30 September 2005
SEPTEMBER 2005 NEWS
Expansion of Toll Zone
Ken Livingstone has decided that the western extension of the London toll zone will go ahead, coming into operation in February 2007. For more details see :- London News Page
"Come on in. The water's lovely!"
You have to admire Alistair Darling, Britain's Transport Secretary. He looks as if he has brains and can see that the Emperor has no clothes, but he has to stick with the daft idea of tolls. And how many politicians who's home town (Edinburgh) rejected tolls by three to one, would have the nerve to try and sell the idea to other towns? Cambridge Evening News - "We're on the road to congestion charging".
PS Today's Independent had a story about Alistair "speeding" road pricing along. It said that reaction to the idea was "generally uncritical", and that it would "only" cost three billion pounds a year to operate. (Based on the Goverment experts figures, the annualised costs would be around ten billion pounds.) We had hoped that there were some limits to what the spin doctors would do.
Rocket scientist needed
KPCnews in north east Indiana is asking readers to tell the politicians what they think of the Governor's plans for more tolls. The say that "It doesn't take a rocket scientist - or a highway engineer" to figure out that tolls will cause a lot of problems on other roads:- "Grab your pens and pencils, dear readers, for we have an assignment for you today".
The Austin American Statesman reports that the Central Texas Toll Authority have carried out a survey as to how popular more tolls roads would be. We all know that it is only the toll racketeers who want tolls, but of course if you are sponsoring the survey, you can get what ever result you want by careful phrasing of the questions. But it appears that they somehow made a mess of it, because the answer was that 78 percent were against it:- "Poll: Majority here dislikes toll roads".
The Czech Republic has just received tenders for a new tolling system Prague Post - "Toll system bids revealed". The reason that they need a system is that truck traffic has increased by 50 percent in just one year. The reason? - Germany is tolling trucks, so they travel through Czech Republic instead. One odd feature is that there is not yet a Czech law allowing tolls!
The Jakarta Post reports that Rizal Ramli, former coordinating minister for the economy said that - many government policies frequently failed to improve the welfare of the poor, and instead further burdened them.
Ramli cited as an example the hikes in road tolls, which he claimed were designed to benefit companies owned by certain Cabinet ministers and other senior officials.
28 September 2005
Irish Toll Operators are Smiling
Ireland is now the richest country (GDP per head) in the European Union, so maybe they don't mind that they are being ripped off on their toll roads. Ireland's auditors report that the private company running the West Link bridge is making a return of 24%. The Irish Government is also making a big profit, though the auditors discovered that the Government had not received its full share from the company:- RTE - "2 million toll shortfall wasn't picked up".
It's Official - Tolls mean more emissions
The Garden State Parkway in New Jersey are eliminating tolls in one direction 1010 wins - "GSP To End Southbound Bergen Tolls". Unfortunately they are doubling them the other way! The reason for this action? - "The goal is to allow drivers to cruise for long stretches without slowing down to pay tolls. Fewer toll plazas also mean less emissions from vehicles waiting in lines to pay."
Now, we wonder what would be the effect if they eliminated tolls in both directions, and all the roads were financed from gas taxes???
Toll Roads Rule
Associated Press report that in Massachussets, the head of the Turnpike authority has attacked the State Governor, and said if he was in charge he would put tolls on the Interstate 93 - That'll show them who is really running the nation!
27 September 2005
Labour Keep Right
Tony Blair this afternoon told the Labour Party conference that policies on implementing road pricing will be published as part of a fundamental change in transport funding. In other words - Labour will be pandering to the right wing marketeers, avoiding public spending on roads, and hitting the poorest drivers.
PS One part of the private sector benefitting from road pricing and lack of investment in roads will be the Train Operating Companies. By coincidence the Director of Public Policy at their Association was today quoted as saying that - "worsening traffic congestion, rising fuel costs, road pricing, and flat bus patronage would be to the benefit of rail".
Kerry Dougherty comments on proposals for rush hour tolls in Virginia. "This tax - and tolls are taxes no matter what they say - would fall squarely on the shoulders of secretaries, switchboard operators, clerks, service industry workers, laborers, those in the Navy and anyone else who has to be at work first thing in the morning.":- Virginian Pilot - "Rush-hour tolls would just punish working stiffs".
Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen
60 per cent of Copenhagen residents support the idea of road pricing. At least that's what a recent survey claims. The same survey even says that 40 per cent of drivers support the idea. Like many of these surveys, it is not revealed how so many turkeys were led into voting for an early Christmas. In any case the state government is opposed to tolls:- "Paved with good intentions".
Denmark has of course got even higher fuel prices than Britain.
Property Swings and Roundabouts
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors predict that if "congestion charging" or "road pricing" is introduced, there will be large changes in property prices. People will move into city centres and businesses will move out. There will also be a fall in the prices of property with motorway access and a rise in prices where there is railway access:- Manchester Eveining News - "Car Curb Plans".
Land of the Free (Once)
There are plans all over the States to bring in more tolls. This includes selling existing roads, putting tolls on some or all of existing lanes, and building new toll roads. It also of course includes toll increases - Indiana plan to nearly double toll prices:- Post Tribune - "Toll fee change adds up billions".
PS There is a report already that Indiana drivers will divert on to unsuitable roads:- Journal Gazette - "Drivers balk at toll hike; may divert".
PPS It is also reported that the Democratic House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer, opposes higher tolls and according to
Associated Press / Madison Courier said "The governor is raising the toll prices and then leasing it to a company that is going to have to make a profit, so you know Hoosier motorists are going to pay even more in the future."
