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OCTOBER 2004 NEWS

31 October 2004
"Turnpike managers give no quarter!"
A strike by 1,800 workers in the Teamsters Union is expected on the Pennsylvania turnpike. Unfortunately there will still be tolls on most of the road. They would be collected by managers who wouldn't give any change.
Eric Heyl in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review commented "This can only reinforce long-standing public perceptions that those in charge of the toll road are of dubious ability and suspect intellect.


30 October 2004
Not so Fast Trak
There have been numerous complaints about Fast Trak (electronic tolling) in USA. The main complaints are about the ending of discounts. But the other complaint is because the system can not perform optimally because at peak period there are far larger number of cars using the system than off peak. Here is one story from the Bay area by Eric Heyl in the Tribune-Review:-  Caltrans falling short on promises

Red Sox win World Series and Tolls lifted
The Boston Red Sox have a Victory Parade today. The tolls are to be lifted for 4 hours on the Massachusetts Turnpike "to help speed eastbound traffic". So should we all hope for more traffic so that they have to get rid of tolls permanently?

29 October 2004
Road wins Prize!
The Better Public Buidings Award has gone to the A650 Bingley bypass in West Yorkshire. New roads are usually opposed by the anti car lobbies, but once they are built there is almost no one who doesn't recognise the benefits to both those using the road and those living or working in the area:-  BBC - "Relief road wins top design award"


28 October 2004
Kiwis Want Tolls
It is claimed today that 60% of New Zealanders would support Tolls to pay for existing and new roads. What isn't clear is who was polled and who paid for the Toll Poll.
Texans Don't
Many parts of USA accept tolls as an unwelcome fact of life, but there is resistance. Appropriately in Texas, one anti toll campaigner today said :- "People are very angry. They do not want to be double taxed. They do not want our daily highways shifting to tollways."


27 October 2004
Is congestion down?
Lib Dems say that congestion in London is not down since the charge started:-      BBC - "Road toll 'fails to cut traffic'"


26 October 2004
Irish want to end Toll
According to RTE, The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called on the Irish Government to provide funding to buy back the Westlink toll bridge so that it can be operated without tolling.
The ICTU General Secretary, David Begg, said that such a move would eliminate delays. (We assume that this is not the same David Begg who is leading advocate for tolls in Britain.)

Bulgaria leads the way
Bulgaria is to replace road tax with road tolls. Will this boost their tourist industry?

23 October 2004
We want Taxes
VirginiaBusiness.com ran a poll "Do you think the General Assembly should raise taxes to pay for transportation projects and avoid the use of tax districts and tolls?"
The results were a bit surprising for the organisers:- Eighty-one percent of the respondents said yes, raise taxes.

22 October 2004
Never mind the tolls - park for free!
David Begg, tolls advocate, has suggested that first hour of car parking should be free, in effect refunding the toll. Just a couple more steps, and we can scrap the toll altogether. Another report from Brian Ferguson in the Evening News:-  Transport guru in call for free shop parking


21 October 2004
"Darling tells city to reject tolls findings"
No, Alistair has not been converted on the road to Edinburgh. He is worried that the tolls scheme as modified by the Scottish Executive reporters is even less likely to be backed by the people. Report from Brian Ferguson in the Evening News:-  Darling tells city to reject tolls findings
The Scotsman also had today this piece on the tolls from Jenny Hjul:-  Why I don't take congestion as seriously as the council does

Two Way tolls back
After 16 weeks of one-way tolls on Interstate 95, two-way tolls have returned to New Hampshire. The reason?
"People are coming up Route 1 and using our back roads. There are times you can see Route 1 completely backed up and 95 flowing, because people just don't want to be paying the [$2] tolls."
How's about No Way tolls? They seem to be the ideal solution to the congestion problem.


