP charges are high. Try it the next time – drive through a road when the ERP rate is $4 or $6 – and you will have a swift journey. Conversely, when ERP charges are low at, say, $1, you will see quite a different situation on the same road.
So, you can imagine if there was no ERP at all. You may say that ERP merely decants traffic to other areas (roads without ERP), and that it makes little difference to the
POLICYMAKERS CAN BE MORE TRANSPARENT WITH THE REVENUE EARNED FROM ERP.
whole road network. Perhaps. But spreading out demand over a wider location – and indeed, over a span of time – is a way of optimising capacity. Would road users be able to decide how they should “spread out” without ERP? Possibly, with advanced wayfinding technologies such as Waze and Iniz providing real-time traffic inputs, drivers will be able to avoid more congested roads. These apps are also able to allow users to avoid ERP.
But of course, ERP is not just about nudging you to alter your driving habits. It would be naive to ignore the system’s revenueearning potential. There is nothing wrong with that. Every country runs on tax revenue. Nothing is free. Those who feel they should not contribute to taxes should go live on a desert island, away from civilisation.
For roads, it is only right that the user-pays principle also applies. But we already pay road tax, you protest. Well, yes. Road tax allows you to be on the road. ERP charges are for the amount of congestion you contribute. Road tax is progressive – the bigger and badder your car is, the more you pay. ERP does not do that.
Of course, in Singapore, where there are dozens of vehicular taxes and levies, it is difficult to have public buy-in on each and every one of them. People tend to lump them altogether and think the Government is just fleecing them. It is natural.
To have better buyin, which is an important political consideration (and not just around election time), the Government should really streamline these taxes and levies.
If there is some ambiguity or overlap, streamline – even if it means losing revenue temporarily. And if it cannot streamline, then it should spend more effort in communicating and educating. Not doing either is just not tenable. Not in today’s world. On this, the Government needs to explain ERP revenue figures better. Because they do not seem to add up.
According to The Straits Times news archives, ERP revenue in 2003 averaged $320,000 a day – or around $80 million a year (excluding weekends and public holidays). There were around 40 gantries back then, and peak charge for cars was $2.50.
With evening ERP, higher peak-period tariffs and about 80 gantries, Electronic Road Pricing revenue should be close to $1 million a day.