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Sunday 30 April 2006

australia PPP Rip off
Kenneth Davidson in the Age reports on Australia's "Public Private Partnership". PPP is basically a dishonest system, where financers make big profits while politicians can boast of new hopitals, schools and roads without it counting against public expenditure and taxes. At least in the short term it doesn't count, in the long term the tax payer or the road toll payer gets screwed. As mentioned in the report the other country where this system is popular is Britain, where it is more commonly called "PFI" or Private Finance Initiative:- "Time for Bracks to own up on PPP costs".

usa Sunday Roundup
  • EZ pass and similar systems are leading to reductions in toll collector's jobs and to claimed financial savings. But Raymond Neveil of Citizens Against Tolls says that there is a vast bureacracy behind the EZ pass system and "The time to make the parkway a freeway is now, before further funds are wasted and needless deaths are incurred":- Asbury Park Press - "Untold costs of E-ZPass".
  • Oregon recently hired our old friends MIG to advise them on building new roads. One of the proposed roads is a Dundee by-pass. Not surprisingly they recommend that the road be a tolled one. Neither it is a surprise that they recommend tolling the existing Highway 99W so that drivers can't avoid paying a toll. But will the people of Oregon be sold on this?
  • The St Petersburg Times in Florida reports on concerns that officials are using lobbyists. One example is the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, which angered local legislators by raising tolls and building more new toll booths. So the lawmakers introduced a bill to reduce the number of authority members and change the way they are appointed. The Expressway Authority has now hired nine lobbyists to fight the bill.
  • All tolls are to be removed in New York. That is, they are to be removed if you use the canals!
    PS The canals are run by the Canal Corporation, but that is funded by the Thruway Authority. So the boats on the canal will now be funded by road tolls!

    Saturday 29 April 2006

    london Tories oppose Con charge?
    On Wednesday we reported with some puzzlement that the Tories has issued a press release making it clear that they were opposed to the London Con Charge. The reason is now apparent having seen Thursday's Guardian, and Simon Heffer's column in this morning's Telegraph:- "Also, boring on about the Tories' eco-friendliness ... spokesman Christopher Grayling announced that the party was, after all, in favour of the congestion charge. This provoked screams of outrage from the party's own candidates fighting elections in London on Thursday, who have been campaigning (quite rightly) on the iniquity of road tolls. Mr Grayling had to retract fast. When you studiously avoid having principles, such difficulties are inevitable...."

    Friday 28 April 2006

    usa The Tolls Game
    Paul Carpenter comments on the Toll Commission and on the Gaming Control Board. One thing they have in common is all that cash! Allentown Morning Call - "Dearly beloved, they were made for each other".

    Thursday 27 April 2006

    britain Tories want to keep Ancient toll
    Yesterday we reported the campaign led by Jane Tomlinson to get rid of the ancient toll over the Swinford bridge. She was petitioning the local MP and Tory leader - David Cameron. Well later yesterday the local district council led by Barry Norton rejected a motion that the County Council be lobbied to try and get the tolls removed:- Oxford Mail - "Council refuses toll bridge campaign". Nothing about that perhaps, except that the Council and its leader are also Tories. Is this a sign that the Tories are also going anti motorist?

    usa Better by Rail
    It seems to be becoming fashionable in US to pump money into rail (new lines, new stations, subsidised fares). As in Britain, it seems that have to look no further than roads users for this money. They are using road tolls, proceeds from sale of roads, and part of the gas tax. In most states the gas tax (Federal and State) is fixed as so many cents a gallon and rarely changes. But some States have the gas tax as a "gross receipts tax", so as the price of petrol has rocketed, they have got more money to give away. Do they ever look at what the overall effect would be if the railways were converted to roads?

    newzealand chimaera Battle against Middle Earth Trolls
    North Shore City Council has now submitted to the Ministry Of Transport its concerns about plans for tolls around Auckland. The council says that the principal of road pricing is a good idea, but does not believe that in practice it will be effective. It says that it will cost more than it generates, that it will harm the economy, and particularly harm lower income families. It suggests that with increasing oil prices there is already a disincentive to drive:- Scoop - "North Shore City Council Submission Road Pricing".
    PS NZ Herald - some individual views.
    PPS Scoop - "Call for resignation of Transport Ministry CEO"   Radio NZ - "Auckland lobby group proposes regional fuel tax as answer to congestion".

