With evening ERP, higher peak-period tariffs and about 80 gantries, Electronic Road Pricing revenue should be close to $1 million a day.
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 revenue- earning 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 buy-in, 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.
POLICYMAKERS CAN BE MORE TRANSPARENT WITH THE REVENUE EARNED FROM ERP.