Monday, 9 July 2012

Congestion charging recommended for Perth, rejected by politicians

The West Australian reports that Committee for Economic Development of Australia Chief Economist Nathan Taylor has proposed that Perth introduce congestion charging because the city’s congestion is only at peak times, meaning road improvements to address congestion are underutilised the rest of the day. 

The Committee produced a report indicating that by 2020, congestion will cost the city A$2.1 billion a year. 

 However, the idea has been rejected by the Transport Minister Troy Buswell (Liberal Party), who says the state is widening freeways and expanding bus services, bus and cycle lanes. The Shadow Transport Minister, Ken Travers (Labor Party) also rejected the idea. 

 Clearly in the boom times Western Australia is experiencing, spending money on new infrastructure is far preferred to getting better utilisation out of what is already there. I suspect congestion pricing of some form is far more likely to be seen in Sydney and Melbourne before it is followed in Perth.

A key issue would be what sort of scheme Perth could take that would be effective.  

A central city cordon is easy to conceive of, but would create a very artificial boundary to the north and west of the CBD if it simply followed the freeways that encircle the area.

Perth congestion charge single cordon option
Yet I doubt that would achieve very much, because as a proportion of metropolitan Perth, which has a population of over 1.7 million people, it is small, and much employment and travel is not about trips to and from the centre.   

Perth's commuter catchment area is on a long strip along the coast

There aren't enough freeways to consider tolling them, so the most optimal solution is likely to be a time, place, distance based charge, which would involve vehicles paying by usage on all roads.  In the absence of the state pursuing this as an option to replace other taxes, it is highly unlikely that this idea will get any traction.   However, given the discussions underway in New South Wales of that idea, especially for trucks, could there be some value in Western Australia looking to replace some existing taxes used to pay for roads with a distance based option?

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