NOVEMBER 2008 NEWS
Saturday 29 November 2008
"Environmental extremists" in control in Washington State - Port Orchard Independent - "Transportation funding is really PSRC’s hammer".
Other stories - New Jersey - "Taking a toll on commuters" New Jersey - "No savings" letter "State of Florida should think before leasing Alligator Alley" letter New York - "Truckers roll through Skaneateles in protest of DOT plan" West Virginia - "Decision on WVa toll hike may wait".
Little trolls go to prison for taking money from the big trolls
Sixty-nine Macedonian "heads of departments, inspectors and collectors at the road tolls" have either gone to prison or been given suspended sentences for creaming off some of the loot - Makfax - ""Snake Eye" - no organized crime, 12 persons got prison sentences".
Tamar Tolls - Businesses don't like proposed toll rise
As usual the bulk of vehicles are registered abroad - Plymouth Herald - "Businesses' fury at being ignored over toll increases".
More on - VAT trick
South Wales Argus - "Severn Bridge may not pass VAT cut to drivers". This is much ado about little. Why are the Welsh politicians not instead campaigning for the Government to scrap this tax on those travelling into South Wales or at least demanding the Government give back ALL the VAT it takes on the tolls?
Little more on little Italian tolls froze
Herald Tribune - "Italy to freeze tolls and restrict mortgage rates as part of economic stimulus plan".
Friday 28 November 2008
"Climate Bill scores a fail in economics"
The Register. In our view this correctly mocks MPs and we agree that a carbon tax is better than the other alternatives and particularly a corrupt "cap and trade" system. We also agree that various existing taxes, and in particular fuel duty, are higher than they need to be even if you accept the Global warming faith. But the Global warming theory may turn out be wrong, and though fuel or carbon taxes are the least innocuous "cure", those taxes may still distort what might otherwise be the best course for future human happiness. And a lot depends on whether you think the State will spend these extra taxes in a better way than individuals. Another issue is that fuel is a scarce expensive resource, so it is odd that we should need a high tax to discourage its use, and as its price will be on a permanent upward trend, there is an argument for instead lowering fuel taxes when the price is high.
Selling "green" taxes
Reuters - "Green taxes need explaining or risk backlash-study". This story from Norway appears to be a prelude to a big Global Warming beano in Poznan between 1st and 12th December. Perhaps they can "polish" off a few lagers to cool down.
Massachusetts - "House looks to fast-track hearing on toll mitigation, gas tax bills" Massachusetts - "Reinstein expresses outrage, works to halt toll increase" Connecticut - "Highway tolls loom as funding source, but not all are won over" West Virginia - "Manchin administration on W.Va. Turnpike: Toll hike will be essential" New Jersey - "Parkway, Turnpike tolls increase Monday" Massachusetts - "Toll hike hearing in Lynn Dec. 15" Washington State - "Get ready for higher bridge tolls – or not" Texas - "TxDOT has $6.2 billion wish list for Obama stimulus".
Incredible cost of new Forth Road bridge comes down
Courier - "Plan for billion-pound cut in Forth bridge bill". We have at various times commented on the astronomic figures that were being quoted for a new Forth road bridge. It is good that there are now more realistic forecasts of the cost of a bridge and of the future life of the existing bridge. But in our view the cost figures are still far too high.
By coincidence another new road bridge across the Forth opened last week - Courier 20th November - "Long wait over for bridge". This is welcome, though as we pointed out when this bridge was first approved, they could have built a far bigger bridge for little more than the £120 million this bridge cost, and that would have helped with any problems on the main Forth road bridge downriver.
More on the Mayor's decision to scrap the Western extension
Including a call on the Mayor to scrap the toll now before more traders go out of business - BBC - "Calls for immediate C-charge cuts " Evening Standard - "Council urges Mayor to abolish C-charge extension before 2010" Evening Standard - "'Without this we would have gone under'" FT - "Mayor to scrap toll's western extension" Guardian - "Johnson takes axe to congestion charge zone" Independent - "Boris set to halve congestion zone" Transport Briefing - "Congestion Charge western extension decision slammed".
PS Evening Standard - "C-charge fine for 2012 parade floats".
Tolls for Toronto?
National Post - "Road tolls back on GTA's agenda".
Thursday 27 November 2008
DfT Stats - "Road goods vehicles travelling to mainland Europe - Q3 2008"
As usual the bulk of vehicles are registered abroad - DfT.
Dartford Toll - letters
From Bexley Times - "Your toll tales" "A charge too far" "Six reasons why the crossing must be axed" "We must seek toll alternatives".
More on Fantasy bridge
We reported yesterday that the Government had renewed its backing for a new bridge near Liverpool that would in effect replace a busy free bridge with a tolled one - and with a reduction in traffic! One of the Councils whose residents will be worst affected has now, despite its concerns, voted to support the proposals - Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News - "Silver Jubilee Bridge toll under fire".
PS Later report - Runcorn and Widnes World - "Double boost for Runcorn/Widnes bridge plans".
Italian tolls frozen - but only for 4 months
Reuters - "UPDATE 1-Italy to freeze road tolls until end April".
More coverage of the Mayor's announcement
After his scoop this morning, this is what Andrew Gilligan later reported in the Evening Standard - "Boris scraps congestion charge western extension".
The Times say that "fares are likely to rise" and "that traffic and air pollution would rise" - "London congestion charge zone slashed by Boris Johnson". With friends like this, Boris does not need any enemies.
In the Telegraph, the Driver's Alliance say that it is a "triumph of democracy over authoritarianism", but the Greens and the Cycling establishment do not like it - "London congestion charge: Western extension scrapped".
The Editor of the Evening Standard appeared to have recently reversed the paper's position of being against the charge. But today we were glad to see this reaction to the news from the Editor -
"THE MAYOR has kept his election promise and, as we report, tomorrow he will announce the outright abolition of the western zone of the congestion charge. It is a bold move: many people had expected him to retain the charge during the morning peak.The official announcement will be made in Portobello Road market, and with a reason. The chief problem about the western zone was that it adversely affected small businesses within the zone. Research by Transport for London found that there was a fall of two per cent in the number of people shopping in the area during the week and a rise of one per cent at weekends when the charge does not apply. And that trend will be more pronounced after the opening of the Westfield shopping centre, with space for thousands of cars, outside the charge zone. The figures do not take account of the economic downturn but it has fallen heavily on small traders: they need all the help they can get.
But even on its own terms - reducing congestion - the charge has not worked. Bus speeds are no higher than they were before it was introduced. And while 30,000 fewer cars enter the zone than before, this is partly offset by increased journeys on the fringe of the zone and by residents of the zone taking advantage of their reduced charge to drive in the central zone.
It is good that the Mayor is keeping his promises. Yet congestion remains a problem, and a robust approach by TfL to roadworks would help. Small businesses would profit from a more liberal parking policy. But the western zone is on the way out and the Mayor's supporters will feel vindicated."
This morning's story by Andrew Gilligan in the Evening Standard has been confirmed. The Mayor has this morning announced that following the result of the public consultation he will begin the legal processes required to remove the Western Extension of the Congestion Charging zone - Press release - "Western extension: Londoners have spoken and the Mayor has listened" BBC - "C-charge extension to be scrapped " Guardian - Dave Hill's London Blog - "Western Extension will go" Guardian - "Boris Johnson axes London congestion charge extension" London Daily News - "Analysis as people power k.o's congestion zone" Mayorwatch - "C-charge extension to be scrapped".
This was our reaction -
People and businesses around Britain who have been campaigning against "congestion charging" will be both pleased and surprised at today's decision. It had been feared that as with the former London Mayor, the results of the consultation
would be ignored.
Congestion charging is an expensive confidence trick. It may have reduced the number of vehicles in the London charge zone, but it failed to improve the speed of traffic and the officials have not been able to detect the slightest improvement in air quality.
This ineffective scheme has come at a great cost. When the toll charge was five pounds it cost almost that to collect and try to enforce it, leaving very little to go towards any transport improvements. The charge also hit small businesses, particularly shops and restaurants, and the vast majority of those in the area of the Western extension will be relieved that it is going. It is a pity that they will apparently have to wait till Spring 2010 before the charge is gone.
People in the Manchester area are just about to have a local poll on whether toll charges should be introduced there. We hope that the people of Manchester will see what is happening in London and vote "No". If Londoners had ever been given the choice, the London "Con" would never have taken place.
KSWT - "SF mulls plan to charge tolls on busy city streets".
Trolls building up funds in hope that Obama backs building private roads - BNet - "Could Financing Infrastructure Be the Next Big Thing?".
More on Mass Pike toll - Wicked - "Pike toll increases are bad for Boston" Daily News Tribune - "Gov. Patrick is open to raising the gas tax instead of Pike tolls".
More on suggestions to fix finances of New York's MTA - NY1 - "Report: Commission To Recommend Tolls On East River Bridges" Lower Hudson Journal - "How much money does MTA need?" letter NY Times - "Taxes and Tolls Sought in Plan to Save M.T.A." Queens Chronicle - "TMTA proposal prompts talk of boycott".
Other stories -
Maine - "3 plans offered for toll hikes" Florida - "Tolls coming to I-95's northbound express lanes in Miami-Dade County" Virginia - "Norfolk mayor seeks no-toll replacement for Jordan Bridge" Land Line mag - "Maine Turnpike schedules hearings on toll increases" Washington State - "Tolls could hold steady through 2009" New Jersey - "Freeholder: Let drivers redeem unused tokens" Washington State - "Mercer Island residents say no tolls for 520 bridge".
Send the kids out early to reduce congestion
Jakarta Post - "City proceeds with plan to change school start time".
Can it be true?
Our view has been that the new Mayor will have been got at, and no matter what the results (not yet known) of the consultation are, that the Mayor would keep the Western extension and instead introduce some changes to the way that the scheme operates. BUT Andrew Gilligan in the Evening Standard is predicting that the Mayor will remove the extension - "C-Charge extension zone to be scrapped". If Andrew is right, we hope that it will not just be Greg Hands, Tory MP for Hammersmith and Fulham, who will back this move.
Western Mail - "Severn bridges tolls to rise despite VAT cut".
Drivers going into Wales are being tricked, though Welsh politicans do not care. The trick is that when the European courts decided that there should be VAT on the Severn bridges (and other "private" tolls), the Government lied by saying that this would not affect drivers. The truth was and is that since the 1st February 2003, the Government pockets the part of the tolls that is deemed to be VAT and because of this it will take longer for the debt to be paid off. Though therein lies a second trick, as the Government may do what they did with the Dartford Crossing - when they can no longer legally collect tolls - they just say that the toll is now a "road user charge".