    Wednesday 26 April 2006

    britain Scrap Ancient toll
    This morning's Oxford Mail has a story "Ring the death knell for toll" about a campaign to scrap tolls on Swinford Bridge near Oxford. The toll has been there since 1770s!
    The campaign has a Petition to David Cameron who is the local MP. Journal of Jane Tomlinson, the main campaigner against the tolls.
    Swinford is one of 10 British tolls that are over 100 years old. There used to be thousands more tolls or turnpikes. But they were nearly all bought out by local authorities before 1900. Unfortunately nowadays politicians from all parties tend to hang on to tolls (old and new) like grim death. A lot of them (such as the Dartford crossings) should have stopped. But the politicians just move the goal posts and keep the tolls.

    london Tories oppose Con charge?
    We suppose this shouldn't really be news. Most people thought that the Tories were opposed anyway. But today they have issued a press release making it clear that they oppose both the western extension and the present scheme.
    PS Over the next 2 weeks, there was confusion as Tories gave conflicting views about the Con charge and the press release disappeared. But we were later told that at least the London Tories are opposed and the press release reappeared.

    britain chimaera FT backs tolls
    This morning's Financial Times editorial is on "The green bandwagon". It says that "The first step would be for the government to impose higher taxes on polluting products and activities and, importantly, reduce taxes elsewhere". It then says that "a national road-pricing scheme is economically attractive but a technical and administrative headache". We wonder how a scheme which the Government say will cost up to 62 billion to implement is "economically attractive".
    Though the FT implies it favours neutral environmental taxes (e.g. a carbon tax that would be at the same rate on all burning of fossil fuel), the only tax example it mentions is road pricing, despite the fact that road users are already virtually the only target for penal taxes. We wonder why the FT doesn't have a go at the means of transport used by politicians and the fat cats - planes, trains and taxis - all tax free, or even subsidised.

    europe Roads lobby v Rail lobby
    Transport News Network has a press release from the International Road Transport Union who commissioned a study into the rail industry policy of increasing road tolls to force goods traffic from road to rail. IRU say that this will only cause economic damage to EU:- "IRU Unveils Toll Pricing Survey Findings".
    PS The Rail lobby answer

    Tuesday 25 April 2006

    ireland Irish truckers won't pay tolls - Or will they?
    RTE report that Dublin City Council have reached an agreement that Irish hauliers will not have to pay tolls to use the East Link Toll Bridge. The aim is to keep trucks out of the city. But there is a problem, the bridge is owned by National Toll Roads. This is a private company though the council get a percentage of the profits:-
    "No agreement on freight toll charges: NTR".

    Monday 24 April 2006

    britain Tories go Green
    We had speculated whether the Tories were moving even further towards the anti car establishment. This followed Christopher Grayling, the Shadow Transport Secretary telling the Financial Times this morning that the Tories were in favour of higher road tolls for cars with "high emissions". It is clear that he is backing and following David Cameron. The Tory move was confirmed this afternoon when Simon Reddy for Greenpeace welcomed Mr Cameron's announcement. "It's quite clear that he's seizing the agenda from the government. It's excellent that he's speaking out.".

    usa Both sides of Tolls debate
    With tolls in 30 US states, and plans for more tolls, higher tolls, and road sales, the Trolls are to a large extent getting their way:- St Louis Post Dispatch - "Tolls are in fast lane for funding bridges, roads".
    Trolls have vast resources for "lobbying" politicians and influencing the media, but there are still some people and newspaper editors who realise that tolls don't make sense:- Winston Salem Journal - "The Wrong Road".

    britain chimaera Government to test how stupid the people are
    More disinformation in this morning's Times, together with a possible way in which the Government may try and disguise the waste of tolls: "Road toll money may be used to cut council tax".
    The disinformation is the usual nonsense from the Trolls and their allies "Tolls would raise up to 10 billion a year". This amount is of course how much, averaging out the implementation cost, the tolls would cost to collect. At this level there would be no net revenue and no scope for any reduction of fuel duty or other taxes.
    It is suggested that instead of a compensating reduction in fuel duty "the profit from tolls would be divided between investment in public transport and reductions in council tax". We can only assume that they have now realised that they can't afford to reduce fuel tax by one penny never mind 10 billion, and this is a way of disguising the fact that tolls will just waste 10 billion a year. Or was all this planned from the start? They may fool all the politicians, but how stupid do they think the rest of us are?

    italy spain New Troll Giant?
    Reuters report that Spanish Troll - Abertis, is likely to take over Italian Troll - Autostrade. The deal would create the world's biggest toll-road empire with a market value of about 25 billion euros ($31 billion or 17 billion). Italian papers have criticised Autostrade's dominant position, "which has allowed it to post booming profits due to high tolls and a lack of competition":- "Autostrade, Abertis forge ahead with merger plans".