26 September 2005
Road Costs Billions More because it is Tolled
Dr John Cox writing in the Age reveals that the East Link "freeway" will cost the public about five billion dollars more because it was built as a toll road:- "Paved with good intentions".
25 September 2005
Alistair preaches anti car message to the converted
At the opening of the Labour Party annual conference, Alistair Darling repeated the threat to bring in road pricing. He came up with the usual excuses. Does he really believe that cars are the cause of pollution and the mythical "global warming"?
Alistair also said "In the last twenty years the number of cars on Britain's roads has increased by over 60% and all trends point to people driving more year on year." Perhaps he could ask Gordon to let him spend a bit more on roads, rather than trying to price ordinary people off them.
Cross City Tunnel Toll running on empty
Australians are still boycotting the Cross City Tunnel toll and the traffic figures are even less than the Government claims:- Sydney Morning Herald - "Now there's proof: drivers dodge tunnel".
Hurricane Rita did less damage than feared, but there was a mammoth traffic jam during the evacuation of the coastal area. Reports from Florida, suggest that Texas failed to take the neccessary steps, including removing all tolls and reversing traffic flow on some of the lanes.
Delaware Tax break
Delaware is one of the states considering selling off roads, but one Republican has raised the question of whether the people will be paying twice over - once to build the road, and again in tolls to use it, with the toll operator getting tax reliefs:- Delaware News Journal - "Lawmaker investigates tax break on road lease".
New Hampshire Police find way round the law
New Hampshire by mistake repealed the law which made non payment of tolls an offence. But their police have found a way round the law. They are now issuing tickets as if the driver had jumped a red light:- "Police get creative about arresting N.H. toll-evaders".
PS Orlando, Florida is also having problems with tolls. The problem there is that people are being prosecuted because of equipment and system "glitches":- Orlando Sentinel - "Misplacing the Blame".
Greens Against Tolls
Greens are usually (always!) anti roads, but in the current elections, the Independent Green Party of Virginia opposes tolls. We are glad to see that at least some greens realise that tolls hit the poor, are an unfair form of tax, encourage gas guzzlers, and benefit fat cats.
22 September 2005
Cardiff promises "consultation" on Con Charge
Cardiff Lib Dems are looking at charging tolls to those entering the capital city. They say that there will be consultation first:- Western Mail - "Consultation over road pricing promised"
If Cardiff don't plan to have tolls, it is odd that they have recruited Capita as consultants. They are of course the firm that manages the London Con scheme.
Billions of Ringitts
The Malaysian Government is to pay 38.5 billion ringitts (that's 10.5 billion US dollars or 6 billion pounds sterling) to Toll road operators. The Goverment asked them to stop increasing tolls because of the effect of rising oil prices. The amount is so large, that the Government could only pay 5% upfront:- Malaysian National News Agency - "RM38.5 Billion Compensation For Highway Concessionaires".
Houston and other coastal parts of Texas are being evacuated because of hurricane Rita. The Harris County Toll Road Authority announced today it has suspended all tolls to keep the evacuation traffic moving. We don't know if other toll roads are still delaying traffic.
A few Australians are realising that tolls are only good for the toll operators and the Government. Here is a comment posted today by "Margo" on news.com.au:-
"I think it's absolutely outrageous that more and more you have to pay to use roads and that the Government actually closes public roads to force you to use paid ones. Why do we pay taxes and the prohibitive tolls on the Bridge and Tunnel (which we have to keep paying despite those projects being paid off) when none of it appears to go back into infrastructure? They're happy to take money from developers to build more housing but not prepared to pay for the infrastructure to go along with it."
Humber Bridge Patients
A patient group is campaigning for tolls to be stopped for cancer patients who have to cross the Humber bridge for treatment:- BBC - "Cancer patients' bridge toll plea" The Bridge authority told the BBC that "95% of people coming across the bridge could argue some sort of case for having the right to concessions", and the Bridge authority ask "What about the commuters who have to pay just to get to work every day?"
If the authority cared about the patients or anyone else, then the solution is simple - They can ask for the bridge to be adopted by the Government as a trunk road, and then no one would need to pay.
The bridge cost £98 million to build and so far they have collected over £200 million in tolls. The whole cost of the bridge could be wiped out with just 18 hours worth of the £50 billion of road taxes collected in one year.
The Humber Forum employed consultants to look at the bridge tolls in 2004. The Forum is supposed to represent the interests of the Humber, but in this case the bosses and bureaucrats seemed to be more concerned about Gordon Brown losing part of his £50 billion, and they accepted that tolls would not only to be kept, but also increased each year.
21 September 2005
Lib Dems demand Tolls on All roads
Lib Dem transport spokesman, Tom Brake, at their party conference today called for "comprehensive" road-user pricing:- Evening News - "Lib Dems make drive for road-user pricing to cut UK congestion"
One thing that you can say for the Lib Dems is that they are honest - they admit that they want to put a "brake" on roads users. It is a pity that they don't see that road pricing would be a disaster for everyone, not just the people that they want to drive of the roads.
Road Pricing Boosts Economy (and Congestion and Pollution)
Reuters "Singapore cuts sky-high car prices to spur economy" report on Singapore which has substantially reduced taxes on purchasing cars and increased "Certificates of Entitlement" to enable purchases of cars. To offset this it has extended its pay-per-use Electronic Road Pricing road toll system. The result - according to the director of the Singapore Environment Councils - is "Visibly, in central areas, you're starting to see near-gridlock situations in mid-afternoon, not just at peak periods. This has environmental implications, when there's more traffic, cars have to slow down and that means they burn more gas. Pollution issues are a concern."
