Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Higher ERP Rates And New Gantries From July 7

Source : The Straits Times, June 18, 2008

Changes are aimed at making city traffic flow smoothly in the evenings

TOP up that CashCard. Driving into the city is going to cost more.
Five new gantries along the banks of the Singapore River go live from July 7, bringing the total number islandwide to 65.

Gantries in the business district will stay on an extra hour, to 8pm on weekdays, and on Saturdays, Orchard Road gantries will start an hour earlier, at 11am.

Higher Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges kick in, too. Motorists will pay up to $2 more in the most extensive review of tolls since the first gantry went up 10 years ago.

The focus of this review is to speed up city traffic, especially from 6pm to 8pm.

Average speeds along North Bridge Road and South Bridge Road have dropped from about 25kmh in 2002 to 19kmh last month.

To speed things up, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is making three changes, starting with how ERP is charged.

'When a motorist has paid whatever the going rate is to use the road, we want him to be able to have a smooth journey. The problem now with the average speed measurement is that the majority of people who pay do not get that experience,' said an LTA spokesman.

From July 7, motorists will get to travel at speeds above 20kmh on arterial roads and at least 45kmh on expressways, at least 85 per cent of the time, up from just half the time now.

The new criteria will be used in the city centre first, before being extended to other gantries over the next seven months.

Another change being made affects the actual ERP charges. All new gantries will start with $2 deductions and as speeds deteriorate, each jump will be $1.

Over the last 10 years, it has become increasingly more difficult to deter motorists with 50-cent jumps. In 2006, it took nine rate hikes to do the job. Last year, 25 adjustments were needed, said LTA.

The last change - adding five new gantries along the Singapore River - is aimed at discouraging motorists from using city roads as a short cut.

These initiatives were first mentioned in January as part of a new transport masterplan aimed at getting more people onto public transport.

Since then, extra train and bus services and higher fuel prices have helped move some motorists off the roads.

Public transport ridership hit a record 4.78 million rides a day in the first three months of this year.

But this is not enough to postpone ERP rate hikes, said LTA. Average speeds along Bras Basah Road, for example, are down from about 30kmh in 2002 to about 22kmh last month.

Higher inflation is also not a reason to put it off.

Mr Cedric Foo, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Transport, said: 'We should not mix up road usage measures like ERP with means to cope with general inflation.'

LTA added that holding off the ERP changes can lead to bigger economic problems due to congestion.

Motorists will get some relief in the form of lower road tax from next month. Vehicle registration fees were also lowered in March.

Mr Ong Kian Min, deputy chairman, GPC (Transport), added: 'With the change in how ERP charges are determined, motorists are given the Government's assurance that if you pay to use the road, you can enjoy a smooth ride.'

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