    Sunday 23 April 2006

    usa "Scrap Gas Tax - Give us Tolls"
    The Seattle Times says that tolls are "the coming thing". One of the supporters is a local radio host who recently led a campaign to scrap gas taxes:- "Making the case for future road tolls".

    britain Odd ball ideas
    Yesterday various papers reported that the Tory leader was buying an "environment friendly car". Today the Sunday Telegraph suggests that he now plans that such cars will get "lower car tax, lower road tolls and even cut-price parking". This is similar to the strange ideas of the Chancellor and others. They must know that if you really want to reduce vehicle emissions, you don't tinker - you shift the tax burden away from tolls etc towards fuel duty for all vehicles. The truth is that an ordinary car may actually have less direct and indirect fuel emissions than the foreign "hybrids" favoured by greens and those who want to appear green. Cars which are too expensive for most people.

    Saturday 22 April 2006

    britain National Alliance for Tolls?
    The Times reports today that the Government is "coming under fire" for its roads spending. They are planning to spend 1 billion this year on new roads, which is what they take from roads users in taxes in just one week. As you probably guessed, they are under attack for spending too much. The attack comes from "Road Block" or the "alliance against road building". The other contributor to the article is the RAC Foundation, they approve of the road spending, but are looking forward to when there will be tolls on all roads.

    britain Global Crusade
    Father Brown says that the issue of Global Warming is now a "moral need" BBC - "Climate change fight 'moral duty'".
    The Global Warming lobby (or as they now call it Global Climate Change, so as to cover all bets) needs this to be a moral or even a religious issue, as they know that they are peddling fantasy science. They don't know which way the climate is changing, and don't know to what extent anything we do affects it.
    Politicians and some busineses love it - they can pontificate, preach doom and make money. While they ignore all the real problems like population growth.

    britain Robbing other roads users?
    It is reported that the Humber Bridge Board has met with local MPs and bus opertaor Stagecoach. It is suggested that the Board will reduce tolls for buses. This is likely to be at the expense of other bridge users - which includes patients having to cross the river for hospital treatment.

    Friday 21 April 2006

    usa Tolls survey
    Colorado Department of Transportation have surveyed drivers in the Denver area, and found that 70 to 80% support tolls. Nothing strange about that, as survey questions are usually framed to get the appropriate response. What is a bit more revealing is that most drivers said that they would not regularly use any new tolls, and 30% said that they would never use them.
    Colorado is just about to open its first "express" toll lanes. Critics of toll lanes say that they will make congestion permanent in the free lanes, because there has to be congestion in order to entice customers to pay tolls to escape it.

    britain Who is missing out?
    The Guardian reports on how the taxpayer has been missing out in many cases where there has been refinancing of Private Finance schemes. It mentions the Severn bridge and says it "was exempted from sharing its refinancing proceeds with the state because it needed the cash to meet an EU ruling that it had to pay VAT on its road tolls" Strange, we thought that VAT went to the Government, so the ones that lose out are of course the toll payers.

    Wednesday 19 April 2006

    britain chimaera "Independent" Congestion report - "Paying to Drive" now available
    Yesterday it was reported that the "Independent Transport Commission" had produced a report on road pricing which appeared to offer arguments against it. As they were previously Toll advocates we thought that a bit strange. Today their press release and report has appeared on their site:- Press Release   Report. We are relieved to see that they were misrepresented as far from being against road pricing, it is their usual tolls propaganda.