"Motorists Forum" Want Spies in Cars
The Daily Telegraph and others report that the Government are considering forcing all drivers to have black boxes. The purpose is apparently to slow cars down. In some reports, the Government deny that it is intended "as a means of road pricing":- "Black boxes plan to make cars safer - and slower".
The black box suggestion comes from the "Motorists Forum". Despite the name this appears to be dominated by anti motorist interests, and does not include the Association of British Drivers which is the main body that represents motorists.
Businessman fights for right to use toll exit
A businessman is taking the New Jersey Turnpike authority to the state's Supreme Court. He wants to use the exit ramp north of 18W. But the exit is open to the public only during Giants games, otherwise it is restricted to eleven people. Let's guess - the eleven will all be poor low paid people - right?
Public will accept Tolls if they are given the option of - No Road
According to the Associated Press - "Toll Road Boosters Must Tackle Public Opinion" the first executive director of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority is "a veteran of public relations and lobbying". Ideal qualities for building and managing toll roads. Consultants have told the North Carolina Toll bosses that - "the public will accept toll roads if they are given the option of having that or no road at all. The public must be persuaded that the road couldn't be built from other funding sources." We admire the Americans for the way in which they are so open about all this.
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the tolls bonanza. Rep Curtis Blackwood says that a toll road would hit those on low incomes and deter blue-collar vacationers from using U.S. 74 to travel to the North Carolina coast, hurting businesses in poor counties on the way to the beaches.
No Tolls for those going home
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway at New Orleans has reopened. So far they are not charging tolls. The Toll authority say that they "hope to not charge tolls to evacuees returning to their homes." It's nice to see that the toll authorities have a heart. Perhaps they can charge double next time round - having Toll roads will be such a big boost to rebuilding the economy.
PS The authorities in Florida know that every dollar counts. The Miami-Dade Expressway Authority reinstated tolls on all its roads at 5.30 this morning as Hurricane Rita passed over.
20 September 2005
Cambridge group to oppose Tolls
Cambridge City Council wants tolls (see 13th September). Some IT professionals have formed "Road Pricing Action Group" to oppose them and to suggest other solutions to traffic problems:- Cambridge Evening News - "Group is revived to halt road-charging"
Norwich forced towards Tolls
Norfolk County Council wants a bypass for Norwich. It looks as if to get it, the Goverment will force them to bring in some form of road pricing :- Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - "Backing for 'three-quarter' NDR"
Space the Final Frontier
The European Space Agency (ESA) is funding a trial in Dublin of tolling using spy satellites.
The news comes from one of the participants - Mapflow. They go on to say:-
"We have worked with ESA on the application of space technology to road tolling since 2003 when we investigated the feasibility of using satellite technology for tolling. Mapflow has developed significant experience and knowledge about the application of satellite technology to various aspects of road tolling through participation in ESA projects such as ARMAS. Improving this technology and using it, especially in built-up areas, has taken substantial investment. We have completed trials on satellite technology in a number of other urban areas, including London." ( ARMAS is "Active Road Management Assisted by Satellite")
19 September 2005
Ben Webster in the Times reports a claim that the Government have found a way to charge tolls on all roads without a spy in the sky. The report "Camera spies in million cars to trap toll cheats" says:- "At least 10 per cent of cars, including more than a million police and local authority vehicles, would be equipped with cameras capable of identifying numberplates. The "spy cars" would use radio signals to check whether the car driving in front had paid the toll for the road on which they were travelling. If the spy car failed to detect a digital receipt, it would photograph the numberplate and store the image, together with the location and time, on an onboard computer. The data would then be transmitted to one of the roadside receivers that would be positioned every few miles across the network. "
The report says that Professor Frank Kelly, the DfT's chief scientific adviser, said: "This is an interesting idea which could solve the privacy question. People might be happy for a supermarket to know their buying habits from their loyalty cards but they may object to the Government knowing their movements."
We had to check the date to see whether this was an April Fool joke. This "system" which "solves the privacy question" would not trick a five year old.
By one of those strange quirks of fate, at the same time as the Times story, the DfT issued this press release:- "£490 Million for faster, more accurate motorway driver information" It says that they will spend £500 million on improving electronic communications and that "The first phase of the project will include work to install cables on parts of the M4, M3 and M62 and replace and upgrade electronics in more than 150 roadside transmission stations. "
Hands up all those who believe that there is absolutely no connection between this and the plans for road pricing.
The Transport News Network today report what Doctor Ladyman said at last week's TUC conference. It was at an event sponsored by the Social Market Foundation. The Doctor said "Given the choice, people will use their private car". This is apparently bad - the Doctor's solution? - "road user charging".
Road pricing brings together people from the two political extremes. Unions such as the Railwaymen of course want to drive people off the roads. The Social Market Foundation has right wing roots, so it will support cuts to public spending on roads and stealth taxes on the less well off.
M6 too far from London?
Last Wednesday, the Highways Agency announced that they had let a 381 million pounds contract for the widening of the M1 between Luton and Bedford (junctions 10 to 13) to four lanes in each direction.
Roads minister Dr Stephen Ladyman said: "This section of the M1 motorway is a strategic link between London, the midlands and the north, and is used by 140,000 vehicles each day. The extra lanes will improve journey time reliability by making the route safer and less congested."