More on - Chinese should not hold their breath
Given the corruption inherent in a tolls sytem, we still believe that the reform is unlikely to happen, but in a Press conference today it was implied that China is likely to replace road tolls with a fuel tax. The chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission said - "Our reform will convert various tolls and fees into fuel consumption tax. It is fair that the more people consume oil the more they have to pay for it. By replacing the fees with fuel taxes, we also hope to regulate road toll stations that used to charge drivers for no legal reason. Previously, we would sometimes encounter someone on the road waving a little flag, stopping us to check whether we had paid the fees, but afterwards this situation will not happen." - Reuters - "UPDATE 2-China says fuel reforms will cut burden on consumers" China Daily - "NDRC: Fuel tax scheme to be made public soon" FXStreet - "China's fuel tax scheme currently being discussed by State Council - UPDATE" Shangai Daily - "Fuel price reform plan seeks opinion".
Last night the Queen signed the Road Pricing Bill
Transport Briefing - "Local Transport Act heralds shake-up of bus networks" DfT Press release (with nary a mention of the road toll powers).
This Act removed the last vestiges of democracy in the running and control of public transport and the imposition of road toll schemes. No doubt the Queen will not be affected!
Property boss backs a Bristol Con
Bristol Evening Post - "'Bristol needs congestion charge'".
Wednesday 26 November 2008
More on the Californian Trolls wanting a London Con charge in San Francisco - SF Chronicle - "S.F. considers congestion tolls on cars" KCBS - "Congestion Pricing Considered for All of North-East SF" inc audio clip.
More on Mary doing a bit of tolls pushing in Georgia - Atlanta Journal Constitution - "Less congestion, at a price" WSB - "'Lexus Lanes' for Gwinnett" DOT press release.
More Mass Pike toll stories - Wicked - "North Shore legislators oppose toll hikes" Boston Herald - "Deval Patrick’s buddy could help ea$e pain on Pike" Boston Herald - "Riding to MassPike rescue - William Galvin offers help with agency’s millions in bad bets" Wicked - "House looks to fast-track hearing on toll mitigation, gas-tax bills" Wicked - "Pike toll increases are bad for Boston" Wicked - "Toll hike or rise in gas tax?".
Other stories -
"Maine Turnpike releases toll increase plan" New Jersey / Pennsylvania - "Allen wants DRPA to revoke higher tolls" Maine - "Plan for higher tolls tries to spread pain" Illinois - "'Green lanes' are coming to tollway near you" Kentucky - "NKy Chamber drops bridge toll idea" Land Line mag - "Kentucky bill would create toll authority for ‘mega’ jobs".
Petition against Severn tolls
Wales Online - "Councillor’s petition to abolish tolls".
They don't believe in making it easy to sign the peition as you have to register - Petition to abolish tolls".
African toll woes
South Africa - IOL - "Highway robbery in KZN".
Nigeria - Financial Standard - "IGP's riot act on roadblocks".
Ghana - Ghanaian Chronicle - "Tema drivers complain of poor road network".
The Government renews its backing for a new bridge near Liverpool - Construction News- "Mersey Gateway bridge gets roads minister's support". The authorities have really succeeded in pulling the wool over peoples eyes with this one. The plan is to replace a busy free bridge with a tolled one - with a reduction in traffic!
Tuesday 25 November 2008
More on "Change of target"
Yesterday we had a story about the "Campaign for Better Transport" apparently moving away from pushing tolls to backing fuel taxes except for lorries where they were still advocating a per mile toll on all roads (not just motorways). The Road Haulage Association have reacted and said that "We already have a distance and congestion-based charge for road users – it's called fuel duty." - RoadTransport.com - "RHA slams Campaign for Better Transport's ideas".
More money goes down into the maelstrom
CNN - "Fed bets $800 billion on consumers" BBC - "US Fed announces $800bn stimulus".
It is getting difficult to tell whether we have fallen though the looking glass or entered a Kafka novel. A Government that has been massively in debt for decades is giving nearly another trillion dollars to the banks in exchange for more of the toxic debts? Presumably they will have to go to their bank manager to ask for a loan. But will they have a good enough credit rating?
Government splurges out on the roads
DfT Press release - "£1bn to accelerate key transport projects".
The Transport Secretary was Defence Secretary when we started the war on Iraq so it was probably easy for him to say - "I want people and business to be able to choose how and when they travel and to do so reliably, comfortably and safely." without thinking that he had been given the wrong script.
A large part of this billion is not being spent on roads, and the bit that is is largely going on two schemes. One is converting the hard shoulder on some motorways to an extra lane - which the Government have said may be tolled. The other is a new road to Manchester Airport which happens to be owned by the councils that are doing the Government's dirty work by trying to foist a road tolls scheme on their area as a national road pricing pilot - an early reward for them?
Even if the whole billion had gone on road schemes, and they were schemes whose purpose was to benefit roads users, that amount is only what the Government collects from drivers in just one week. Will we have to wait for another financial Armageddon before they spend a second week's worth of road taxes?
Dire emergency so the Government is to spend one weeks' worth of road taxes
Though Cambridgeshire has effectively abandoned "congestion charging", it is carrying on with its Transport Innovation Fund submission - Cambridge Evening News - "Bus boom if cash arrives".
Australians urged to take a gamble and use the toll road
Herald Sun - "Hundreds of thousands ineligible for EastLink land lottery" The Age - "EastLink motorists have the chance to drive a bargain".
Evening Standard - "More pressure on Boris to scrap C-charge extension". It is widely believed that the new Mayor has been got at, and that he will not remove the "Berlin Wall", but instead will make some changes to the way that the system is applied.
A sure sign that the Mayor has been got at (by a combination of the fifth column that Ken left behind and those in the Tory party who want to join Labour in fleecing drivers) is this "Comment" today from the Editor of the Evening Standard -
".. this question has to be looked at from a London-wide perspective. The western extension was inevitably unpopular when introduced. However, to remove it now and allow 30,000 cars a day back in would be a retrograde step. It would force many cyclists back onto public transport, increase car commuting and congestion, and worsen air quality. At a time of pressure on budgets, the Mayor will not want to do without the revenue the zone raises. The solution is to modify the charge so that it still deters car commuters but ends in the middle of the day to allow access to shops and businesses."
Mary does a bit more tolls pushing - Lexus lanes for Georgia - Atlanta Journal Constitution - "Feds to fund ‘Lexus lanes’ on I-85 from Perimeter into Gwinnett".
Some items issued by the US Public Interest Research Group - "Toll Roads, Privatization and Public Opinion" "Roads Privatization - Explaining the Trend, Assessing the
Facts, and Protecting the Public".
It seems that New York's Billionaire Mayor is still popular according to a poll (who was the opposition - Count Vlad?). The same poll says that 68 per cent oppose tolling the East River bridges - Staten Island Advance - "Mayor Bloomberg still has strong support, poll finds".
The President Elect has not named his Transportation Secretary yet but here is one view of the problems she or he will face - Washington Post - "For New Transportation Secretary, a Hard Road Ahead". Here are some of the possible choices - Washington Post - "In Transition: Transportation Secretary"
More Mass Pike toll stories, including the effect of "financial instruments" (otherwise known as gambling) - Wicked - "Pike officials pushing tolls as hedge against 'swaption' costs" Boston Globe - "Huge bill could soon come due for Turnpike - Liability at nearly half-billion dollars" Trading Markets - "Pike might have to pay $447M to close loans" Wicked - "Brown pushes for toll hike freeze" Wicked - "Talking about taxing times".
Other stories -
"N.J. Republicans introduce proposal to repeal DRPA hikes" Washington State - "Surface options under $1 billion" New York - "MTA Considering Reducing Cash Lanes At Toll Plazas" New York - "EC Clerk again pushing toll moves".
West Virgina - "Manchin correct on Tamarack situation" Kentucky - "Bill would allow tolls for big road jobs".
Cambridgeshire still hoping for TIF money
Though Cambridgeshire has effectively abandoned "congestion charging", it is carrying on with its Transport Innovation Fund submission - Cambridge Evening News - "Bus boom if cash arrives".
More on Humber tolls
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Bridge tolls inquiry awaiting decisions".
The next big racket
Parliament's main, possibly only, global warming sceptic is Lord Lawson who asked a question yesterday about what proportion Britain's share of CO2 would be in 2050 - Hansard.
He might as well have asked how long is a piece of string, as the answer was anywhere between 0.7 and 1.5 per cent. But most revealing was the result of the first auction in the second round of the Emissions Trading Scheme in the UK which was four times oversubscribed. The spivs who created the present financial crisis know a nice racket when they see one.
More on Darling blows away another £12.5 billion
If you thought going into a trillion pounds of debt was bad, George Osborne this morning indicated what the Tories would do. Their cure seems to be to further cut interest rates towards zero and to somehow force the banks to lend and lend again. It seems that the parties are vying over who can be the most imprudent. Rather than the changes which would increase efficiency (like scrapping tolls) it seems that all parties are quite happy for Britain to get into more and more debt with the spending going into asset reflation and the consumption of imports while Britain's remaining assets increasingly become owned by foreigners.
Monday 24 November 2008
More Mass Pike toll stories - Daily News Tribune - "Newton delegation backs gas tax" Boston Herald - "Mass Pike shenanigans die hard - Time for agency to be road kill" Boston Herald - "Senate President Therese Murray wary of toll-hike tactic - Links ‘shock & awe’ plan to gas-tax proposal".
Start - "There may be no such thing as a good tax, but if there is, it may well be the levy on gasoline". Conclusion - "Few relish the thought of paying tolls .. But since we are unwilling to tax fuel more heavily, this path may be inevitable." - NY Times - Freakonomics - "The Gas Tax Revisited".
PS NY Times - Green blog - "States Flirting With Higher Gas Taxes".
Other stories - California - "Planners to consider S.F. congestion charge" Florida - "DOT And Toll Booth Traffic" letter Virginia - "Procrastination price is a $3 Midtown toll".
Darling blows away another £12.5 billion
BBC - "Darling cuts VAT in pre-Budget" (includes links to all the Pre Budget Report docs).
The VAT change will probably have little visible effect in the shops. The overall aim of the changes is more of the same - encourage people and businesses to spend and get into debt, and pay for the changes by more Government borrowing and more taxes and NI for those on average or higher incomes.
It is interesting that while the Chancellor has generally been indiscriminate in his throwing away of public money on a VAT cut, he is making sure that three groups of sinners do not benefit - drinkers, smokers and drivers. The clawback from drivers is by way of a two pence per litre increase in fuel duty from 1st December. Sounds a bit like the duty increase that was "postponed".
