Sydney congestion tax won’t work: expert

Sydney’s traffic problems won’t be solved by an area-based congestion charge as traffic jams spread far beyond the CBD, a transport expert says.

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The cordon-based congestion tax proposed in Monday’s Grattan Institute report would charge drivers for entering the CBD and would only solve traffic jams within a small area, University of Sydney’s Professor Michiel Bliemer told AAP on Tuesday.

“It is clear that we need to change the way we pay for road use, but I do not think that a cordon-based charging scheme is the right solution for Sydney,” the transport planning and modelling professor said.

“It is only a local measure while congestion spreads far beyond the CBD.”

The report found that in Sydney, CBD commuters from Balgowlah in the north and Hurstville in the south could expect delays of about 15 minutes on an average morning, far longer than commuters from other parts of the city.

A congestion tax has been implemented in London, Stockholm and Singapore and has been suggested for Melbourne as well.

The fee would work like an e-tag with drivers charged as they pass into the congestion area during peak times.

But Prof Bliemer believes the city should consider a kilometre-based charging system which would replace existing registration fees and possibly road tolls.

Payments under such a system could be based on odometer readings similar to those in electricity and water bills, Prof Bliemer says.

“This would be a fair system that provides an incentive to drive less across the entire state,” he said.

Similar to the findings in the Grattan Institute report, Prof Bliemer insists something needs to be done soon to ease congestion in the city.

“A time and location-based congestion tax would make car drivers reconsider their options and provides an incentive to drive less, switch to public transport, switch to off-peak hours, or work from home,” he said.

The NSW government isn’t sold on the idea.

“This government will not be introducing a ‘congestion tax’,” acting roads minister Andrew Constance told AAP on Tuesday.

“Our targeted approach to encouraging people onto public transport has reduced the number of vehicles coming into the city by 11 per cent in the peak.”