The M6 is used by even more traffic, and the stretch between Cannock and North West of Engalnd should have been widened years ago. But the Government keeps on postponing the scheme and want to build a toll road instead. Is the difference that the North West is not as close to London?
Massachusetts Folk Jump Through Hoops
Hundreds of thousands of users of the Massachusetts Turnpike should get a refund on part of the state gas tax they pay. On average they would be eligible to get over $90. But only 357 drivers applied for it last year. Story from Lucas Wall:- Boston Globe - "Bill would cut red tape to get Pike tax refund"
"Commuters must save all gas and toll receipts and submit them with a detailed form every six months to the state Department of Revenue. Only gas consumed on the Pike within three days of purchase is eligible for the refund. Applicants must fill in descriptions of every trip that qualifies, including date of fuel purchase, number of gallons purchased, date of toll receipt, where they entered and exited the tollway, and mileage traveled. The law allows a rebate of 21 cents per 15 miles traveled. The Revenue Department takes a chunk of the refund by assessing the state's 5 percent sales tax on gas exempt from the fuel tax."
It is amazing that anyone was able to jump through all these hoops. They are now proposing to make it a bit easier to claim. Perhaps if the Massachusetts legislators had any sense, they would scrap the tolls or at least reduce them to compenaste everyone for the gas tax. But then of course one purpose of tolls is to create a lot of unproductive jobs for toll collectors and tollocrats.
Hullo Rita. Goodbye Meter Maid
Governor Jeb Bush has suspended some of Florida's tolls as the Keys area is evacuated ahead of tropical "storm" Rita.
India Shows the Way
India's Financial Express reports that the country is to revamp it's toll schemes. To encourage development of "private sector" toll roads, risks are to be transferred to the public sector. The public sector will compensate the private sector if land acquisition is delayed. And if traffic is less than expected, then the concession period will be extended.
The paper also says:- "Given the resistance to toll (it was one of the main reasons for the strike by transporters who argued that the multiplicity of road levies was unjustified) it will not take long for adverse public opinion to derail the national highway programme. It is imperative, therefore, that the government ... educates the public on the need for tolls.".
IMF Tells Oz - "More Tolls"
The International Monetary Fund have just issued a report on Australia. The Australians already suffer from more road tolls than almost anywhere else, but apparently it is not enough They are now told "removing the implicit subsidy to heavy road users through higher access charges would stimulate the use of rail transport and reduce the cost of maintaining and expanding roads". In other words - More Tolls!
18 September 2005
Texans Jump - "How High?"
Patrick Driscoll reports that Texan authorities are to survey drivers on how much they are prepared to pay in road tolls as "There's no point in building toll roads if nobody uses them":- My SanAntonio - "State surveys drivers on tolls"
The classic response when the bully tells you to jump is to ask "How High?".
When asked "How High?" will the Texans be brave enough to say - "Go Jump!"
15 September 2005
New Statesman - Old Dogma
The Leader in the New Statesman magazine deals with the current protest about high fuel taxes. They call on Gordon Brown not to reduce taxes, and say "more stringent measures must be taken to force us out of our cars". Perhaps Joe Stalin could give them a few tips.
Australian Lose Ashes but Keep Tolls
Many Australian papers report that the Opposition Leader in Victoria is backtracking on a promise to remove some tolls if elected. If so, he will be following the path taken by the Premier, Steve Bracks, who betrayed his promise over tolls on the Mitcham-Frankston Freeway, now known as EastLink.
Australians let their Government and the toll road operators walk all over them. No wonder that they have just lost the Ashes to England. Perhaps they are adding something to the Australian beer!
Another area once considered tough, but now emasculated is Texas. They plan to bury the State under toll roads. Most Texans are silent on this, but some are fighting on. It is claimed that one anti-toll activist confronted County Judge Wolff outside the courthouse and told him to "take the first shot.":- My SanAntonio - "Opposition to toll plans reportedly reaches a boiling point"
Canadians Fight On
The Ontario Government have served notice of appeal against the court decision that found in favour of the 407 ETR Toll operators.
Nigeria misses Tolls
Nigeria's Daily Independent has an article attacking the removal of tolls in 2003, when a Highway Maintenance Tax was introduced on petrol sales..
Reasons given for this attack are:- 1. Unofficial bandits now collect tolls and kill people. 2. Queues at toll booths provided a break for drivers, and gave them a chance to walk round and buy refeshments while they waited and enjoyed the fresh air.
14 September 2005
Association of British Drivers
On Saturday, the ABD had their annual general meeting. John McGoldrick fron the NAAT spoke about tolls:- Tolls Talk to ABD 10 September 2005
Beat the Toll
Electronic Arts are bringing out a new version of their Need for Speed game. It includes "Beat the Toll". If only it were for real!
13 September 2005
Brum For Tolls?
Campbell Docherty reports that Labour would like the West Midlands to be the site for the first pilot scheme for road pricing. One advantage is that some of the councils are Tory, so they would share the "credit":- Birmingham Post - "West Midlands first choice for traffic tax"
Light Blues For Tolls?
Lib Dems and Labour on Cambridge City Council are keen to have tolls in the city, and they are trying to convince the Tories who control the County Council:- Cambridge Evening News - "Council chiefs eye 'pay to drive' scheme"
The paper conducted a poll of its readers - 71% were against tolls:- Cambridge Evening News - "Council clash on way as city calls for study into idea of road-charging". So we can safely assume that the people will not be allowed to decide!