Government gives Citigroup another blank check
Cash and guarantees to bail out American banks have now reached $7.4 trillion with the announcement that Citicorp is to be given another $300 billion of guarantees to stop it going the way of Lehman Brothers - CNN - "Citi dodges bullet". Does anyone really know where all this money is ending up?
European Federations for Transport and Environment wants more tolls
No surprise there, nor that they believe that a price signal from a km charge will be effective in improving efficiency" Public Service Review - "Incentivise the transport industry to cut emissions".
Tamar toll - local council upset about increase plan
Plymouth Herald - "Councillors angry over bridge toll rise".
Change of target
The anti roads users "Campaign for Better Transport" (formerly known as Transport 2000) still wants less traffic on the roads but is shifting its target towards long distance and commercial traffic, and may have shifted away from tolls - BBC - "Bid to cut UK transport emissions".
Their detailed proposal for freight traffic is a per mile toll on all roads (not just motorways). Moving the emphasis from a fuel tax in this way is the the usual naive and illogical green policy which it is almost impossible to understand. They also want bigger initial taxes on cars that produce more CO2, even though this takes no account of how much the vehicle is used.
What is not usual though is that for non commercial traffic, we seem to have for possibly the first time one of these British "green" organisations not arguing for a general system of "congestion charging" or "road pricing". Apart from their policy on lorries they seem to have at last realised that a fuel tax is better than tolls, though this is not yet explicit.
Sunday 23 November 2008
Congestion is really down
Last week the Sunday Herald gave the impression that due to the removal of tolls there was massive congestion on the Forth road bridge (see Sunday fantasy as Forth road bridge reaches half century). Today the paper published this letter from Tom Minogue, spokesman for the alliance in Scotland-
The article entitled “Forth at Fifty” (Sunday Herald 16 Nov) was very interesting, but misleading on one point—the effect of the tolls being removed.
To say “a recent survey found that average peak morning rush-hour congestion in the bridge rose 30 minutes to 91 minutes after the abolition of tolls” might be technically correct, but to infer that such a survey had any credibility is wrong. It is self-evident to bridge users that the congestion on the bridge has significantly lessened since the toll removal and would we expect anything else?
It would be interesting to know who carried out the “recent survey” referred to in your article and to that end I asked the bridgemaster, but he didn’t know.
Perhaps the survey was carried out and interpreted by those same politicians and bureaucrats who fought so hard to keep the tolls? Their arguments then that toll-booths should be removed on the Tay bridge to relieve traffic congestion, and retained on the Forth bridge as their removal would cause congestion were as spurious as this latest claim.
But then who would listen to those who argued that large concrete and steel structures placed in the middle of a stretch of motorway actually enhances the free flow of traffic?
Tomorrow's Pre Budget Report - another step back?
It is widely predicted that the Government will tomorrow announce a cut in VAT and other taxes. At one stage the parties seemed to be competing with these tax cut promises, but the Lib Dem tax cuts would have been tax rises, and the Tory tax cuts have disappeared in a puff of blue smoke. It is also predicted that the Government will announce new measures to force banks to take more risks and lend more money.
It is no suprise that Stock markets don't know which way to go, as the only cure on offer to the economic difficulties seems to be the same things that got us into this hole. The money system is basically a confidence trick where people sell their goods or labour in return for a piece of paper which they believe someone else will accept in the same way (a good trick for the person who starts the process). With Lehman Brothers in administration with posssible liabilities of one trillion dollars, it is not yet clear whether this house of cards will still be standing in 12 months time.
What is needed are fundamental changes to the economic system and to the way that business is or is not regulated. We don't need people to spend more on goods that they can not afford and that will have been manufactured abroad. And we don't need more people employed in the provision of unwanted and unneccesary services. If the Government wants to do something that would have a long term benefit to the economy then one step they could take would be to get rid of tolls. This would put a bit more money in people's pockets, would eliminate wasted time and fuel caused by toll queues, and would ease congestion particularly in areas like the West Midlands where most of the through trafic would switch to using the empty M6 Toll road. The chances of this happening are unfortunately zero. The Government is moving in the opposite direction with toll increases last week on the Dartford Crossing, planned increases at various other crossings including the Severn, and millions being spent to con the people of Greater Manchester into accepting a "congestion charge".
More on Massachusetts toll changes - Worcester Business Journal - "Paying The Toll" Boston Globe - "First tea, now tolls: Activists protest hikes" Milford Daily News - "Holmes: Patrick's toll hike" Boston Herald - "Taxing our pockets and our patience" Boston Herald - "Taxing our pockets and our patience".
Other story - California - "New Cameras Designed to Catch Bridge Toll Violators".
Taxis go free
Emirates Business 24-7 - "Salik dropped for taxi passengers". Can we assume that Arabian trolls travel by taxi?
Saturday 22 November 2008
The President elect has a plan to create jobs by rebuilding "roads and bridges and modernizing schools while developing alternative energy sources and more efficient cars" - AP - "Obama outlines rebuilding plans to create jobs". At the same time as this the car giants are asking for $25 billion to stop them going bust.
If Obama wants to really help people and to enourage fuel economy, he could give some relief now, by a plan to rapidly phase out the inefficient and unpopular tolls system and making sure that any increase in the Federal gas tax went into roads. But the chances of this are about zero, as the trolls in America have a tight grip on the politicians.
More stories on Massachusetts toll changes - Boston Herald - "Greedy hackerama has gone too far this time" MetroWest - "Paying our way: Tolls dominate talk at legislative forum in Framingham" Boston Globe - "Tolls rising. So are salaries for 13 Pike managers" Republican - "Proposal to increase state gasoline tax draws mixed reviews in Western Mass." Worcester Telegram - "Public hearings on toll hikes" Daily News - "Take your pick: Gas tax or tolls" Boston Globe - "Turnpike Authority spent $160,000 on 13 managers' raises" Wicked Local - "Think About It-Tolls to Nowhere" Boston Globe - "Where will funds go?" letter.
Other stories - North Carolina - "Use taxes already in place for roads" Land Line mag - "Pennsylvania bill would fund road and bridge work without tolls, new taxes" Land Line mag - "North Carolina may rely on user fees to close transportation funding gap" Texas - "Feds won't rely on state for U.S. 281 study".
Friday 21 November 2008
Bit more on - Chinese should not hold their breath
Following earlier reports that the "National Development and Reform Commission" had recommended replacing road tolls with a fuel tax, as we expected this is now being played down as either no changes to tolls or only minor changes. The corruption associated with toll roads makes it very difficult to remove them or stop the building of further ones. Here is one report that bucks the trend and still says that tolls will go - Forbes - "Fuel Tax Is Coming To China".
New York's MTA meeting yesterday agreed fare and toll increases of around 23% and cuts to services - New York Times - "M.T.A. Warns of Service Cuts and Fare Increases".
From Landline magazine - "OOIDA says fuel tax is sustainable despite mileage declines".
More on Massachusetts toll changes - NECN - "Battle over tolls in Massachusetts intensifies " video Republican - "Gasoline tax hike plan stirs WMass" Boston Globe - "Patrick calls for timeout on gas-tax rise" Boston Globe - "Good policy, good politics for DiMasi" Boston Herald - "Massport eyes plan to double Tobin toll" NECN - "Newsnight: Gas tax vs. toll hike debate" video Boston Globe - "Think big on transportation" Wicked Local - "Legislators object to toll hikes" NECN - "Gas tax or toll hike?" video NECN - "Gas tax or toll hike?" video Enterprise - "Editorial: A gas tax hike is the fairest way to go" Worcester Telegram - "Patrick willing to consider gas tax hike" Daily News Tribune - "Pike board schedules 4 hearings on toll plan".
Other stories - North Carolina - "Financial freeze delays turnpike" California - "Marin considers for pay-as-you-go freeway plan" Pennsylvania - "With tolls declining, Turnpike laying off" Washington State - "Narrows Toll Increase Coming?" Georgia - "Tolls coming to metro Atlanta HOV lanes?" North Carolina - "Proposal Would Have Drivers Paying For Every Mile" Illinois - "I-90 Lane Expansion Part of Tollway Capital Improvement Plan" Illinois - "Tollway board approves $400M for carpool lanes".
Possible Italian toll freeze hits stock
Bloomberg - "Atlantia Declines on Concern Italy May Freeze Highway Tolls".
Two on Climate from The Register
In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man better keep his mouth shut - "Lords debate Climate Bill, carbon racket - 'We don't know what we're talking about'".
How the official temperature figures keep on rising, while NASA keeps its feet (and thermometers) on the ground - "NASA's curious climate capers - Computer says: It's getting warmer".
Thursday 20 November 2008
New York's MTA was meeting today to discuss fare and toll increases. Tolls on the East River bridges have also been proposed, but a decision on that is not likely to be made today - Reuters - "UPDATE 1-NY subway riders to pay more for slower, dirtier trips".
From American Free Press on the film documentary “Truth Be Tolled” - "Grassroots Group Fights NAFTA Superhighway" inc video interview of Terri Hall.
North Carolina "mileage tax" - Charlotte Observer - "A tax for every mile you drive? Toll booths on I-77?" Citizen Times - "Drivers could face new state tax" Burlington Times - "State considers new ways to pay for roads" Wake - "Transportation Options Could Mean Higher Taxes" inc video.
FHWA sell "congestion pricing" in New York - Fleet Owner - "The future of truck technology".
Travel still down (figures just released)- FHWA - "September 2008 Traffic Volume Trends".
Time for a laugh - Maine Turnpike Authority give higher salt prices as one reason for a 23% toll increase - Bangor Daily - "Road salt prices put pinch on Maine budgets".
More on Mass. proposed toll changes - NECN - "Pick your poison: Toll hike or gas tax?" inc video Salem News - "Pols move to freeze toll hikes" Daily News - "Toll hikes hit our area hardest" Bloomberg - "Massachusetts Rebels Over $7 Tunnel Tolls as Debt Costs Rise".
Boston Globe - "DiMasi backs gas tax hike over toll rise" Boston Herald - "Salvatore DiMasi says gas tax would be most fair option" Boston Globe - "Transportation: reform before revenue" Boston Herald - "‘Disaster’ looms with Pike-dodging drivers" CBS - "Lawmaker Proposes Gas Tax Hike Instead of Toll Hike" CBS - "Lawmaker Proposes Gas Tax Hike Instead of Toll Hike" NECN - "DiMasi throws his weight behind gas tax hike" video WBZtv - "Gas Tax Hike Instead Of Toll Hike?" inc video Metro - "Hikes will take toll on Eastie businesses" Boston Globe - "DiMasi pushes gas tax increase instead of toll hike" over 100 comments.