20 October 2004
A New Way Forward For Mersey Tunnels
Mersey Tunnels Users Association (MTUA) have made proposals for how Mersey Tunnels Tolls could be improved for the benefit of both users and the local economy in Liverpool and on the Wirral:-

a) The 20 pence increase that they could have under the Mersey Tunnels "Bill" should not go ahead.

b) Off peak tolls should be reduced to half the normal charge.

c) Sundays should be completely free.

d) Buses should not pay tolls.
The proposals are backed by MPs including Frank Field and Stephen Hesford, and by Mike Storey -the Leader of Liverpool City Council:-    Daily Post - "MP backs free use of tunnel on Sundays"
You can see more about the proposals here:-    Blueprint for Tolls

One from America
Scott Bass in styleweekly.com:-   Cents of Frustration - The tolls and tribulations of crossing the river

Two from Scotland
Evening News - "John Lewis warns of toll impact on Capital"   Evening News - "Lone objector's bridge inquiry to take 5 days"

One from Warmer Parts
According to the Trinidad News, the Trinidad government plans to privatise the roads. We suppose if the Windy city can do it, then so can a windy island.

One from even Hotter Parts
According to Aig Imoukhuede of Nigeria Vanguard, they are not as advanced as the "West" in "collecting" tolls, but they have got the basic idea:-    You and your survival kit

19 October 2004
Ken backs No Tolls!
The London Mayor is to suspend the Congestion Charge between Christmas and New Year. He said it "will benefit visitors and businesses over the period". Well what do you know!      BBC - "Road toll stopped over Christmas"

More on Edinburgh Tolls
There has been more time to chew on the Inquiry findings published yesterday. One of the changes required by the Scottish Executive is that buses and taxis will have to pay the toll. This plus the withdrawal of exemptions from some Edinburgh residents has increased doubts as to whether the Council can still sell their tolls plan. Here are 2 stories from The Evening News:-  Congestion row sparks fares fears    And :-  Selling the poll story


18 October 2004
Edinburgh Tolls given official go ahead, now it's up to the people
The result was announced today of the long Inquiry during the summer into proposals to introduce "congestion charge" to Edinburgh. The Scottish Executive reporters approved the scheme except that they were not in favour of one of the proposed exemptions.
The tolls will affect a far wider area than Edinburgh, but it is now for the people of Edinburgh to vote on the scheme. The authorities may use their massive resources to try and ensure that they get a yes vote. Let us hope that the ordinary people are still heard.
Here is the story as per The Evening News and the BBC. The contradictory headlines are a bit misleading :-  Evening News - "Edinburgh forced into road tolls U-turn"
And :-  BBC - "Road toll plan given green light"


17 October 2004
Tolls exclude the poorest
Various USA papers have carried a story by Christopher Stern, originally in Washington Post, on the growing use of digital devices and services. It includes:-
"There is growing concern among some economists that the introduction of expensive new technology services is dividing the nation into digital haves and digital have-nots. One often-referred-to example is the introduction of variable toll roads - so-called Lexus lanes. On highways in and around San Francisco and San Diego, special lanes are set aside for cars that carry devices that can be read by electronic tollkeepers. The cost of driving on the road varies based on the number of cars that have passed through the toll. The tolls regulate the number of cars by increasing the cost as more enter the lanes. Signs warn drivers they have a choice between paying a higher fee to use highway lanes largely free of congestion or sitting in traffic and watching the other cars speed by. "
"We are creating a two-tiered society, not just the way we pay bills or drive on the highways," said Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation of Economic Trends and author of "Age of Access," a book that argues the world is being transformed into a pay-as-you-go society."
"The barriers are highest for consumers on the lowest economic rungs"


Rich Scots want Tolls
Edinburgh Council faces large scale opposition from ordinary people to its plans for Tolls.
It has now surveyed 30 "business leaders" and most of them want Tolls:-  Scotland on Sunday - "Capital given green light for road charging"
Their enthusiasm for Tolls was despite the fact that it was expected there would be a drop in sales. We suppose that would be more than compensated by keeping the ordinary people off the roads.