We are pleased that the Cambridge Retail and Commercial Association have recognised the threat:- Cambridge Evening News - "Traffic toll idea slammed as 'scare tactics' by businesses
Blue Blues For Tolls? PS - YES
The Independent last week reported on a speech that George Osborne, the Tory shadow Chancellor, gave to the Social Market Foundation on the 7th. He spoke on "flat taxes" and "hinted" that the Tories would bring in road tolls and road pricing.
If nothing else, no doubt he will have brought wide smiles to the Labour Party.
PS The Tory website now has the text of his speech. He said "Can we afford to build the expensive new roads we need out of general taxation or must we look at road tolling and pricing?"
Fuel Tax Protests
The NAAT believes that road users pay too much in taxes. We support protests against high fuel taxes, but we do NOT support disruption of fuel supplies. Here are a few facts:-
Fuel tax is 47.1 pence plus the effect of VAT which is 14.9% of the pump price. At 95 pence a litre, that means that at current pump prices of about 95 pence a litre, the proportion of tax is around 65% or to put it another way, the tax is about 200% on top of the price before tax. For most other goods and services the tax is only 17.5% on top of the non tax price. If petrol and diesel was taxed the same, then pump prices would now be only 40 pence a litre.
Fuel for vehicles is unfairly treated, as fuel for boats, planes and just about everything else carries little or no duty. Some people claim that using fuels causes harmful effects. This may not be true, but even if it is, then why should drivers bear all the burden?
Britain's taxes on fuel for cars and lorries are almost the highest in the world. This results in almost the highest fuel prices in the world despite Britain being a major oil producer.
Britain's drivers, pay about £50 billion a year in taxes, but the Government and local authorities only spend about £7 billion a year on the roads.
More Facts on fuel prices
BUT, drivers in areas where there is a toll are far worse off than the average driver. The effect of tolls can effectively double the already extortionate fuel tax.
Irish Toll operators are Smiling
Various papers report a 40 percent increase in the profits of National Toll Roads. The company owns the West Link toll bridge, and has ruled out suggestions that tolls should be abolished to ease congestion on the M50 ring road - Quite right! Toll roads are there to make money, not to benefit roads users.
Walter's Words of Wisdom
Walter Via has this letter:- Freelance Star - Put the HOT lanes on ice; build D.C. bypass instead" . Here is part of it (Lexus is a big luxury car):-
"In California, High Occupancy Toll lanes made some short-term gains, but just a few years later the roads were experiencing the same overcrowding.
It's easy to see why they are called "Lexus Lanes." A university study of California toll lanes showed that 58 percent of the drivers in the toll lanes earn more than $60,000 per year.
The private firm that built the lanes in California had a noncompete clause in its contract that barred the local government from adding more free lanes. Congestion in the free lanes continued to increase, and the state had to buy the toll road from the private firm for $125 million more than it cost to build.
The HOT lanes are run for profit, not for the public good. A Washington, D.C. bypass on the Interstate 95 corridor would do more good in the long run to solve our traffic problems than HOT lanes.
Virginia's gas tax is among the lowest in the nation. It is good to have low taxes, but the result is billions of unmet needs in road construction."
New Thames bridge
The BBC reports that the anti roads trinity - Friends of the Earth, Greens and Transport 2000 - are continuing their battle against the new Thames bridge. The bridge will be tolled, and is subject to a public inquiry which reopens next week.
The BBC says "It is part of plans to build about 120,000 new homes, along with schools, health centres, transport links and other infrastructure, over a 40-mile wide area stretching from London into Essex and Kent." and that "two of the six lanes would be used by pedestrians, cyclists and public transport". Why should alaredy overtaxed motorists have to bear these costs, when others will benefit from the bridge without paying a penny?
More Needless Tolls
Last year the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel raised its tolls from 10 to 12 dollars. The excuse was that the traffic would get a lot higher, so they would need a new bridge or tunnel, and they needed to "condition" the traffic to higher tolls. Now the State auditors say that the figures may not be accurate:- Virginian Pilot - "Bay Bridge-Tunnel tolls raised prematurely last year"
Daily Press - "Lawmakers leery of tolls"
When toll road operators want more, it is easy to claim that a new crossing is needed. Ordinary people don't usually have the full facts. But why do they get suckered into higher tolls to pay for something that doesn't yet exist and maybe never will?
More EZ Fun
Boston.com reports more trouble at New Hampshire tolls. When they introduced fines for not paying tolls on the new EZ Pass lanes, they accidentally removed fines from the other lanes.
"Got a spare number plate, cobber?"
Thefts of number plates in Victoria are up, as drivers try to avoid number plate cameras used at some tolls.
12 September 2005
"Acts of bastardry on a toll road to nowhere"
Paul Sheehan in the Sydney Morning Herald writes about the new Cross City Toll Tunnel:-
"Taxi drivers already call it the "Ghost Tunnel". I can see why. I've travelled through Sydney's latest big infrastructure project, the Cross City Tunnel, and on the first trip, at 8.55am, I saw one other car. On the second, at midday, I may have glimpsed a van. We had the place to ourselves.
The Ghost Tunnel is blackmail. It has made the city worse. It's floating on a foundation of lies. The CBD is now a more dangerous place for pedestrians as exasperated drivers crawl around barriers put up for absolutely no sane reasons. The public is basically conducting a civil disobedience campaign. There is general disgust at the toll price of $3.53 per journey, $7 round trip, or $5.13 one-way for anyone without a George Orwell electronic tag. If the toll was $2, maybe we wouldn't be having this discussion, and the tunnel would be an immediate asset to the city.