Other stories - West Virginia - "Tolls should be dropped, not increased" Illinois - "'Green lanes' would cut traffic, pollution" Kentucky - "Study: Toll road could connect Jessamine and Madison counties" Illinois - "Life in the HOT lane" Florida - "Selling Alligator Alley is not a solution" letter Washington State - "Toll increase for Narrows Bridge appears likely" Georgia - "Report eyes new funding for transportation".
Democracy in Britain - Road tolls aka Local Transport Bill passes to Queen to sign
On Tuesday the Lords debated and of course passed the Bill as amended in the Commons - Hansard (you need to scroll back a bit).
Amazingly the taboo "t" word was mentioned. Lord Hanningfield said -"When you cross the QE2 Bridge as you go round the M25, a cloud continuously hangs over the toll booths."
Lord Adonis, the Government Minister responsible for the Bill in the Lords said while talking about "greenhouse gases" - "It is well known, for example, that a well intentioned but badly planned measure to reduce congestion, and the emissions that result from that congestion, may have the unintended effect of encouraging more people to use their cars." It may be well known to the Lord, but it is not clear what he was talking about - perhaps he has seen some secret report on the London Con charge?
Other than the above quotes there was no debate on tolls or "congestion charging" or "road pricing" or "road user charging". The Lords have now passed to the Queen one of the most undemocratic anti driver measures that has been seen in Britain. Isn't it a good job that 99.9% of drivers don't know that people who are not directly elected will be giving orders about measures to restrict road use and introduce road tolls.
Dartford toll - UKIP MP complains
BBC - "Outrage over Dartford toll rise".
Passenger Transport Statistics for 2007/08
The DfT have issued the Public Transport Statistics Bulletin GB: 2008 edition direct link to the bulletin (pdf file).
In brief the stats show that these are up - London bus use (1,993 million passenger journeys to 2,090 mpj), train use (1,151 mpj to 1,232 mpj), London Underground (1,041 mpj to 1,096 mpj) and tram and light rail use (192 mpj to 201 mpj). These are down - national (exc London) bus use (3,104 million passenger journeys to 3,074 mpj), and domestic air flights (23 mpj to 22mpj).
Depite the vast sums spent on light rail and tram, they still only account for 3% of passenger journies, and if car and van journies are taken into account, then light rail and tram use is almost invisible.
New campaign against Whitchurch bridge Toll
The toll on the Whitchurch bridge (across the Thames near Reading) is one of Britain's oldest (from 1792). A new group has been set up to fight the latest toll increases - Stop the Whitchurch Bridge Toll Increases.
The Government wants to eventually see tolls on most roads. One part of its strategy seems to be to encourage toll increases whether it be on small crossings like this one or on major crossing such as Dartford. Stopping these tolls would not only remove an injustice, it reduces the chances of tolls being introduced elsewhere. If you live in the Oxfordshire or Berkshire area, then please help the group. On their site there is a link to subscribe to their mailing list.
World going mad?
One thing that you can say for America is that when there is an emergency, any road and bridge tolls will be removed so that traffic can flow more freely. This almost never happens in any other country - till now - Brisbane Times - "Tolls waived on Gateway".
Prof says toll road should not be built
Wales Online - "Expert calls for M4 upgrade to replace new road plan".
The Welsh plan to build a new road to relieve congestion on the M4 near Newport was announced at the end of 2004. It would of course be a waste, as putting a toll on it means that the use made of it would be far less than the optimum. We would not expect any academic to admit that, but it is surprising that for a similar reason (the operator might not make a profit and expect compensation) one has argued against it.
Another Prof says a toll should be removed
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Bridge tolls 'wasting its potential'".
Have the academics been replaced with doppelgängers? This statement is amazing as it comes from one of the leading advocates of road pricing. There is of course the suggestion that the Humber bridge is different because there is no congestion problem. But all crossing tolls create or add to congestion. Or does the Prof believe what the Government say about for example the Dartford tolls being there to stop congestion? (There were by the way more traffic reports today on the radio about the Dartford congestion which seems to have got worse since Saturday's toll increases.)
Story about the stories on Humber bridge tolls
Hold the Front Page - "Northcliffe trio team up to beat bridge toll hike".
More on - Malaysian Government has no power to stop toll queues
The Edge - "Govt can’t stop toll collection" Dewan Rekyat - "Govt cannot stop toll collection".
Tolls from Amsterdam - (bit more from the tolls sales conference)
Daily Commercial News - "Amsterdam considers financing roads with mileage charges".
More on - New 407 toll to help pay for $50 billion mass transit
Georgina Advocate - "Congestion charges, GPS systems also being considered".
Toll profits falling
Herald Sun - "Why didn't Brumby just ask the drivers?" Herald Sun - "Bracing for bad news".
More on Russians catching up with Americans
Times - "Embassies owe £23m in unpaid congestion charges" BBC - "Embassies owe £23m C-charge fines".
See our story on 7th November, which points out that within the Vienna Convention this is a tax, which is why Ken despite his attacks on the Americans never took them to court.
Congestion in the city that rejected the Con charge
Scotsman - "Lights of London shine ever brighter while we follow the roads to ruin".
More on Real effect of toll removal on traffic flow
Letter in this morning's Courier from Joan Muszynski -
"Sir,—I hope the MPs and MSPs who opposed the removal of tolls on the Tay Road Bridge on the grounds it would “increase traffic congestion” are now eating humble pie.
As a daily commuter (car sharing) I can tell you that from the university to the toll booths used to take, on average, 18 minutes, sometimes 27 minutes. Now I can reach the Fife end of the bridge in eight minutes.
Where are the dissenters now that their claims have been proved to be nothing more than political balderdash?"
More on - Chinese should not hold their breath
There are further reports emanating from the Chinese capital that the "National Development and Reform Commission" has recommended replacing road tolls with a fuel tax - China Daily - "Chinese gov't mulls to impose fuel tax" Reuters - "China may use existing tax, not new fuel tax: source" Auto Channel - "China To Introduce Fuel Tax At 50% Very Soon" Bloomberg - "China Plans Gasoline, Diesel Price Cuts, Fuel Tax (Update2)".
The Chinese Government sets the fuel price so to some extent it is academic whether there is a "tax" or the Government sets a high price and creams off the profits. The important point is whether the cost falling on drivers is based on fuel used or road tolls. The advantage of replacing road tolls is that it would further encourage fuel economy and help reduce vehicle emissions. One story speculates whether any tax would be collected at the refinery or at retail level. In Britain, fuel duty is collected at the refinery, which makes the tax hard to evade and cheap to collect.
Wednesday 19 November 2008
It seems that Americans are being set up for a future of a lot more tolls under Obama. Papers like the New York Times are publishing the usual troll fairy stories like - "One of the best examples is the success of congestion pricing in London. By charging fees to enter the city, the government has vastly reduced traffic. The program, which initially faced skepticism, is now a big hit with the public." -
"Piling Up Monuments of Waste". Similar stories are appearing in other papers on the theme that gas taxes are no use and that tolls are the magic solution that will both reduce traffic AND pay for building of more roads.
More on Mass. tolls - Boston Channel - "Plan Launched To Avoid Toll Hikes" inc video Boston Globe - "Heavy toll for East Boston" inc video Boston Globe - "No more free rides" Boston Globe - "Feeling punished west of Boston" Daily News Tribune - "Legislators move to block toll increase" Metro - "City councilors express concern over hikes" Boston Herald - "Taxachusetts lives unless we take action" Boston Herald - "Taxachusetts lives unless we take action" Daily Item - "Walsh spearheads bill to freeze tolls" Boston Herald - "Bay State pols want to pump up gas tax".
Other stories - California - "Bridge fix" "Illinois has road map for tollway traffic fix"
New Jersey - "Expressway going cashless by end of 2010" West Virginia - "Editorial: Turnpike toll increases must go to pay for operation, maintenance of the road" Florida - "Editorial: FDOT needs to spell out details of highway lease" New Jersey - "A.C. Expressway Increases Tolls, Commuters Unhappy".
New 407 toll to help pay for $50 billion mass transit
News Durham Region - "Don't sell 407, says Ajax".
Toll anger in South Africa
IOL - "Wild Coast toll road sparks outrage".
Chinese should not hold their breath
Reuters - "China to impose fuel tax "very soon": paper" China Daily - "Fuel tax 'to be levied soon as timing is right'" Guardian - "Oil price drop lets China tackle fuel reform, tax" JLM Pacific Epoch - "A-Shares Up, Petroleum Shares Ignite With New Tax ". This was originally agreed some years ago, as apart from anything else the replacement of tolls with a fuel tax would encourage fuel economy and reduce vehicle emissions. But given the corruption and power that are associated with toll systems the chances of this happening and any improvement to Chinese air quality are about zero.
Real effect of toll removal on traffic flow
When the last of Scotland's tolls (Forth and Tay) were removed in February the diehard Trolls spread stories that it had caused a large increase in traffic and congestion. The reality was that the volume of traffic was hardly changed but that for one reason or another as the tolls were removed works had started on both bridges which closed traffic lanes. Now that these works are finished on the Tay bridge it is harder to deny the fact that traffic flows more freely without tolls - Courier - "Bridge traffic ‘flowing freely’".
More tolls pushing
The "Northern Way" which is a government Quango, is again pushing for tolls on the North's main roads - Yorkshire Post - "Most of region's roads will reach breaking point in 15 years, pressure group warns". As well as the Government money which is driving this the "Northern Way Transport Compact" is chaired by Professor David Begg, the man behind the Edinburgh toll plans.
Severn bridge toll increases announced
The annual increases from 1 January 2009 are - cars from £5.30 to £5.50; small goods vehicles (less than 3.5 tons) and small buses (less than 18 seats) from £10.60 to £11.10; HGVs and buses from £15.90 to £16.60.
Malaysian Government has no power to stop toll queues
Bernama - "Government Has No Power To Shut Down Toll Plazas - Zin".
PS Another story today - MySinchew - "Why Not Reduce Toll Rates Instead?".
Bit more from the tolls sales conference
Daily Commercial News - "Successful implementation of road tolls requires leadership, panel says".
Tuesday 18 November 2008
Dartford toll - Essex complains
24Dash - "Council anger over Dartford crossing 'freebie'". At first sight this may not seem strange, and the Leader of Essex County Council - Lord Hanningfield - has said on his web blog that "I will keep fighting to ensure that all (Dartford) tolls are scrapped". But this is the same man who we mentioned last Tuesday because while the Road Pricing aka Local Transport Bill was going through the Lords he said "I am a supporter of tolls on roads". He has also campaigned for another Thames crossing, which he appears to advocate should be tolled!!
Couple of toll bits from Courier Mail
"Readers' Comments - Drivers face big hit at tolls".
