Tag Archive | electronic road pricing

ERP is AN election issue!

Now and then, I have beefed about the ERP, especially when I find myself having to pay when I didn’t expect the gantry in a particular spot to charge.

Read about it here, here and most recently here when I suggested, tongue in cheek, that we should make the sometimes quirky/whimsical charges imposed by the Government’s electronic road pricing system an election issue.

Now, believe it or not, I see that the Singapore Democratic Party — founded by Mr Chiam See Tong and hijacked by u-no-hu — has started to make a song and dance about the same subject with its post yesterday on the ERP gantries being in strange places .

Am I pleased about this?

Yes and no.

Yes, because I think the Government should be more thoughtful about the charges and the timing of the charges. While an extra — and pointless — 50 cents, $1 or even $3 isn’t going to make me cast my vote for the likes of Chee Soon Juan, what irks is that it demonstrates that some of the people managing this country aren’t close enough to the ground in grassroots matters.

(It’s like I always wonder who sited the bus stops so that they are always on the left hand side of roads so that buses often have to cut across three or four lanes because they need to make right hand turns at a road junction! Don’t the people in charge drive?)

No, because I wish the ruling party will wake up to this — about how their bureacrats are running some of the infrastructure in Singapore with potentially detrimental effects on their political masters — be4 the Opposition capitalises on this area of discontentment.

Still, with the general election at least three months away, the ruling party still has time to sweeten the ground a bit on the roads.

I suggest starting by removing all ERP charges into the CBD on Saturdays. If that’s not doable, at least scrap the afternoon charges.

Because the people going into the CBD on a Saturday to play will surely be far fewer than the number going in to work. So by any stretch of the imagination the roads won’t be as crowded as those on week-days. And ERP shouldn’t be needed to discourage congestion.

And no ERP charges on Saturdays will help somewhat to ensure that all the billion$ properties in the Marina Bay area don’t become ghost towns on week-ends.

Win-win for all except perhaps the tax collector though what he loses on ERP charges will likely — or more than likely — be recouped through GST collections. So it could be a win-win for all, with no ifs and buts 😉

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Make ERP charges an election issue?

First, don’t get me wrong. I’m a supporter of our Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system insofar as it helps to improve traffic flow.

I’m not against the principle of paying for what I use. Which is what road tax is for or that’s what I’ve been led to believe while ERP is the premium to be paid for using our roads when more people are using them.

What I find incredible is that the ERP is in operation on some roads which are patently free from traffic.

I had written be4 about this last March and again this March (on the same day some more! 🙂 )

I’m writing about it again tonight because of what happened yesterday afternoon, after I finished a WDA-financed workshop class (yes, continuing education has gotten to me too).

As it was raining, I was sending a newly acquainted fellow course-attendee to the MRT station on a route I won’t have normally taken, had I been heading for home.

And blow me, I got caught by an ERP gantry at exactly the spot where the letter* writer to the Straits Times was last month and whose sentiments I supported in my “Wacky ERP charges” post.

OK, my cash card was deducted by just $1, compared to the $2 deducted from the letter writer’s cash card. Perhaps it’s because I passed the gantry leading towards the Esplanade at 3.22pm while he went thru at around 1.30pm.

Yesterday afternoon’s traffic was light to almost non-existent. Perhaps it was because of the rain and the Saturday of a long holiday week-end.

More interestingly, the morning traffic was heavy along Cantonment Road when  I turned into Tangjong Pagar Road on my way to my course. I expected to be whacked for $2.50 at the gantry, as I had been during week days. But surprisingly, the gantry lights were off!

Which brings me to this question: are the people in charge of the ERP on auto-pilot? Don’t they think? Most offices within the inner CBD don’t operate any more on Saturdays, especially on a long week-end. And long week-ends are known long be4 the official calendars are printed! 

Why can’t the ERP be switched off for all gantries leading in and out of the CBD on Saturdays, especially long week-ends?

I won’t want to join the Opposition in demanding that the Government do this or that at the next GE. But I think it won’t hurt to ask that the PAP promise that when it is returned, it will ensure that the civil servants be more proactive when it comes to adjusting ERP charges downwards or switching off the lights altogether, at the appropriate times.

* Letter that was carried by the Straits Times on March 4

Esplanade Bridge

‘The gantry should not even be switched on.’