Who will take responsibility for this stupid pricing decision? Who will take responsibility for the bastardry of closing perfectly good arteries through a congested city to deliberately create congestion? The reasons put forward by the Roads and Traffic Authority, and by the Labor Government, have been worse than implausible. They have been worse than insulting. They have been lies. No plausible justification has been given - none - for why there should be six minutes of chaos, let alone the six months of chaos we have been promised.
This is not traffic engineering, this is social engineering. This is about turning us into a society of renters, as public assets are replaced by private monopolies shovelling stealth taxes to government and profits to companies like Macquarie Bank, the "millionaires factory", which has a controlling interest in the Eastern Distributor.
And now traffic is crawling through the city in a brazen strategy to generate revenue for a tunnel owned by CrossCity Motorway Pty Ltd, a private consortium whose major shareholders are Cheung Kong Infrastructure (a subsidiary of the Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa Limited), clients of Deutsche Asset Management (a subsidiary of the German banking giant Deutsche Bank) and Bilfinger Berger BOT (a German infrastructure developer). The tunnel cost $680 million to build but the public will pay and pay far more than this.
Australians do not react well to blackmail. Hence the mostly empty tunnel.
The Ghost Tunnel personifies the moral distance of the Government from the will of the people. The political payback has yet to find expression, but the storm is building. Its approach is as inevitable as the tolls now charged by the private monopolies."
9 September 2005
FBI investigate Tolls Fraud
Twenty people, including employees of a firm that administers the EZ Pass system, have been charged in a major fraud. It is claimed that large corporations were billed for other people's tolls.:- The Journal News - "Rockland D.A. charges 20 in E-ZPass scam"
EZ No pay
People who just drive through the EZ pass lanes without paying are to be pursued by debt chasers. The drivers owe 23 million dollars in tolls and fees. It is expected that little will be recovered:- Times Union - "Thruway violators won't get off so easy"
The toll authorities are awash with cash, but it's nice to see that they don't try too hard to go after the crumbs (23 million of them).
Toll Opponent Answers Back
Florida politician, John Mica, has apparently been criticised for blocking more toll roads. Today he answers back Orlando Sentinel - "Mica: Why I blocked I-4 toll lanes":-
"Central Florida now has 153 miles of toll roads and 20 more miles planned. We have toll roads to the east, west, south and soon the north. We exceed nearly every metropolitan area in the United States in toll-road mileage. Furthermore, any new interstate toll lane here will send federal highway dollars elsewhere.
When local citizens buy gasoline, they pay federal gas taxes primarily for the construction and maintenance of federal interstates. When they pay tolls to access major interstate bypasses, they pay twice: once at the pump and again at toll booths. That is unfair by any standard.
As I-4 is widened, I will do everything possible to eliminate an unnecessary 22-mile, 32-foot-wide ribbon of concrete barriers and asphalt shoulders required as part of the proposed toll road. We can have less paving, heat, pollution and stormwater runoff with a more environmentally friendly and less costly road design."
A Rail proponent breathes a sigh of relief that a "consortium of influential private interests" look as if they will fail to seize contol of Interstate 81--"perhaps the commonwealth's most valuable public asset":- The Freelance Star - "Of politics, skullduggery, and roaring trucks on Virginia's I-81"
Good News for George?
Last section of the Bush Turnpike opens today near Dallas. Perhaps this will give George W someting to smile about.
No doubt the toll operators will be smiling.
One Trillion Yen Loss on unused Toll roads
The BBC has a report from Chris Hogg on the general election in Japan, this Saturday. Apparently the Japanese people are good at saving, and the politicians are good at throwing money away. In one area "they have built three huge bridges in the last 10 years. So far they are running at a loss of 1 trillion yen because the tolls are so expensive, few locals use them."
Silk Road not so rich
Sistem Lingkaran-Lebuhraya Kajang has a toll road at Kajang, which seems to be in difficulty due to low traffic volumes:- Malaysian National News Agency - "SILK's Ratings Downgraded On Poor Traffic Volume"
South Altantic to South Pacific
The BBC reports that "The foundation stone for the last section of the inter-oceanic highway was laid on Thursday (8th) in the Peruvian city of Puerto Maldonado.
The presidents of Peru, Brazil and Bolivia all took part in the ceremony. "
We can't find any reference to this major road being tolled. It appears that the road is being built to aid economic development. A mistake surely?
Tolls for Texas
San Antonio, Texas, yesterday had the second day of a public meeting into massive tolling plans. Some people spoke in favour of tolls and said otherwise they would not get new roads. Donna Mendez , a tolls opponent, said "If this is a good idea then why don't we let the citizens decide in a public vote?"
On the first day protesters had branded the forum as a cheerleading convention for highway interests who stand to profit from toll roads. David Van Os, a candidate for Texas attorney general said:- "You're facing the height of arrogance. Fight 'em until hell freezes over and then fight 'em on the ice.":- My San Antonio - "Transit forum draws protesters"
PS By coincidence, a delegation of fourteen Utah legislators is visiting Texas to look at toll roads. Utah already has a toll road, but I suppose that if the trip is coming out of tolls and other taxes they could have gone to Hawaii for a few months.
8 September 2005
Further fall in M6 Toll traffic - Yes
Figures for August have been published. They show traffic on the M6 Toll is 15% down on a year ago.This is the third month in a row that the traffic figures are lower than a year ago. Report on ITV. Newratings.com reports that GSJBW said that "In our view M6 Toll traffic results will continue to be weaker over coming months".
