Sunday, May 29, 2011

ERP - electronic road pricing

ERP - Everyone's Real Pain ...

What was the purpose of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP)? The altruistic reason was for traffic flow regulation so as to ensure a smoother traffic flow.
Over the years, we have seen the sprouting of ERP gantry points; on roads least expected and in 'unearthly' hours. Why do we need to charge for road use in evening hours if the mainstay argument was to prevent clogging of roads whilst going to work. The economics of time, and/or, versus money.
The fact is ERP is a money spinner! The motivation has moved from traffic regulation to profit maximixation.
The worse is yet to be if the Land Transport Authority (LTA) were to implement the next generation of the ERP system, which will embrace the global navigation satellite system(GNSS), a technology that makes use of satellites to determine the position of a vehicle.
There are serious concerns on GNSS;
1. Are we encouraging a 'police state', where all our movements are being monitored? Is there zero respect for citizenry rights and privacy. Isn't anyone concern about this?

2. If owning a car is expensive and using the car is even more expensive, why allow cars on the roads? If the sincere intent of ERP is traffic regulation, the mechanism for control of car, by extension cars population, is already in place. Price the costs of Certificate of Entitlement (COE) at stratospheric level such that it is beyond the reach of most. 
If the counterargument is that the average Singaporean may be deprived of owning a car, then implement (2) above but set aside, say 30% of the COEs for citizen's lucky draw. Win some, lose some; the value proposition.
But, before this move, please ensure that the public transport is as seamsless and punctual, as it claimed to be so that people will not be unnecessarily inconvenienced and delayed. Take a look at Hong Kong. When I was working in Hong Kong, I need not drive. I travel in the comfort of public transport (wearing suits). You have the MTR, taxis, buses, mini-buses,the trams not forgetting the waterbase transport system too. We may not be the best yet but certainly we can learn from others lessons and be better.
3. What is the real problem? Is it economic costs or opportunity costs due to congestion, increasing car population, limited number or stretches of roads, revenue issues, security issues? Or that the use of gantry points had outlived their relecance? It pays to reflect for a moment the real intention of the intended policy and to spare a thought for the affected. Every gadget adopted and used will affect the social equilibrium.
4. The use (against ownership) of cars may be a luxury to some but a neccesity to others. When public transport, namely taxis, lorries and buses, is classed together with privately owned cars, the incremental costs of ERP will translate into higher operating costs, and by extension, the costs of living; should the population be further burdened with additional costs?
Finally, if every government agencies must make money, who pays (suffers)? The population; the man in the street like you and me. It affects all, the rich, the poor and the sundry.
When changes affect someone or the mnority but for the betterment for all, proceed. When changes affect everyone, think again and thnk deeply. Is this what everyone wants?
The Moment Of Truths Lies In The Heart ...spare a thought for the less able and the less fortunate


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