MR MICHAEL LOH: ‘The Land Transport Authority’s reply last Saturday (‘ERP gantry location based on overall traffic condition’) prompts another puzzle: Why is it necessary to turn on the ERP gantry at the Fullerton Hotel in the direction of Esplanade Bridge on Saturday afternoons? And why is there a premium of $2? I drove along that stretch on Saturday at about 1.30pm. Traffic was very light, with perhaps three or four cars in a stretch of 100m. There was no question of the average speed falling below 40kmh. Logically, the ERP gantry, which is to regulate heavy traffic, should not even be switched on and even if it should be, $2 is an exorbitant charge.’

ERP: defenders & critics

OK, to show I’m not against the ERP per se, only its apparent insensitivity to changing economic circumstances, (see previous post) I shall run the emls of friends who defended the system first, followed by those who endorsed my criticisms.. both interspersed by my riposte, where useful…

I’ve had many more replies but have not included them since they didn’t address the ERP on Saturdays question but lamented about the economic situation, the traffic situation around where they live etc…  

Defenders

1. I drive to town on Saturdays quite often, and I make sure I leave around 10. I still pay a measly 50 cents on the CTE. At that time, traffic on the expressway can be very heavy so I suspect that might be a justification for imposing ERP on Saturdays.

Moi: Then after the morning rush, y need to maintain ERP all day and even kick up the charges from 7pm– on a Saturday, leh!?

2.It’s so easy to lose sight of the objectives of ERP. Allow me to refresh – essentially, LTA has put in place a system to move away from ownership-based taxes (upfront purchase tax and annual road tax) to one more equitable balanced against usage. But since usage cannot easily be tracked (given that the odometer can be easily tampered with) and given that ERP is too expensive to be implemented nationwide, the better option therefore is to implement ERP in the areas that tend to be more congested (basically killing 2 birds with one stone). Yes, it’s not perfect as to be able to quickly adjust for changes in traffic conditions, month to month or day to day, but fact is that the revenue generated (albeit not very perfectly, but then what is) allows LTA to pass on reductions in the annual road tax and every few years, reduced purchase tax.

Stop missing the forest for the trees. What is more relevant is to ask yourself the question – if you consider yourself an average road user, are u paying more or less under this system i.e look at TOTAL COSTS of car ownership. If the answer is the latter, stop complaining becos otherwise what you get back in one form, be prepared to pay for it with another, and probably costing more. 

Btw, I think your headline is most “dangerous”. If you believe in that headline, then the following are all relevant. And if you can get all the following wishes granted, trust me…I’ll be the first to pack up n leave this country before it implodes

Wake up, SCHOOL FEES! S’pore’s in deep recession..
Wake up, GST! S’pore’s in deep recession..
Wake up, TAXES! S’pore’s in deep recession..
Wake up, CORPORATE PROFITS! S’pore’s in deep recession

Moi: Wah, are you Raymond Lim’s behind the scene adviser?
2. Frankly, I don’t think he can argue as well
Moi: Actually, ERP can be dynamic: in the same way that it’s able to measure the number of miles travelled per hour and then calculate if a particular section of the road or area has heavy traffic… .. if not perfect now, get the systems engineers to work on it…
2. Of course we can try to develop the most equitable, state of the art ERP system (like pegging charges to income of driver/owner, age, degree of urgency of usage, type of vehicle, market value …) but at what price. And who do u think will ultimately pay for it…

Moi: If we can slay sacred cows and suspend our most cherished beliefs, eg reserves, work fare etc, we can surely as a goodwill if not feel good gesture, suspend some of the ERP charges for a Saturday…cost equalisation is a long term thing; if we stick rigidly to the long term while there’s a fire, we wld surely be burn to death; it’s like being in a theatre: the ideal is to let the old (pple like me, say it be4 u say it, ok), infirm and young to get out first.. does it mean the able bodied near the door are to be stopped fm getting out first, to fulfill the ideal? That is not being sensible..
 2. Of course we must be prepared to slay sacred cows if and when warranted, if within our means and without compromising further measures. But surely, to facilitate an old lady who decides she cannot wait for another time, another day to do her shopping at Central Mall specifically….

Moi: Yes, since u have suggested those other cuts, i wld be happy to see them, hehe!

Critics

1. I hope your letter gets a bigger audience – well written and should get into the ST Forum! Agree with you on every point!  With this climate, its ridiculous!

2. While most of us understand the rationale behind ERP, I cannot understand why LTA needs to impose $2 ERP for entry into North Bridge Road area on Saturday and $1.00 for travelling along PIE (Eunous gantry) at 7.00am! Good feedback. I hope LTA read it. 