We issued this statement:-
"Motorists are currently protesting about fuel taxes of about 61 pence a litre, including VAT. That works out at about five to six pence a mile. We agree that is too high, but the M6 toll works out at thirteen pence a mile, and some bridge tolls are around ten pounds a mile."
"All drivers are badly hit by taxes, but those who regularly have to use a toll road are hit twice over."
"If the tolls were removed from the M6 Toll, then there would be a better overall flow of traffic, and less fuel would be wasted."
7 September 2005
Share an idea, with Alistair
The RAC Foundation as part of "Share Ideas Day" on 12th September have called for ideas on Road Pricing that they can pass on to Alistair Darling.
As the Foundation generally support tolls, they would probably not wish to pass on our suggestion!
Tolls in Africa
AllAfrica.com has a report from Valentine Obienyem on a long bus journey to her hometown. She complains about the police illegally extorting tolls from roads users, particularly between 8 and 10 pm at the City Gate, Abuja.
Tolls in Florida
Miami Today reports that at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce transportation summit, Republican Rep. Juan Zapata complained that tolls were a tax that hit some areas hard:- "We're talking about a $1,000 per annum tax. That's significant - especially when we are talking about people who are workers."
A spokesman for the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, said that roads were "seriously underpriced", and the future was more tolls and "congestion" charges.
Chamber of Commerce says "Yes Please" to another M6 Toll
The North West Chambers of Commerce are apparently not worried that the Government haven't started on the widening of the M6 that was agreed years ago. They are quite happy for a new toll road to be built instead:- Liverpool Echo - "Chambers of Commerce call for action over M6"
We wonder what it is about Chambers of Commerce that they seem to be so unconcerned about tolls. Surely they can't all be claiming them on expenses?
Friends of the Earth complain about Thames Toll bridge
FOE are all in favour of tolls, but they don't want the new toll bridge to be built at Greenwich:- FOE Press Release
Developer Calls for New Toll Road
A developer says that a new motorway is needed, south of Bristol. He says it should be paid for through tolls:- BBC - "City motorway 'could cut traffic'"
Associated Press report on an accident yesterday on Chicago's Skyway, which critically injured two peoples, with others less seriously injured. A tanker "lost control near a highway toll booth, rolled over on its right side and slid into at least a dozen other vehicles waiting to pay tolls."
The outbound lanes were closed , but reopened early this morning.
6 September 2005
Tolls will be a gain for rural areas?
The recent rise in crude oil prices is having an effect at the pumps. Now a Lib Dem MP has called for road pricing as it "would be fairer than fuel tax for rural residents":- Norfolk Eastern Daily Press - "Petrol tops £1 a litre"
If road pricing is fairer to rural residents, then how about the 90% of people who live in urban areas?
Why should tolls in rural areas be less than in urban areas - does the road space per vehicle cost less to build and maintain?
How does this Lib Dem MP know that tolls on "rural" roads will be less than what is paid at the moment in fuel tax?
If we have road pricing then the average motorist will pay more. There may be some who pay less, but there is no way of knowing who they may be, and whether their windfall would not be taken away at some time.
And does this MP not know that the Commons Transport Committee were worried that road pricing might "threaten the character of the countryside"?
Spy in the Sky gets Closer
A British firm is to develop a prototype version of the "Galileo Service Centre" for "applications such as road pricing":- Computing - "Europe looks to boost satellite applications"
LogicaCMG Press release
Gas Taxes - Fair and Efficient
One editor that we agree with! Indianapolis Star - "State should fill up on gas taxes"
"What's wrong with gas taxes as a fair and efficient mechanism of paying for highways?
It's a tax that's easy to collect and already in place. Motorists pay for highway construction and maintenance roughly in proportion to the miles they drive; it's pay as you go.
Highway tolls appeal to political leaders for three reasons: They aren't called taxes; they raise revenue from out-of-state motorists; and they fall solely on the users of particular highways.
But tolls are simply taxation by another name. And the gas tax already hits anyone who fills a tank in Indiana, regardless of his home state.
Unquestionably, Indiana needs more revenue for highway construction. But it ranks 37th in the nation in the amount of its 18-cent-a-gallon gas tax. Indiana lawmakers need to look at indexing state gas taxes to inflation or pegging the tax to the price of gas instead of the number of gallons purchased.
Piling tolls on top of gas taxes, however, amounts to a selective double taxation for Hoosier motorists."
Of course, British roads users would also like to see fuel taxes a lot nearer to America's.
Toll of Tolls
The New York State Thruway Authority raised tolls in May. Like a lot of US tolls, they are generally lower than in other countries but they still hurt. This report from Dawn Denecke MSNBC - "What's the real toll of tolls?" includes these comments from various people including Ted Katra, owner of a trucking firm:-
"Tolls are the final spike in the coffin,"
"Absolutely nobody wants to come here."
"It's a commuter tax for people."
"It raises the cost of transportation, which is passed on to the consumer. The price of a loaf of bread will go up."
"Interstate carriers try to avoid New York routes because of the tolls, which in turn reduces state revenue."
"In the trucking industry in New York state, about 70 percent of our gross goes to taxes."
"Tolls have a negative impact on public and economic development."
"Developers have indicated that we are off limits as long as there are tolls."
"Trucks avoid the Thruway to bypass tolls, but end up paying more because they use more gas."