    usa Toll of Tolls
    Associated Press report that federal safety investigators say "The most dangerous place on the highway is the toll plaza". The investigators looked at various accidents including one in which 8 people were killed. AP say that the investigators found that:-
  • 49 percent of all interstate accidents in Illinois are at toll plazas, and three times as many people die in them as in accidents on the road itself.
  • 30 percent of all accidents on the Pennsylvania toll highway system happen at toll plazas.
  • 38 percent of all crashes on New Jersey toll highways are toll plaza accidents.
  • Introducing electronic toll collection lanes, though it reduces the number of vehicles queuing to pay tolls, can make the problem worse. Mohamed Abdel-Aty, associate professor at Central Florida University's department of civil and environmental engineering, says that "It's the mixture of E-PASS lanes and other lanes _ the confusion from nonfamiliar drivers _ that's causing most of the rear-end collisions,":- WFSB - "Toll plazas should have design standards, safety board says".

    britain chimaera Mystery report
    There have been various reports and studies released over the last few weeks, generally backing tolls and road pricing. All released with the appropriate spin. Here is one that the Government paid 114,000 to be produced, but released with not even a whimper on the 17th March - end of the week to reduce the chances of it being noticed:- DfT - "Consumer Behaviour and Pricing Structures: Final Report on Qualitative Research" .
    So what did they spend all this money on, and are then trying to forget? It is research into how people will behave if road pricing is introduced and it doesn't make good news for the Government and the Trolls. Research conclusions include:-
  • that attitudes to motoring costs appear to differ from those to other expenses and that drivers rarely consider the costs of individual journeys - motoring expenses are widely perceived as unavoidable periodic events; this effect is compounded by the finding that most people have very limited spatial knowledge or ability to estimate distances;

  • the emergence of a preference for any road user charges to be collected via a surcharge on fuel tax rather than through a separate distance charge - apparently due to the greater expected complexity of the latter system and a disinclination to have to pay 'yet another bill'.
  • The most dangerous part of the report from the Government viewpoint is on page 48:- "More specifically, many respondents thought that paying for road use through increased petrol tax was a better option rather than paying for road use via a mileage charge. This was because increasing the tax on fuel would:
  • minimise the number of service charges to be paid by individual drivers by consolidating road charges within fuel costs rather than introducing a new, additional charge;
  • be easy to administer, both for the government and for the driver;
  • be easy to understand;
  • be easy to 'keep tabs on' and to manage driving costs;
  • be easy to respond to - the driver would know that to pay less he or she had to use less fuel and therefore drive less;
  • involve immediate payment - no bills to pay, and no risk of building up unexpected debts etc;
  • have less impact on, and interfere less with, drivers' perceptions and driving behaviour."
  • The mystery is why did they let this get published at all?

    Tuesday 18 April 2006

    britain chimaera "Independent" Congestion report
    It is reported that the "Independent Transport Commission" has produced a report on road pricing which appears to offer arguments against it:- BBC - "Road charge 'won't deter drivers'"   Daily Telegraph - "Road pricing 'will affect most drivers'". There is no press release on the ITC site and we have not seen the report. The ITC did however issue a report on Road Pricing a year ago:- "Beyond Congestion Charging". That report concluded "Of course there will be costs. Of course there will be losers. But the advantages shine through them." - How likely is it that this leopard will have changed its spots?

    usa Private Enterprise
    The Wall Street Journal has a piece on "Making Public Highways Private". It starts "With federal, state and local governments facing budget squeezes, an increasing number of policy makers throughout the country are looking to privatize highways, encouraged by Wall Street companies seeking lucrative fees in the deals."

    usa Yonder comes a Sucker
    Truckers in Arkansas are supporting the building of a new toll road. They do have some conditions including:- "public hearings on toll fees contemplated, commit that the toll fees collected will not be diverted to other road projects, and remove these tolls as soon as the construction costs are paid off."

    Monday 17 April 2006

    japan europe chimaera Japan & Galileo
    The Mainichi Daily News reports that Japan may use Europe's Galileo spy satellites which are costing 3.8 billion euros ($4.7 billion or 2.6 billion). It says that "Traffic control through road pricing is another market that is almost certain to appear, given Europe''s jurisdiction of the Galileo system.":- "Europe still keen on Japan joining Galileo GPS project".

