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Automated electronic tolls to equalize street speeds

Article: http://app.lta.gov.sg/ltaacademy/doc/ERP%20in%20Singapore%20-%205%20years.pdf

 

In 1998, the nation of Singapore adopted a system entitled Electronic Road Pricing in order to combat congestion in the central city’s busiest districts. Motorists wanting to enter the districts would have to install boxes in their vehicles that communicate with the toll stations upon entering, which would then charge the card inserted into the box. The system is “open road”, meaning drivers do not slow down to pay, meaning the system avoids some of the bottlenecking associated with traditional toll booths. The toll itself varies based on the congestion of the city, going up at peak times and lowering in dead hours. Wide scale changes do not occur in real time, rather, the city transit authority reviews the quarterly traffic data and makes a decision to raise or lower the rates. The article above was written by consultants and government staff, extolling the success of the plan five years after its implementation. There have been some complaints about the system, though, from citizens who feel it causes strain on roads without tolls and costs too much money for commuters.

 

The concept of tolling motorists based on congestion was discussed in class in the context of encouraging equal road use with tolls and subsidies. There are two locations commuters wish to go between: the outer parts of the city and the city center. There are many different routes between the two places, some faster than others. Originally, the commuters crowded the highest capacity roads and underutilized the side streets. Electronic Road Pricing is the congestion control writ large, with the government trying to use tolls to shuffle travelers from cars to public transit, from principal routes to side streets, and from rush hours to off-peak times. Like the example given in class, by charging motorists for the privilege of taking the fastest routes, less-used routes become more popular and the total travel time is reduced for everyone. By adjusting the price for different times of day, the government is able to account for many usage levels. This also encourages motorists to visit the city at less-common times and visit less-traveled neighborhoods. However, the complaints from citizens show that real-life traffic flow is not so easy to control, nor are optimal routes the best for everyone.

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