roadrage Tolls a cause of Road Rage
This picture from the Portsmouth Herald (Virginia) shows a car that was in a Road rage incident.
The Police chief suggested that drivers might become enraged when stuck in traffic while trying to avoid the tolls:-   Road rage hitting Seacoast streets

10 weeks for Skye Tolls to go
The Scottish Executive said in June that tolls on bridge to Isle of Skye would go this year. But as the end of the year approaches there are fears that the Executive may not honour its promise. From Alan Crawford in the Sunday Herald:-  Executive faces legal threat over the Skye Bridge toll


16 October 2004
Windy City sells Road
On Friday the first sale of a USA road was announced. Chicago's Mayor Daley (not the Mayor Daley who became famous during 1968 Democratic Convention, but his son) is selling off the Chicago Skyway to a Spanish and Australian consortium for $1,800 million. Last year Chicago also sold off its 911 (emergency phone call system) to a Japanese bank. Let's hope that Britain's politicians don't get similar ideas.

USA Truckers lobby against tolls
The American Trucking Associations have been lobbying the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee against extension of tolls on to Interstate highways.
One of their main arguments has oddly enough come from the "Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation":-  The Impact of Tolls on Freight Movement for I-81 in Virginia
VDRPT are naturally in favour of tolls, though their research showed that 20% of loads (10% of vehicle miles) would be diverted on to less suitable roads even at nominal tolls. As tolls increased towards 40 cents a mile (about 30 pence), 55% of loads (80% of vehicle miles) would be diverted. Around this point there is no further increase in diverted traffic "as only truly captive traffic remains at toll levels above 30 cents".
The study also looked at the economic impact:- "Tolling is likely to be felt only in the parts .. whose accessibility would be severely impacted by the .. tolls. The impact is likely to be most severe in those areas where the economy is not broadly diversified, and whose primary industries are heavily dependent on truck transportation." Well that's alright then!

13 October 2004
"Ha lasciato un gatto fuori il sacco" (He has let a cat out of the bag)
Today AGI / Italy on Line reported that the President of Autostrade (one of the companies that owns the existing M6 toll) had announced that they were to bid for tolls on 20,000 km of OUR roads.
It appears that plans for tolls on most British main roads are further advanced than we have been told in Britain.

Oz "no-brainer"
Australian politicians including Peter Costello (equivalent of Britain's Gordon Brown) have repeated calls not to toll a new road to be built in Victoria.
He has likened the politics of tolls to the problems faced by the Australian government when public anger over rising petrol prices led them to cut the fuel excise and abolish indexation, and consequently win the 2001 election.
"People give you a message, you'd be foolish not to take it... I think it's a no-brainer."

More on One way Tolls
Some USA turnpikes have been switching to one way tolls (with doubled toll the other way), so that delays are reduced in one direction.
Today the Exeter News-Letter reported on the latest trial on the I95 road.
Problem seems to be that vehicles are only using the road one way. (Guess which!) They are avoiding the toll the other way and clogging up other roads.
There have been repeated calls for the tolls to be scrapped altogether.

More on "trucks" avoiding tolls
Trucks, in particular, avoid tolls and cause congestion on alternate roads. The tolls for trucks on the Ohio turnpike are to be reduced to try and entice them back. As a bonus they will also be allowed to go at 65mph rather than 55mph:-  Ohio to roll back tolls to 1982 rates

10 October 2004
Scotland the Brave 1
Arguments continue over plans for a congestion charge in Edinburgh. The plans are backed by the majority party on Edinburgh Council and the anti roads lobby. But are opposed by almost everyone else, including the councils for East Lothian, Fife, Mid Lothian, and West Lothian.
Some critics have pointed out that congestion charging will displace traffic to other parts of the city and that rat-running will be commonplace.
It has also been said that businesses in the city will be "hammered" by shoppers flocking to out-of-town centres and Glasgow.
Before the plans can be implemented, there will have to be a referendum.
Now an Edinburgh community group organised by Kristina Woolnough have launched a website to combat the spin for the new road toll:-  Making contrasts