    Sunday 16 April 2006

    usa "Motionless Pinata"
    Another piece from Donn Esmonde on the Buffalo Tolls Fight:- Buffalo News - "Toll fight lets us see who's on our side". (A Pinata is a six-pointed star or other shape filled with fruit, candy, and small toys. At Mexican fiestas, the pinatas are hung in the air and blindfolded children take turns swinging at the pinatas. The pinata eventually breaks releasing the goodies.)

    Saturday 15 April 2006

    britain The BIGGEST Con of them all
    Are the Greens really Martians?
    Yesterday there was another warning about Global warming:- Stark warning over climate change". It says that over the next century global warming will "put 400 million more people at risk of hunger".
    Global Warming is one of the world's biggest ever deceptions. No - we don't mean that the world isn't going to get warmer - we don't know. Nor do we know whether the effect is harmful or to what extent the burning of fossil fuels significantly contributes to the effect. br> What we do know is that the real problem is being hidden.
    The Greens say that 400 million more people may go hungry due to Global warming. What they don't say is that since 1950 the world population has grown by 155 percent, that is from 2.5 billion to 6.5 billion. According to the US Census Bureau by 2050 it will be 9.2 billion.
    Will this population growth have any effect on land use, resources needed and consumed, food availability, energy resources used up, pollution, carbon emissions, quality of life or whatever? It appears that if you are from Mars the answer to this is no. The only thing that matters, is that the population of Britain (less than 1% of the world) sets a good example by treating roads users as a criminal class to be penalised and taxed and tolled as much as possible - Could this be because Mars doesn't have any roads? (Though there was a rumour about canals.)
    Oh! - We forgot to mention that Martians would already find that the Earth was too warm for them.

    usa Toll Perks - "A sweet ride for officers"
    NY Daily News reports that as a goodwill gesture New York police are to be given vouchers that they can use off duty to pay tolls. The cost is $2 million a year. A draft of the book of vouchers carried the names of the Senators who agreed this.

    Friday 14 April 2006

    usa New York hates tolls
    There have been a lot more reports about the battle to remove the Niagara tolls. It seems that no one wants them. Elsewhere in New York state they are trying to get other tolls on the Interstate 90 removed. The Thruway authority already intends to remove some tolls to reduce congestion, but opponents say other tolls are uneconomic:- WIVB - "A Tale of Two Tolls". Why don't they just scrap the lot?

    britain chimaera Hard Sell
    The Independent has a story on yesterday's IPPR report selling "Road Pricing""Motorists put traffic jams at top of hate-list". Motorists give as one of their top hates the unpredictability of congestion.
    By coincidence, Britain's small businesses complain about traffic congestion, though no solutions are suggested:- Retail Bulletin - "UK roads are 'crippling small businesses' in the retail sector".

    Thursday 13 April 2006

    usa Troll fires Troll
    The head of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority has been fired for allegedly giving trucking companies a break on tolls. Apparently trucks belonging to five companies were paying just five dollars for passes to cross the Claiborne Pell Bridge. - other companies paid 25 or 50 dollars per trip in tolls (so they say) :- Eyewitness News - "Bridge director is fired for giving trucks a break on tolls".
    You may think that there is something corrupt here, but it seems to be just the usual Troll crazies. According to the Authority's web site the official tolls are $2 for all vehicles unless they are both over 8,000 lbs Gross Vehicle Weight and have more than 2 axles. Then the tolls are $3 for 3 axles, $4 for 4 axles, and $5 for 5 axles.

    usa Legal challenge to Trolls
    It is widely reported that the contract has been signed for the sale of the Indiana Toll road. It is also reported that legal action has been started to try and stop the sale.
    The State signed the contract before the application for an injunction was started, and 2 days before the 15 day window for legal objections expired. But then the Trolls are used to getting their own way, whatever people may think the law says:- Munster Times - "Group files lawsuit to stop Toll Road lease"

    britain chimaera Hard Sell
    The BBC must have a direct feed from the Government spin doctors, as they have another one sided story on "Road Pricing":- BBC - "Drivers 'unsure' over road scheme".
    This story is inspired by a report issued today by IPPR on how best to sell the tolls idea:- "Charging Forward".

    newzealand chimaera Commonsense
    We reported yesterday that Auckland City Council has approved the principle of introducing tolls. Today it is reported that businesses think the idea ignores commonsense:- Scoop - "Road pricing plan fundamentally flawed".
    They give the following reasons: * because its unfair and inequitable; it's a nonsense to charge different toll rates depending on where people live and travel to work in Auckland.
    * the options won't include everyone, which is another inequity
    * the tolling systems envisaged would be expensive to establish and operate, and generate extremely low returns - it's an empire building scheme
    * it won't generate anything like the funding needed to build the public transport networks required
    * it would incentivise weird traffic behaviour
    * it would kill retail and entertainment in the inner city.