3. Should direct this article to the Mininster of Transport or even the PMO

Moi to 1, 2 n 3: Nah, friends, I think we should get over our hang-up of hoping to elicit official response by writing to ST Forum. Because everyone feels they will only get a reply when they write to the newspapers, it becomes self-fulfilling, and the Govt pays attention only when grouses appear in the ST.

It’s time frens for us to break free from that mindset and hence the ST’s “power” since we do have alternative channels for bringing legitimate concerns to the powers that are. And one channel is the Internet; another the viral effect of email dissemination. Let’s use them..

4. I agree; they have got it all wrong on Saturday. The roads are so empty and yet they charge, right up to the evenings

5. I know your feeling all too well because I recently sent Betty Khoo to see a friend at the Merchant Court Hotel, paid an ERP fee to get there, and then got zapped with another $2 charge when I exited.
 
But having been in the car business (and reporting about the car business) for almost my entire working life, I can see logic in the ERP at a macro level.
 
It is at the micro and operational level that civil servants fail badly. The gantry you are complaining about was erected to stop cross-town traffic during weekdays, which I feel was a valid reason.. However, after setting the automatic timer on the charges, nobody bothered to monitor the situation and fine-tune it to actual conditions.

6. Please give my warmenst regards to your Mum. She is very sharp even at 85. I would have “fone” in the mind well before that.

You are right about the ERP on Saturdays. I believe the retailers had screamed about this but was like water off a duck’s back ….. during the good times.

  7. yup there’s *danger * in z zone—hahaha 

there was a time when u got out of the PELU place , wich u might tink is in z cbd until u wanna go to funan centre n u gotta pay again

i wish smone, mayb dose guys at gothere.sg, can map out these danger zones..

8. Thank you for bringing up.  I have been suffering in silence.  The charges can be within a short distance. Crazy…

9. Lay on, McDuff!
Moi: Wow, when an ex-MP can give such encouragement, I shall “drive” on, thru another ERP. For those not acquainted with the play, Macbeth, here is the following line: “And damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!'”
The words, meaning “go for it, Macduff, let’s fight to the death!”, were spoken by Macbeth before Macduff killed him in combat. Hopefully, my ex-MP friend isn’t making any predictions for himself or those wanting a less onerous ERP regime on Saturdays.

The score so far is two for the ERP and 9 against (or 10 including moi; mayb even 11 after including my Internet “friend” Blur) ERP’s Saturday and multiple restricted zone within a zone charges. No guessing what the overwhelming majority thinks!

Wake up, ERP! S’pore’s in deep recession..

There’s something really wrong with the folks in charge of  Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing System..

I came to this conclusion today after paying two lots of ERP charges at $2 each, not because I came out of the restricted zone and went back in but because I went from an outer restricted zone to what appeared to be a restricted zone within a restricted zone.

I had gone to Central Mall via River Valley Road and paid $2 to enter the restricted zone. I paid $2.68 car parking fees and lo and behold as I got out of the carpark to head back to River Valley Road I found I had to cross another gantry (even tho I thought I was already in the restricted zone) and my cash card was another $2 poorer!

too much coverage

too much coverage

Come on, Minister for Transport, today is a Saturday and traffic flow was lighter than for normal days and also lighter than seen in those glorious Saturdays during boom times when all of Singapore seemed to be on the move, to spend, spend, spend.

Singapore is in recession and heading possibly for an 8 to 10% decline in GDP this year, if our trade — which is oxygen to our existence — should shrink any more. We’ve done the unprecedented thing of raiding our reserves to support Government spending and the mantra on everyone’s lips is to save jobs and stem further loss of confidence.

The consensus is that the world is seeing its worst banking crisis in 50 years; most people under 60 hasn’t seen anything so grim and even those in their 70s and 80s are probably too young to remember or know of the Great Depression first hand.

So those in charge of the ERP: u Rip Van Winkle in deep slumber or trying to undermine what the Minister for Finance is doing?

Retailers are dying. Yes, even the Central Food Court we went to was barely a quarter full when we reached it around 1pm.. Even my 85-year-old mother had nous enough to remark that things must be bad when even food courts are empty.

It’s time to cut ERP charges, if not remove them altogether, for Saturday. People need to be encouraged to spend some money and one of the best ways to do that is to give them back the freedom to go into the heart of town — taken away when traffic was heavy and the weight of cash in consumers’ pockets was heavier still.