Scotland the Brave 2
Arguments are also continuing over the suggestion that a new road bridge is needed over the Forth. The anti roads lobby are trying to stop it, or if that fails to make sure that there are high tolls to discourage drivers from using it.
George Campbell from Fife is trying to stop toll increases on the existing Forth road bridge. We wish him luck at the forthcoming Inquiry.


9 October 2004
coliseum Sell the Coliseum or the roads?
Over the last week Agenzia Giornalistica Italia has been reporting on an argument over Italy's Budget proposals.
The proposals included sell off of some roads for 3 billion Euros (about 2 billion). This led to a fear that it meant tolls.
But the Economics Minister has now said that there would only be "shadow" tolls, and: "Not one euro of new tolls on roads or any other infrastructure for citizens and users because this would clash with the government policy of increasing the spending power of citizens."
The Northern League leader has condemned the idea, comparing it with "selling the Coliseum".

Fairy tale from Oz
Australia is having elections. In one state there have been claims that there was a cover up of when it was decided that a planned "freeway" would instead be tolled.
Whatever the truth is, the Tolls pot of gold must seem attractive to many politicians all over the world. But to succeed the politicians need a gullible public.

US Tolls Juggernaut meets some opposition
Nearly every day there is a story of new or higher tolls in USA. In this case at least, there is strong opposition from the local Chamber of Commerce who have said "local roads would become jammed by travellers seeking alternative .. routes. The congestion would slow commerce and hurt efforts to revitalize downtown ..These impediments could cause firms to reconsider locating, expanding or maintaining operations.." Associated Press - "businesses oppose tolls"

8 October 2004
tamarbridge More Toll money to be thrown in the bin
Latest on plans for new toll equipment on Tamar bridge were today revealed by the BBC.
The authority that runs the bridge (and the ferry) is to spend 2 million.
Isn't it nice to know that our money goes to a good cause.

7 October 2004
Staffordshire grumbles on about M6 toll
The BBC today reported yet another meeting of residents complaining about the proposed new toll road.
The Cheshire and Staffordshire people and organisations (such as Friends of the Earth) that are complaining seem to be objecting to both the toll road and the alternative of widening the existing road.
We believe this is because they have somehow got an impression that the widening of the existing road will use up as much land as a new toll road.
The NAAT believe that the real situation is that the originally agreed scheme to widen the M6 by one lane in each direction would take up far less land than a new road. Do the objectors appreciate this or are they just opposed to any road improvement?
These groups will be flooding the DfT with objections to both schemes. If you object to the toll road but think that existing M6 should be widened, then please write to DfT now, as per details on our home page.

5 October 2004
Crashes at Severn Toll booths
The BBC today reported that following 13 collisions at toll booths in last 3 years, the company that runs the crossing is to bring in speed cameras.
Why not get rid of the tolls and toll booths? Speed cameras (to) slow bridge traffic

3 October 2004
Congestion Charges - Money spinner or traffic deterrent?
Authorities like congestion charges, but what is their aim?
We all know that the London Congestion charge introduced on 17 Feb 2003 has been so "successful" in deterring traffic that it hasn't been the big cash cow that Ken hoped for. But we now have a report on the Durham Congestion Charge. This must be the smallest Congestion zone in the world as it only covers Saddler Street which gives vehicle access to and past Durham Cathedral and Castle. But it was the first congestion scheme in Britain, with the 2 charge implemented on 1 October 2002.
The scheme was today hailed as a success with more than 200,000 vehicles using it in the first two years. BUT we are left to wonder whether the success is the 200,000 who used it, or the 1,100,000 who avoided it.

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