Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tel Aviv to host distance based congestion charging trials

Traffic Technology and Diamond News both report that the Israeli highway operator, Ayalon Highways, had a tender on its website for a pilot programme to test congestion charging in Tel Aviv. The deadline for participation in the trial was 12 April.

The report says:

- The Israeli government is considering reducing the purchase tax on new vehicles and to replace it with user fees;
- Congestion fees would be “between NIS 0.10 and NIS1.00 (US$0.03-US$0.30) per kilometer of travel inside the city, based on traffic congestion”;
- A pilot programme would have 1200 vehicles, measuring travel by distance, time of day and location; and
- The pilot will involve the following incentive “A motor vehicle that does not travel to the Tel Aviv city center during rush hour and whose congestion charge does not exceed NIS100 ($30), will receive an NIS 250 ($75) credit. The fee, according to the pilot scheme, will not be paid to a driver who disconnects from the system during the trial period.”

Obviously, this sort of trial will be very interesting, and politically contentious. With the successful HOT lane already established from Tel Aviv to the airport, it certainly puts Israel at the leading edge of road pricing in the Middle East, in technical, economic, but most importantly in policy terms in delivering results for users, not just showing off technology.

If GPS based congestion charging proves technically viable and acceptable to users (the offer of credits is quite lucrative) in this trial, then Tel Aviv could be in the race to be the first city to ever implement time, distance, place based congestion charging (Singapore is the other key contender at present).

It is fairly obvious from a policy perspective that this is the most optimal solution for any city, but the key limitation will be ensuring all users are equipped, at a reasonable price. Before they are, any such system must have a backup based on ANPR to capture those who are not equipped. However, it is early days yet. I look forward to seeing the results of the Tel Aviv trial, and hope that it forms the basis for an implementation that can deliver positive results for network management and users.

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