"Change coming to tolls".
Russians catching up with Americans
New Civil Engineer - "Embassies flout congestion charge to the tune of £23M".
Derby councillor switches party
Derby Evening Telegraph - "Labour's Phil Ingall defects to the Tories".
Car use down "it's cheaper to fly"
Courier-Mail - "Changed car use may impact revenue for Brisbane's tunnels".
President Bush has paid a visit today to the Department of Transportation. In his speech he said that - "Members of Congress have responsibilities. As they take up the next highway and aviation bills in the coming year, they should adhere to a few principles. They should harness the power of the free market through policies like congestion pricing, which uses the laws of supply and demand to reduce traffic on our roads and in the air." - White House Press release - "President Bush Discusses Aviation Congestion and Transportation Safety ".
"Citing the Minnesota fiasco is a way to get the public to support road expansion and controversial new funding mechanisms, like widespread tolling and road pricing" - Crosscut - "More evidence that Washington infrastructure collapse is over-hyped".
Speculation on who Obama will pick as Transportation Secretary - Florida Shipper - "Transport Eyes Obama’s Dot".
Other stories - Massachusetts - "Councilor to put breaks on trucks avoiding tolls" Washington State - "Toll-booth-free tolling on SR 520 and I-90".
"E-ZPass to mitigate toll hike on Ohio Turnpike" "Ohio Turnpike Commission seeks toll increase" Massachusetts - "Legislators object to toll hikes" Massachusetts / New Hampshire - "NH Drivers, Businesses To Mass.: Put Brakes On Toll Hikes" Washington State - "Narrows Bridge Tolls Could Go Up Sooner" Massachusetts - "Pike Toll Hikes Raise Curiosity About Alternatives" North Carolina - "DOT Funding Shortfalls Could Cost You In New Ways In The Future".
Leeds won't be bribed
Leeds says that though it has taken Government TIF money to research congestion, unlike Manchester it will not be bribed into introducing road tolls - Yorkshire Post - "Tory riposte to road charging", earlier version - Yorkshire Post - "Leeds faces 'arm-twisting' over road charges".
More on the tolls sales conference and the "elephant in the road"
Star - "Road tolls called 'inevitable'" Daily Commercial News - "Price point key to public road-toll acceptance, expert says" Metro - "Tolls way to improve transit, observers say".
Monday 17 November 2008
Dartford toll changes - first work day - only the "usual" delays
According to this morning's traffic reports on the radio there were increased delays today at the Dartford toll booths, but not so according to the Government - Kent Online - "Tolls change causes no unusual delays says Agency".
PS Comment added to the above story by S B from Maidstone - "Just back home after sitting on the M25 tonight in crawling traffic for over half an hour. The cause of this delay? The toll booths. Remove this congession charge, which causes congestion. I'd rather everyone in the UK pay an additional one or two pounds more car tax then spend hours sat in traffic. The people that stick up for these tolls are idiots."
The only purpose of the Dartford tolls is to bleed more money from drivers, no matter what the effect is on congestion, time wasted, increased vehicle emissions and more accidents on the approaches to the toll booths. The only way that this disgrace will ever end is for drivers to say to their MPs that if they do not fight to get the tolls removed - then they will vote for someone who will.
No tolls promise gone already
During the election campaign the National Party leader made a "no tolls" promise and rebuked his transport spokesman who said that there would be a lot more tolls. Now that the election is over and a right wing coalition led by the National Party has taken power, it seems that the spokesman was right - Stuff - "Dunne, Key in Gully talks ".
What the profs said
The (uncorrected) transcript of what various academics (inc the RAC Foundation boss) told the Transport Cttee on the 5th of November about "Taxes And Charges On Road Users" is now available - Parliament. In brief most of them support high taxes on roads users, mainly in the form of "congestion charging" and "road pricing" with reduced fuel taxes, but the majority seem to think that this nirvana should not be attempted - yet - because of costs and risks.
The Transport Committee have today announced a "New Inquiry into The Major Road Network".
For the first time that we are aware of the British weather establishment aka known as the Met Office, have published a weather summary for the past month which does not try to give the impression that UK temperatures are higher than "average" (meaning whatever they want it to be). For the record what they have said for October is - "Maximum, minimum and mean daily temperatures were all below average across the UK."
Texan trolls may be ready to gorge again as one anti toll camapigner leaves state - Austin American Statesman - "Anti-toll guerrilla has moved on down the road".
More on the Massachusetts Turnpike toll changes - Item live - "Incensed commuters left with few options to avoid toll hike" Worcester Telegram - "Turnpike realism" Metro West Daily News - "Area commuters don't like Pike hike" Cape Cod Today - "Christy: Deval's Pike plan another sweet nothing" WBZtv - "$7 Tolls Have Drivers Looking For Alternate Routes" inc video.
Other stories - The Trucker - "Pennsylvania Turnpike to trim staff, costs as traffic falls" Washington State - "Bridge tolls look like they’ll rise again" Florida - "We think: A change in policy for inadvertent toll violators is long overdue" New Jersey - "Dig deeper: Expressway tolls go up tonight" Florida - "Sen. Dave Aronberg: Don't let foreign companies control Alligator Alley" New York - "City Officials Call for Alternative to Proposed Brooklyn Bridge Toll" New Jersey - "Driving on state roadways will take heavier toll on wallets".
Humber bridge tolls
Yorkshire Post - "Toll bridge is 'barrier to trade'" Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Plan to push Treasury on bridge tolls".
Turning the screw on the middle classes
Business Day - "Roads and other uphill battles take a heavy toll".
Indian Government to cap interest rates for toll road developers
Yesterday we reported that the IMF were forcing Pakistan to raise tolls by up to 400%. Today it is reported that toll road operators in India are reluctant to build more roads, so the Government will guarantee their interest rates - Love Mint - "Infrastructure projects may get loan relief".
Malaysian toll agreements no longer "Official" Secrets, but still Company secrets
Malaysia Today - "No more secret".
Sunday 16 November 2008
Bit more on the Massachusetts Turnpike toll changes which were provisionally agreed on Friday - Examiner - "Patrick needs to propose a raise in the gasoline tax now" Boston Globe - "Politics, fare hikes take toll on commuters" Eagle Tribune - "Our view: The promise and the peril of Gov. Patrick's transportation plan".
Suggestion that adding more tolls should not be limited to the East River bridges - New York Post - "STROLL TOLLS MAKE GREAT CENTS".
Other stories - North Carolina - "Future funding options will toll for taxpayers" New Jersey - "Motorists Weigh In On A.C. Expressway Toll Increase".
More on Dartford toll changes
The Dartford toll changes came into effect at 10 o'clock last night. Here are a few comments - Kent News - "Dartford crossing toll hike 'will cause chaos'". It seems that Doctor Ladyman, the ex Roads Minister who now works fot ITIS (Times 6th Jan - "Ex-transport minister takes job at road pricing firm") is helping his ex colleagues out with a few risible excuses including "the roads that serve it (the crossing) and the massive investment being made on them has not been paid for yet by a long way". The idea that the M25 is there to "serve" the crossing is novel, but the suggestion that a Government which takes £50 billion a year from drivers and spends only £7 billion of it on building and maintaining roads has "not paid for it yet" makes you wonder where the Doctor thinks the money has gone.
PS It is good to see that for once the AA is sticking up for drivers.
The IMF have just made a loan to Pakistan. One string is that the IMF insists that road tolls are increased by up to 400% - International Daily News - "The big stick". Let's hope that many other countries don't need a bail out.
Sydney charges drivers for bridge AND tunnel crossing - at the same time
Sydney Morning Herald - "Double charge 'shakes confidence in e-tolling'".
Sunday fantasy as Forth road bridge reaches half century
Sunday Herald - "Forth at fifty". The Sunday Herald is firmly in the camp of the Trolls, so it is not surprising that at the end of the article it says - "A recent survey found that average peak morning rush-hour congestion on the bridge rose 30 minutes to 91 minutes after the abolition of tolls." This is completely misleading, the truth is that since the tolls have been removed, most of the queues have gone as well. The only reason for delays now is when there are lane closures or restrictions.
From a Grumpy old man
Not sure how this got into the Times! "Robbed in the nightmare zone".
Bit more on plan to hike Tamar bridge tolls
BBC - "Proposed 50% rise in Tamar tolls". It is not clear why they are bothing to consult. Is the idea to test how ignorant drivers are? Ignorant of being ripped off. Ignorant that the tolls go to subsidise the ferries and pay the toll collectors. Ignorant that they are already paying a billion pounds a week in road taxes. About the only thing that they are probably not ignorant of, is that all the tolls do is delay traffic.
More on ERP II and "Islandwide mega jam"
Saturday's story has appeared in another source with some readers comments added -
From "Bronco Billy" - "Government claims we need to grow to 6.5m in order for Singapore to remain competitive, I question the logic and validility of this claim. With 6.5m people cramping into such tiny area of land, quality of life of every individual staying/working here will be compromised! I just don't see how competitiveness can be raised when quality of life suffers."
From Irene Zeng - "It is almost impossible to have 6 million people in a small island like Singapore. Even if we could deal with the road issue, we will have other issues like congestion in trains, bus, malls, food centres, lifts, etc.. - an overfilled stomach will burst one day."
Saturday 15 November 2008
More jeers than cheers - The Massachusetts Turnpike toll changes were provisionally agreed yesterday in record time, presumably to prevent opposition to the Big Dig toll increases (though Western Pike tolls are to go) - Salem News - "Commuters, legislators: Toll hike hard to take" Worcester Telegram - "Pike board OKs plan to hike tolls" Boston Globe - "Lynn pols outraged over toll hike plan" The Republican - "Pike agency doubles tolls near Boston" Boston Globe - "Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes" Milford Daily News - "Talk reform, hike tolls" Boston Herald - "Readers rage over increase" Boston Herald - "Hub drivers honking mad at increase" Boston Herald - "Toll hike in the bank, State could guzzle higher gas tax" Boston Herald - "End eyed for resident discounts" Boston Herald - "Pols weigh pumping up fuel cost" Boston Herald - "Officials balk at booths’ destruction" Boston Herald - "Officials balk at booths’ destruction" CBS - "Western Mass Tolls to be Eliminated" inc video NECN - "Western Mass. drivers may get break from tolls" inc video Boston Globe - "Pike board approves toll hike" over 400 comments.
Other stories - Illinois - "Truckers protest proposed hike in Illinois tolls" New Jersey - "A.C. Expressway toll increases to fund road improvements" Virginia - "Firm behind pitch for tunnels has an international resume".
Federal Government denies that sponsoring the tolls sales conference means anything
Globe and Mail - "Baird flips on road tolls - again".