There are more reports that the rise in gas prices is reducing roads use and is hitting tolls income. Oh dear! Foster's Daily Democrat - "Fewer vehicles at highway tolls blamed on high gas prices"
The same paper reports that the toll authorities are denying that they are using EZ pass information to detect speeding:- "N.H. commuters not being clocked for speed from tollbooth to tollbooth"
We are used to special pleading on tolls. There are all sorts of groups that are happy to have tolls, as long as it doesn't apply to them! Now the Indian Army is complaining that civilian vehicles used by the army should be exempt:- Chandrigarh Newsline - "Army complains to Ministry against toll bridge operator"
"Kind hearted" Toll Collectors
Taiwan's motorists without the money to pay the toll are supposed to be fined three thousand dollars. But the collectors have been letting them of with ious. But the Big Boss says that "although he can't blame the toll collectors for being nice to people, he can't encourage it either, because it really puts the Highway Administration between a rock and a hard place." Taiwan Government - "Kindhearted toll collectors pitch in for penniless drivers"
No Tolls AND Free Buses
New Zealand's Resident Action Movement who called for an end to tolls, have also called for free and frequent buses:- Scoop - "RAM asks transport comm. to support free buses"
Some people will think that this is daft. Though it will depend on the circumstances, it could make sense, for a start you get rid of all the money and time that is wasted in the process of both road toll and bus fare collection. So New Zealand Plc is better off. It may also mean that less money is spent on road building.
There is of course the question of how it is financed. Roads users pay gas taxes etc, but bus users will get a free ride. And we certainly don't want the roads choked with empty buses!
4 September 2005
Tolls for Walkers and Bikes?
It has been suggested that walkers and cyclists be charged for using Golden Gate and other bridges. But California's State Senate is going to prevent this:- Marin Independent - "Pedestrian toll ban nears Senate vote"
2 September 2005
Sydney's Cross City tunnel has now opened, but according to Alexandra Smith in the Sydney Morning Herald "Costs the real barrier to drivers using tunnel" most people are not happy:-
"In a telephone survey, 88 per cent of motorists questioned said they thought the toll costs were unfair.
The tolls are $3.53 one way (indexed to increase quarterly) for motorists with an electronic tag and $5.13 one way for those without a tag.
The tolls rose once before the tunnel even opened, and will increase again on October 1.
Despite claims that 20,000 cars a day are using the tunnel - 10,000 fewer than the Roads and Traffic Authority had predicted, and 70,000 fewer than the tunnel was designed for - traffic congestion has increased.
Woolloomooloo and East Sydney are choked during the morning peak, while Park and William streets are the worst in the evening.
The NRMA (motorists association) said the toll tunnel had made traffic conditions worse, rather than better."
1 September 2005
Complaint about end to Lorry Toll Plan
Roland Gribben reports that the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association have joined forces with a view to challenging the Governments' decision to abandon the scheme for lorry tolls. They were hoping that the planned scheme would hit foreign firms who are perceived as having an unfair advantage.:- Daily Telegraph - "Hauliers to fight on over lorry charge climbdown"
The FTA seems to be dominated by railway interests, so we are not surprised that they want lorry tolls. But we are disappointed that the RHA, who represent truckers, are not exploring other ways of levelling the playing field. Lorry tolls would have been a major economic and financial loss for UK PLC, and carried the danger that UK truckers would end up paying even more than now.
Tolls For All
Steven Ginsberg of the Washington Post reports that former governor Gerald L. Baliles (Democrat) has proposed a plan to charge tolls on dozens of currently free roads across Virginia including - the Capital Beltway and Interstates 66, 95 and 395:- "Baliles Proposes $1 Billion Toll Plan".
The report also says that the former Governor is part of a consortium of developers trying to take over the existing Dulles Toll Road. So at least we know where he is heading.
New Zealand's Scoop reports a press release from the Residents Action Movement. Elaine West says:-
"It is critical that New Zealanders understand that new road taxes will severely hit those who are least able to afford them. Tolls are road taxes and roads are set to be the new tax bonanza for private profiteers inside and outside of New Zealand - at the expense of the rest of us.":- "Politicians Promising Tax Cuts Are Misleading".
More EZ Toll complaints
Susan Herman's experience per Boston.com - "Granite State's toll system has missed concept entirely"
"As a Massachusetts resident living only 4 miles from the border, I use the toll road often. They seem to have missed the concept entirely. In the last 500 feet, there is a mad and dangerous scramble of cars without the pass trying to get out of E-ZPass lanes, and cars with passes trying to get into them. It looks like an accident waiting to happen.
Then the unfortunate cars without the pass, who are forced by the flow of traffic to stay in the E-ZPass lane, just stop there, wondering what to do when they discover there is no way to pay. Then, of course the cars behind them, who do have the pass, try to back up and get into the other E-ZPass lane. An 18-wheeler did that right in front of me last week."
Get Taken for a Ride with Tolls
Editorial that warns of the dangers of approving new roads that will supposedly be paid for through tolls:- Osceola News Gazette - "Don't celebrate yet".
Toll road advocates usually have some vested interest in raod construction or surrounding development or toll operation. They are the guaranteed winners. The losers are the roads users who pay more and, as in this case, the taxpayers.
Some time ago, Kenya got rid of toll roads, and introduced tax on fuel - a fair and simple system that avoids the inefficiencies of toll barriers. But like many third world countries it is being forced into privatising roads, even though they are supposedly being funded with aid monies:- AllAfrica.com / The Nation - "Roads Project Must Work".
Toll for Cabs
The Herald Sun reports that they are trying out tolls for cabs on the City Link toll road in Melbourne. Cabs are being fitted with special equipment that will register the toll and add it to the fare.
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