Tuesday 16 November 2010

Congestion Charging advocated for Melbourne

Allan Fels, Dean of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government  has said in the Australian newspaper that congestion charging would be one of the best measures to improve economic efficiency in the state of Victoria, Australia.

Victoria has already investigated traffic congestion and congestion charging before, in a comprehensive report by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission.   The response of the Victorian government was to embrace many of the proposals around new infrastructure and public transport services, but to sidestep urban congestion pricing.  Given Melbourne's extensive CBD centred public transport network, pricing road access to the CBD (which already exists on two tolled corridors) does not appear unreasonable, but is politically difficult.  Although parking is effectively priced and rationed in a way that forms a second-best proxy to congestion charging.  Yet urban CBD charging alone would only address some of Melbourne's congestion problems given the very large area of the metropolis and high usage of cars for trips that do not focus on the CBD.   This suggests that wider reform of road charging policy (replacing fuel taxes and ownership taxes with distance based charging) may have more applicability.

Yet the mere fact it is being discussed in Australia is progress on its own.   Simply building roads and building public transport networks in themselves does not address the fundamental problem with not efficiently pricing roads - when demand exceeds supply, queuing eventuates.

It follows on from reports earlier this year that Infrastructure Australia is supporting congestion charging to make cities more sustainable, and to raise revenue to improve transport networks.

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