Scotland to fight warmth but road pricing is a "very low priority"
Scotsman - "Co2 cuts 'can be achieved without nuclear power'".
Looking forward to a new ERP system based on distance-based congestion charging (see also "It's still a Mad, Mad World" on 5th November) - Asia One - "S'pore will have Islandwide mega jam - Vehicles lined end to end will fill tightly every metre of main roads, espressways". "Distance based"? Why have an expensive system to do what a fuel tax does?
The author points to Singapore's population growth, with the effect that by 2015 each person will have 109 square metres compared with 250 square metres in 1982. It is strange how most academics and politicians think that the solution to this population problem is road tolls.
Friday 14 November 2008
More on the Massachusetts Governor proposing removal of most Turnpike tolls but more Big Dig tolls - Boston Channel - "Turnpike Chief Recommends Road, Tunnel Hikes" Boston Globe - "Pike managers outline proposed toll hike" Enterprise - "OPINION: Turnpike Authority may finally disappear" Boston Herald - "Pike plan takes toll" Worcester Telegram - "Plan for turnpike targeted" Boston Globe - "A $15 billion hot potato" Boston Herald - "Dismantling Pike would require ramps’ revamp" Boston Channel - "Reaction Mixed To Turnpike Plan" inc video.
Other stories - Florida - "Toll offenders might get a break" New York - "A tolling question" Illinois - "Tollway hearings to discuss plans" Colorado - "Toll increase on E-470 to kick in Jan. 1" Florida - "Alley lease to foreigners a bad deal with appeal" New York - "East River Tolls Plan Acquires Heavy Hitter".
Bit more on "Congestion" tolls for Sydney
Sydney Morning Herald - "The Split Bridge that divides Sydney".
Dartford toll changes
The Dartford tolls increase on Saturday night, unless you are lucky enough to live in Dartford or Thurrock and will get the toll discounted down to 20 pence - BBC - "Dartford toll increase to start " Kent Online - "Talking Point: Is toll rise 'another slap in the face'?" Highways Agency - "Revisions to the Charges at Dartford Crossing".
Local people will welcome the toll reducing to 20 pence, but the tolls should have been removed for everyone by 2003. The Government claimed that removing tolls would overload the crossing and decided to keep them as "road user charges". The reality is that reports produced for the Government in 2001 and 2004 showed that tolls at this Crossing had little effect on reducing traffic. The main effect of the tolls is to cause congestion, increased vehicle emissions and accidents as cars and lorries queue at the toll booths.
Our response to the Dartford toll consultation in 2007 (pdf).
More on tolls sales conference
Globe and Mail - "Exploring Road Pricing - Road tolls for whom, Transport Canada asks".
Border toll to increase
Sault Star - "Bridge toll could jump in April".
"Durban opposes new tollgate"
Thursday 13 November 2008
USA Roundup - later stories
New York - "Markowitz Blasts East River Tolls" New York - "East River bridges toll ‘ghost’ returns" Massachussets - "Border tolls eyed for Mass Pike debt" Massachussets - "Patrick's road reforms".
It has just been suggested that they toll New York's East River bridges, meanwhile - New York Times - "As Economy Weakens, Bridge and Tunnel Traffic Drops" NY Daily News - "Incredible shrinking demand for MTA bridges and tunnels".
New York pushing drivers off the road - NY Post - "IDIOTIC DOT TAKES A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE".
More on the Massachusetts Governor proposing removal of most Turnpike tolls but more Big Dig tolls - Salem News - "Our view: State becoming addicted to tolls, tobacco" Daily News - "Gas tax preferable to toll hike" Boston Globe - "Toll hike ahead, Patrick warns" Boston Herald - "This plan won’t fly" Boston Globe - "Deval Patrick: How I'll change Mass transit" WBZtv - "Caution: Pike Toll Hike Vote Ahead".
Other stories - New Hampshire - "Trouble looms down road for highway fund" West Virginia - "Toll Increase May Be on the Way for Turnpike" West Virginia - "Removal of Tolls Is Long Overdue" New Jersey - "Naperville home to public hearing on governor's carpooling scheme" Illinois - "'Green lanes' would cut traffic, pollution, Illinois Tollway says" Florida - "Alley lease opponents keep up the fight" Florida - "Residents speak out about Alligator Alley toll increase, proposed lease" Washington State - "Got something to say on tolls?".
More on plan to hike Tamar bridge tolls
The Herald (Plymouth) - "Congestion charge plan for Tamar Bridge".
Humber bridge tolls
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "Minister to meet over tolls".
Not so wonderful Copenhagen
The city apparently wants to agree a Con plan in time for the UN Climate Summit being held in the city at the end of 2009. Though the Danish Parliament opposes any Con - Politiken - "Congestion charge proposal".
"Glimpse of the future" in BC
The Province - "Surrey activists give motorists a look at the future".
More tolls selling
This time from the road builders with a little help from around the world including "experts" from London, Oregon and Germany - RCCAO PR - "Can Road Tolls Help Ease Gridlock, Reduce Emissions, and Sustain Transportation Infrastructure?".
Wednesday 12 November 2008
The design is ready
The "Traffic Choices Study" (pdf file) has at last been published by Puget Sound Regional Council. The trial actually ended nearly three years ago. You can see some possible reasons why it took them this long to produce a report that concludes "the case for road tolling is compelling" (page 34), by looking at what we had to say on this study two years ago.
More on claim in England that an American tolls consultant now based there has been advising the President-elect's team on a plan for a massive increase in the use of road tolls - newspaper.com - "Obama Transition Team Examines Congestion Tax". There are more details on this English source - Transport Briefing - "Obama transport chief lauds Manchester road pricing".
More on MTA budget hole and the possible tolling of New York's East River bridges - Reuters - "NY mayor: Any new bridge tolls must pay for upgrades".
More on the Massachusetts Governor proposing removal of most Turnpike tolls but more Big Dig tolls - WBZtv - "Pike Toll Plan Escalates Mass. 'Civil War'" inc video The Republican - "End of the road for the Turnpike" Worcester Telegram - "Last exit - Legislature should OK Turnpike phase-out" Boston Globe - "Big Dig debt challenges Massport - Load nearly sinks Turnpike Authority" Milford Daily News - "Editorials: Answer questions before raising tolls" Boston Herald - "‘Pike’ reform just another shell game".
Other stories - Illinois - "Tollway invites comments on truck fees" Massachusetts - "Paving a better future for our roads" Washington State - "Try This On: Variable Tolls For SR 520 And I-90 In 2010".
Mike Rutherford in the Telegraph
"Mr Money: tax relief is only temporary - The Government has only deferred motoring tax increases".
Bit more on "Congestion" tolls for Sydney
Sydney Morning Herald - "Policy on the run is all about revenue" Daily Telegraph - "Roozendaal? Try Confusendaal!".
Peter Roberts on Manchester and National road pricing
Politics - "Comment: Road pricing".
Montreal "Bridge toll plan trudging along"
Andrew Gilligan reports on how the new Mayor is getting on
Boris may have been assimilated by the python that Ken left. One thing that is likely to be dissolved in the python's stomach is the promise about removing the Western Con zone if that is what people wanted - Evening Standard - "Six months on ... the Boris audit".
More on "Congestion" tolls for Sydney
ABC - "No vision, no hope: O'Farrell's mini-Budget verdict" Sydney Morning Herald - "Variable tolls may spread to all Sydney motorways - Roozendaal" The Australian - "Welcome to NSW, the big tax state" ABC - "Congestion tax flagged for across Sydney".
PS The Premier can't drive! (Not unlike a certian ex London Mayor.) The Australian - "Largest state a drag on the nation".
Thanhnien News - "Court of appeals reviews embezzlement case".
Tuesday 11 November 2008
Local Transport aka Road Tolls Bill Back in Lords on the 18th
Following the Commons Third reading of the Bill on the 27th October, the Bill goes to the Lords on the 18th November for them to agree changes made since they last saw the Bill, and then pass it on for the Royal seal of approval.
At the Commons Third Reading, though the Tories made almost no attempt to protect drivers when it came to the Bill's details they at least voted against the Bill as a whole on the final vote. In the Lords any resistance may be invisible. Many of the Tory peers support roads users but Lord Hanningfield, the Tory Transport spokesman, though he thinks that "road pricing" should be decided locally said at the Second Reading - "I am a supporter of tolls on roads".
A story this morning in an English news source says that Jack Opiola, an American tolls consultant now based in Britain has been advising the President-elect's team on a plan for a massive increase in the use of road tolls - "Obama team study c-charge".
More on MTA budget hole and the possible tolling of New York's East River bridges - NY Times - "How East River Bridges Stayed Toll-Free" NY Times - "Bleaker Budget for M.T.A. Likely Means Severe Cuts".
The Massachusetts Governor has proposed removing nearly all the Turnpike tolls. It would leave what in effect would be border tolls, and possibly some other catches, including more Big Dig tolls - The Republican - "Patrick plan would nix tolls on western end" Worcester Telegram - "End of Turnpike Authority?" Boston Globe - "Patrick seeking turnpike shakeup" Boston Herald - "Gov. Deval Patrick aims to nix pike agency" Boston Globe - "Patrick planning to dismantle Mass. Turnpike" Boston Herald - "Gov. Deval Patrick to dissolve Mass Pike".
Pacific Shipper - "Privatization comes under congressional scrutiny".
Other stories - West Virginia - "The Future For Turnpike Tolls " Illinois - "Tollway fee hikes eyed for trucks" Michigan - "Task force pushes Mich. road fund bills" Washington State - "520 tolls may only cover bridge, not other parts of highway" Florida - "Hearings to address toll increases, lease of Alligator Alley" Oregon - "Governor reveals $1B transportation plan" Illinois - "Tollway ‘green lanes’ would ease congestion to, from Chicago".
Chinese boost means more tolls
China has announced that it is to spend just over half a trillion US dollars to try and stop a recession. A lot of money, but then China has two trillion US dollars in reserve. With all that money you would think that road tolls would be scrapped. But no, it seems that a large slice of the money will be spent building more roads - and then tolling them. The existing toll roads between major cities are still very underused, because the average Chinese person can not afford the tolls, while gas guzzlers are encouraged because there is no fuel tax.
PS A later report on roads spending in China - Malaysian Insider - "China hopes new road system will drive the economy"
"Congestion" tolls for Sydney - Sydney Morning Herald - "Congestion charge will do nothing to get cars off the road" Sydney Morning Herald - "Rees dumps on drivers, liberally" The Australian - "Brakes put on spending, drivers slugged" Sydney Morning Herald - "Bridge congestion toll 'highway robbery'" ABC - "NSW Budget overhaul 'bad for business'" Sydney Morning Herald - "Mini-budget introduces bridge, tunnel congestion taxes" Streem - "NSW hands down outrageous Budget" Daily Telegraph - "Tolls not congestion tax: Eric Roozendaal" ABC - "'Strong medicine': Congestion tax and mini-metro for Sydney".
Tolls on credit
Asia One - "400 ditch CashCards for credit cards".
Monday 10 November 2008
Less uninsured and untaxed vehicles
DfT press release - "Rogue drivers forced off the roads". As the only police operation that is mentioned involved stopping less than 7,000 vehicles out of 34,000,000, it is not likely that the Police should get the "credit" for forcing drivers off the road. Our guess is that either these figures are an untypical sample or that the less well off drivers who may be more likely not to insure and tax etc, may have been hit more than the average driver by the rise in fuel costs.
New York is considering tolls on East River bridges to fill a one billion dollar budget hole - WCBS - "MTA To Give Sneak Peek Of Dire Budget Reality" Daily News - "Drivers blast plan to charge tolls on 4 East River bridges" NY1 - "State-Appointed Panel To Consider Tolls On East River Bridges" NY Post - "New Tolls Eyed For East River Bridges" Illinois - "Tollway plan for carpooling, interchanges gets test drive" Daily News - "Tolls could be next for 4 city bridges".
Other stories - "Michigan gas tax, registration fees may have to rise" Florida - "Hearing on Alligator Alley toll increases set for this week in Davie" Texas - "MOVE IT! - Lyceum meeting to tackle expected road-funds deficit" Virginia / DC - "'Slugs' Fear HOT Lanes Will End Free Rides" Massachusetts - "Managing the unmanageable at the Mass. Pike" New Jersey / New York - "P.A. chairman backs a second rail tunnel" Land Line Mag - "‘Almost heaven, West Virginia’ –except for higher turnpike tolls" North Carolina - "More toll roads in N.C.'s future?".
Country cousins pay more
Lithgow Mercury - "Rural drivers without tags taken for ride".
Congestion or not Stats
The third quarter statistics show that car traffic is down by 2.4% (HGVs are down bt 4%, vans are almost unchanged), presumably the overall fall is due to higher fuel prices - AutoCar - "Falling traffic undermines toll plans" DfT - "Road traffic and congestion Q3 Stats issued 6th Nov" see downloads on right DfT - "Inter-urban roads September Stats issued 6th Nov" see downloads on right.
Scunthorpe Telegraph - "MPs unite to support bridge campaign".
More toll plans in South Africa
IOL - "Double whammy toll plans ".
Single driver supplement
Sunday Express - "Lone Drivers Face £100 Fines".
Friday 7 November 2008
Pity about the price
The RAC Foundation have produced a defence of roads, but then spoilt it by saying that as well as more roads, Britain should have "efficient road pricing" - Foundation press release - "ROAD-BUILDING MYTHS BUSTED" "Misconceptions and Exaggerations about
Roads and Road Building in Great Britain" report pdf.
We had a story yesterday - "Latest TfL budget assumes that Western Congestion Charge zone remains". What we missed was that the Mayor has cancelled the new Thames (so called "Gateway") bridge which was to be tolled - Guardian - "Transport for London scraps plans for six-lane road bridge". Buried in the Mayor's press release - "Mayor outlines 10-year plan for massive transport expansion" yesterday was a paragraph saying that the bridge would have cost £500m+ and that "The objections raised at the public inquiry have always been a concern to the Mayor, particularly the disbenefits to traffic flow. In addition, the funding gap that has now arisen, along with other concerns over location and environmental impact, has compounded the Mayor's view that the proposal is not the right one, particularly in light of the consistent local opposition to the scheme." What is not said is that putting tolls on bridges distorts the optimum traffic flow and cancels out most of the economic benefits.
London mayor says that the Con is not a tax and attacks Americans
Guardian - "Boris Johnson: Diplomats deserve asbo for London".
The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations says at Article 34-
A diplomatic agent shall be exempt from all dues and taxes, personal or real, national, regional or municipal, except:
(a) Indirect taxes of a kind which are normally incorporated in the price of goods or services;
(b) Dues and taxes on private immovable property situated in the territory of the receiving State,
unless he holds it on behalf of the sending State for the purposes of the mission;
(c) Estate, succession or inheritance duties levied by the receiving State, subject to the provisions of paragraph 4 of article 39;
(d) Dues and taxes on private income having its source in the receiving State and capital taxes on investments made in commercial undertakings in the receiving State;
(e) Charges levied for specific services rendered;
(f) Registration, court or record fees, mortgage dues and stamp duty, with respect to immovable property, subject to the provisions of article 23.
If Boris believes that the Con is a "service" and not just another way of getting at drivers, then why doesn't he take the various foreign embassies to court?
Florida - "Alligator Alley tolls could jump to $3.75 in July" West Virginia - "Toll hike coming down the pike" California - "Road deal may mean Golden Gate sponsors, higher tolls" California - "New plan to fund the Doyle Drive replacement" Illinois - "Tollway plan for carpooling, interchanges gets test drive" Illinois - "Proposed 'green lanes' would relief traffic, help environment" Florida - "Hearing dates rescheduled for Alligator Alley tolls".
Leeds considering Con
Yorkshire Evening Post - "Have your say on Leeds traffic problems".
PS But FSB oppose any Con in Yorkshire - Huddersfield Daily Examiner - "Plea on transport".
Troll Times balance
Manchester aims to be Britain's first national road tolls pilot. In today's Times, the Leader of the Council argues for tolls. Then we have someone from Cornwall saying no thanks but that "it is a great idea" for places like Birmingham, Manchester or Glasgow - "Is road pricing a good way to raise money?".
RAC Foundation v Greens
Scotsman - "Car lobby and greens on collision course over 'myths'". Strange the way that the news media think that the Foundation is "a motoring group".
Gordon managed to persuade the voters that he deserves their vote, though perhaps the most surprising thing is that 52% of the electorate had not assumed that the only election taking place was in America - BBC - "Labour victorious in Glenrothes" The Herald - "Labour’s victory suggests SNP honeymoon may be ending".
Thursday 6 November 2008
Washington State - "Eyman says he'll be back next year with new initiative" Washington State - "Bridge Toll Payers Also Footing Bill for Public Document Requests" Land Line Mag - "Agency seeks toll increases in Illinois; requests public comments" Land Line Mag - "’Optimistic’ views follow Election Day; poll worker inspired by process".
There is a by-election today in Glenrothes, Fife for a seat at Westminster. The SNP have in their campaign claimed credit for the removal of the bridge tolls. Gordon lives in the constituency next door and Labour have been going all out to retain the seat where they had a 10,664 majority in the General Election.
FTA complain again about Dartford Tolls
Roadtransport.com - "Dartford Crossing truck charge set to rise 22%". The DfT says that "Studies have indicated that traffic would increase by 17% if there weren't charges." In fact the studies done for the DfT showed that the tolls made virtually no difference to the demand, the main effect of the tolls is to cause delays and accidents at the toll approaches - Our submission to the Dartford toll consultation in 2007 (pdf) (Paras 16 to 29 deal with effect of tolling on demand and 30 to 38 with effect of tolling on capacity.)
Latest TfL budget assumes that Western Congestion Charge zone remains
Mayor Watch - "Mayor Johnson launches 10 year transport plan".
The Official line on Road Pricing
On the 29th October, Geoff Hoon was interviewed by the Transport Committee on the DfT Annual Report. Here is the transcript of what was said on road pricing -
Q55 Mr Martlew (Labour MP for Carlisle): There seems to be a deafening silence on a national road pricing scheme, Secretary of State. Is there going to be an announcement on government policy before the general election?
Mr Hoon: You say "a deafening silence": when Alistair Darling was in this job he published a very comprehensive document setting out the possibilities for road pricing. What has been happening since then is that regular work has been done on the practicalities. Having set out (and I hope he will not regard this as being unkind) the theory, what has been happening since then is to look at some of the practical implications both technologically - how do you do it and there is a variety of different ways in which a national road pricing scheme could be delivered - and indeed the consequences. I am not unmindful of the fact that 1.8 million people signed an on-line petition expressing their opposition to the idea. There are other issues in relation to privacy and so on that have to be dealt with. The idea may be that you make this announcement and then it happens. I know you do not think that is how it works but it is important that we look in detail at how it could be made to work in practice, whilst at the same time acknowledging that there are other forms of road pricing that can be introduced on a more local basis. We are sitting here in London: the congestion charge is a form of road pricing. There are various proposals now in other big cities for different schemes. I do not think it is unhelpful to have the experience of those schemes in different places. We can then evaluate, as we take the practical work forward, on how road pricing might work in practice if we were minded to do it.
Q56 Mr Martlew: I take it then that there is gong to be no announcement before the general election! You then went on to local road pricing. Do you think that is the way forward? Do you think it is right to be delegating this down and the Government not to be taking decisions?
Mr Hoon: I think it is a way forward. I think that the idea that you can introduce a comprehensive scheme without having thought through some of the practical implications is a bit far-fetched. We have a pretty basic scheme in London. Although I am sure people begrudge paying their £8 to bring their car into London, they know that that is necessary if they wish to travel in the zone, but it is a fairly catch-all system in the time of the day that it operates. Manchester's proposal for example is quite a bit more subtle; it only operates at peak times and is not the same kind of scheme as London has. There are other schemes at various stages of development which are different. I think it is quite encouraging for local authorities, combinations of local authorities, to examine what might be the best kind of scheme for them and bring forward proposals. That is exactly what the Department encourages.
Tolls beano in Ontario
Daily Commercial News - "Upcoming Transportation Futures forum considers alternative financing models".
Start of building new toll tunnel on Tyne
News Guardian - "Second Tyne Tunnel set to bring economic benefits". This is the usual disinformation. The economic benefits come from providing a new road, but as soon as you toll it, you remove the benefits as you discourage its use.
More on "Going Green"
Further report on the "World Urban Transport Leaders Summit" in Singapore - Straits Times - "Overseas ERP going green".
PS Comments from one driver on the latest toll gantries - Asia One - "Road speed acceptable, but not cost of road use ".
Humber tolls report
Hull Daily Mail - "Tolls report needs more hard evidence". This seems as if it is designed to give the Government an excuse for doing nothing.
PS Hauliers view - Roadtransport.com - "Tolls report needs more hard evidence".
Wednesday 5 November 2008
Plan to toll two thirds of India's main roads
Indian Express - "Cabinet to decide on imposing toll for more NHs".
It's still a Mad, Mad World
At the "World Urban Transport Leaders Summit" in Singapore they are looking at developing toll systems, where the toll would vary with the amount of fuel consumed - Straits Times - "Other ERP systems going green". You may wonder why these transport leaders have apparently never heard of fuel taxes. The reason is that a fuel tax is very efficient and economical, but there is no money to be made by middle men. Toll systems mean that a vast army profits from providing and administering toll systems and from a jobs for the boys philosophy when employing staff and contractors.
Way to go?
This story first appeared on Bloomberg - "London Mayor Johnson Plans to End `Punishment' of Car Drivers", but we now have the press release. There is no mention of the Western Congestion Charge zone, so this may be one thing that is not "to go".
As we said yesterday in our view it is not clear what the young gray suited radical beating the old maverick into the White House (64 million votes to 56.5 million votes) means for road tolls and roads privatization, but the newspaper.com is predictimg - "More Toll Roads Likely in US Future".
Voters in Washington State have gone with the toll advocates and defeated the Eyman anti congestion proposition - Seattle Times - "Wash. voters defeat Eyman's traffic-focused I-985".
Other stories - eTrucker - "Illinois eyes Tollway hike for trucks".
Yesterday there was the annual Transport Times Road pricing conference. As well as the Government Minister, and his fellow Lib Dem tolls advocate, there was the Tory shadow minister who according to the brochure was to reveal what "part road pricing will play in the Conservative Party’s transport policy". Though from the brief newspaper reports of what was said, it was the same as before - under a Tory Government there would be no "national" road pricing, but the door seems to be open for "local" schemes and tolls on new roads and possibly all motorways. Other toll advocates who were speaking included David Begg (the mastermind of the Edinburgh scheme that was rejected in the 2005 Toll Poll) and bosses from the RAC Foundation and the GMPTE (the unelected body that is behind Manchester's "congestion charge" plan).
Daily Mail - "Gas guzzlers face paying double the price for road tolls compared to less polluting cars" Times - "National road toll devices to be tested by drivers next year" AutoCar - "Road tolling trials get green light" Register - "Roadpricing satnav spybox trials under way - ANPR alone too easy to beat".
PS This later report quotes the Tories as saying that they would use tolls to build roads and to remove the vehicle excise duty - Roadtransport.com - "MPs clash over road pricing plan". The Tories know that tolls are the most unpopular form of tax, so we may have to wait till after the next General Election before their tolling intentions are clear.
Welsh Lib Dems oppose Severn bridge tolls
Neath Guardian - "Councillor’s campaign to end Severn Bridge toll". Mike German, the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats says that - "I have long believed that the toll is a psychological barrier to people coming to Wales, whether for work or leisure.". It is a pity that he would apparently be content if the present sysrem was replaced by cashless tolls. Does this mean that tolls are not a barrier if people don't notice that they are paying them?
Singapore looking at move from gantry tolls to satellite based mileage tolls
Channel News Asia - "LTA researching on viability of distance-based road pricing".
PS One view on issues with the card payment system - CNet Asia - "Motorpay--ERP credit card payment in your IU".
"London Mayor Johnson Plans to End `Punishment' of Car Drivers"
A story that only appears to be on - Bloomberg.
Cape Town Chamber thinks that fuel levy is better than tolls
Cape Business News - "Toll Road Monopolies".
Tuesday 4 November 2008
The ex London Mayor has been in Shanghai at the "20th International Business Leaders' Advisory Council" and in Hong Kong apparently telling them that they should not build any more roads and instead introduce "congestion charging". The deputy Chair of the London Assembly’s Environmental Committee is also promoting a congestion charge World Changing - "Can Congestion Charging Soothe Beijing’s Woes?".
Assuming that Obama has the majority of Electoral College votes after today's Presidential election and that the Democrats are stronger in Congress, it is not clear what this will mean for tolls. Many of the candidates for Congess have stated their opposition or support for tolls and roads privatization, but while Obama's policies in general are expected to be radical and green and he is a member of the Global Warming church, he has been careful to say nothing on tolls. Rationally you might expect him to increase fuel taxes and possibly scrap road tolls as inefficient and not encouraging drivers to conserve fuel. But greens are not rational and scrapping road tolls and roads privatization will not be what the bankers who backed Obama want.
In the meantime the Bush administration is pointing the way - Land Line Mag - "New FHWA office to promote congestion pricing, privatization" FHWA press release.
The Airport Authority has now taken control of the Dulles Toll road. The authority was given the road for free, the tolls will be used to subsidise a rail line and other airport spending - Washington Post - "Control Of Dulles Toll Road in New Hands".
Vanishing trick - Lower Hudson Journal (NY) - "Bridge tolls should cover maintenance" letter.
Ultimate way to escape road tolls? Daily News (NY) - "California company says its flying car will be a sci-fi dream come true".
$1.2 million toll charge to be reduced - Pittsburgh Tribune Review - "Charges against trucker in E-ZPass case reduced".
Other stories - Massachusetts - "Mass. Pike waiting game continues" Land Line Mag - "New Jersey bills focus on hazmat loads, turnpike use".
Nanaimo Daily News (BC) - "Bridge to Mainland would need $500 toll: Expert". 500 Canadian dollars equals 425 US dollars or 270 British pounds. In fact the required toll would be infinite, because the toll would have passed the price point where the amount of traffic begins to decline steeply and goes down to nothing.
To spy or not to spy
Telegraph - "Spy in the sky road pricing 'over the top' says former top transport official".
The real issue is not whether road pricing is based on satellites or road side equipment. In both cases it is likely that cars would have some form of electronic tag, and it is essential that there are also cameras, either as the primary system or as a back up in case of system failure or evasion (which will be a major problem). So the cost and the privacy implications are the same with or without satellites. Though with a non-satellite system, it would probably be restricted to built up areas and main roads, as the cost of roadside equipment in rural areas would make it VERY uneconomic.
Where do the Tories at national level stand on all this? On the question of tolls in built up areas and on main roads they have been equivocal or silent.
No change prediction
Guardian Comment - "Bendy Boris - Six months after he became mayor of London, Boris Johnson's transport policy lacks any clear direction".
"Hold tolls inquiry on south bank – call".
Singapore tolls based on "intellectual groundwork" from Britain
Straits Times - "Learn from others' experience".
No tolls promise
One news - "Key announces plan for roads".
Yesterday we had a story that a Japanese paper was attacking the plan to cut most tolls by a further 30%. Today another paper - Daily Yomiuri - has the results of a survey which shows that the Government approval rate is now less than its disapproval rating and that only 38 per cent approve of the 2 trillion yen plan to boost the economy while 56 per cent disapprove. The only plan that appeared to get approval was the tolls cut with 56 per cent for and 37 per cent against.
Monday 3 November 2008
The Transport Committee of MPs is inquiring into the taxes and charges on road users
bit more on what they are looking at. On Wednesday they are to hold a hearing on the issue and have invited as witnesses the RAC Foundation, the Institute for European Environmental Policy, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and two professors. We wonder if there will be anybody to say that roads users are already paying to much or that the various forms of tolls should be scrapped?
the newspaper.com - "Virginia to Consider Per Mile Driving Tax".
WCVB (Massachusetts) - "New Toll Changes Go Into Effect". What are the chances that anyone considered the option of removing the tolls, and thus removing all the queues and all the toll approach crashes?
Philadelphia Inquirer - "N.J. Turnpike work may not ease jams, experts say". Is there any service apart from roads where it is argued that it is no good increasing supply as more people will use it? The suggested solution to this is of course tolls. The professor who until recently was at Imperial College London, says that as about 85 percent of London commuters used public transit, it made the charge "politically easy to do".
This story is about some more Texas tolls, though it mentions that Texan drivers complained when tolls were waived during the recent storms. It seems that the regular toll road users want to keep poorer drivers in their place and off the road - Houston Chronicle - "I-10 work ends, but concerns continue"..
Billionaire Bloomberg has persuaded the New York City Council to agree to him repealing the term limits rule so that he (and the councillors) can serve a third term. Good news for those who want "congestion pricing" and for those who believe that democracy also has a price.
Other stories - Washington State - "Financing looms large as new bridge panel meets for first time
" Florida - "Bill would put brakes on Alligator Alley lease" California - "Drive the 'express lane' on I-680 to Silicon Valley, for a price".
Give us more
The company that owns the Whitchurch bridge over the Thames near Reading is to apply for a toll increase - Henley Standard - "100% increase in Whitchurch Bridge toll ‘unacceptable’". This story says that there may be an Inquiry, whether there is one or not the policy of the DfT seems to be to encourage toll increases on any pretext.
No toll cuts please
One of the Japanese papers has attacked the plan to cut most tolls by a further 30%, (they were already being cut as part of the August package to stimulate the economy). It seems that the paper (or whoever controls it) instead wants measures to lower fuel prices.
One reason for the toll reductions is that the opposition say that they will remove tolls completely, but in the meantime some truckers have been avoiding the tolls by taking longer routes - Daily Yomiuri - "Truckers feeling financial squeeze ..".
Not much change
Another ERP toll gantry opens - Straits Times - "Wake up earlier? No way!". Congestion is itself an incentive to avoid peak periods - if you can. Adding a toll, unless at punitive levels, has little effect on peak periods.
Call for less housing
The Environmental Audit Committee of MPs don't like cars and roads much, and today they are releasing a report adding houses to the sin list - Guardian - "MPs say downturn could save greenfield land from developers". This again demonstrates the influence of property owners who want to stifle supply while increasing demand through lower interest rates, easier loans, mass immigration and subsidies for larger families. Britain will end up as a land where nearly everyone is a property millionaire but the cities - and the roads and public transport - are too crowded to move.
PS Cttee report - "Greener homes for the future? An environmental analysis of the Government’s housebuilding plans" pdf file.
Saturday 1 November 2008
Yesterday we had a DfT spokesman denying that plans for motorway tolls were being speeded up. Today the Troll Times has an interview with Lord Adonis, which is nearly all about the railways but on the motorway tolls plan he says - "Those are very long-term issues. At the moment the biggest question is how we can get more capacity into the motorway network by using hard shoulders." (Though Lord Adonis is the Transport Minister in charge of railways, his other responsibilities include - Strategic road network, Environment and climate change, and Cleaner fuels and vehicles.)
Too hot to pay toll
Today online - "2,900 CashCards to blame for ERP woes".
Lost in translation
BBC - "E-mail error ends up on road sign".
More on - News South Wales Premier wants road pricing
Live News - "NSW Premier backs congestion tax" Sydney Morning Herald - "Rees supports congestion tolling idea".
More on Humber Tolls campaign
Hull Daily Mail - "Tolls cost Hull grandfather £1,200 a year".