    Wednesday 12 April 2006

    newzealand chimaera Antipodean Trolls
    The Trolls are nosing ahead in New Zealand. Auckland City Council has approved the principle of introducing tolls:- Scoop - "Council endorses road pricing as long term option"

    usa "Toll is a four-letter word for tax."
    There is a major row in Virginia over proposal to toll the Interstate 81: Richmond Times Dispatch - "I-81 tolls opposed at public hearing".

    Tuesday 11 April 2006

    ireland Tolls having "drastic" effect on Irish hauliers
    Report on last week's haulier's protest against tolls:- Dublin People.

    sweden london Stockholm Traffic increasing?
    It is reported that after an initial substantial fall in traffic following the trial introduction of a "Congestion" charge, Stockholm's traffic is building up again. There is a referendum on the Toll in July, but as with Edinburgh, many of those affected will not have a vote.

    usa No such thing as free
    The Editor of the Trenton Times in News Jersey says that there is "No such thing as a free bridge". We wonder where he thinks toll bridges come from - Santa Claus? Most tolled bridges are financed through borrowings from the banks - just like free bridges.

    taiwan Trolls won't let go
    A common toll phenomenon is collecting tolls after the point when they were supposed to stop. Tolls on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway were only legal up to 1994. But the Government still collects them, having so far raked in 266 billion Taiwanese dollars ($8 billion or 5 billion). Taiwanese drivers don't seem to mind too much, they would be happy if the tolls were just reduced:- Taipei Times - "Lawmakers call for lower or no toll charges".

    Monday 10 April 2006

    m6toll M6 Toll on ITV
    Michael O'Hagan from our alliance was interviewed today by ITV about the M6 Toll. He pointed out that the road was an underused asset, and that if the tolls were removed then much of the West Midlands congestion problem could be solved at a stroke. The road cost about 750 million which is less than Gordon Brown gets each week in taxes from roads users.

    saudiarabia "Dark Age"
    One of today's papers descibes what it was like in the area of Mecca in the "Dark Age" before Muhammad was born:- "The people of Hejaj were in the pit of ignorance and superstition. They buried their new born female babies alive, married step-mothers, deprived women of their right shares and properties left by fathers, husbands and sons, treated with the slaves very cruelly, and believed in blood for blood, fought one another for reason and out of reason and looted the caravans passing by the city of Mecca or forced them to pay tolls."

    usa Toll Ticket Bonus
    Massachusetts Turnpike is handing out more tickets to drivers. Over the last 3 years they have averaged 200 tickets every day. Milford Daily News - "Pike boasts most tickets".

    usa Shh!
    Most people oppose the sale of the Indiana Toll Road. The State have now advertised the right to object, as with Trolls everywhere, it is done as quietly as possible. Munster Times - "A tiny ad placed in Indy is a whisper in northern Indiana".

    britain Toll Prize
    The Durham City lawyers have been nominated for an award. Their contribution was drawing up Britain's first "Congestion" Charge scheme. The charge only applies to one street - if it covered a few more would they get the Nobel prize? BBC - "Toll road lawyers in award hope".

    Sunday 9 April 2006

    usa Warm Hearted Trolls
    The Courier Post reports how the Trolls at the Delaware River Port Authority showed they are really good at heart. Last year they gave away $150,000 of tolls to "good causes". Though their generousity peaked in 2002 when they gave $500,000 away. The DRPA owes $1.3 billion. "DRPA commissioners generous with toll money".

    Saturday 8 April 2006

    usa More USA Tolls Democracy
    There are two bills before Louisiana legislature to increase tolls for crossing Mississippi. Nothing odd about that or opposition to it. What adds to the comedy is that the politician who has deposited one bill says that "staff must have typed his intended bill incorrectly". This is capped by the other politician who says that he hasn't read the bill, doesn't agree with a toll increase, but will go ahead with the bill anyway as officials asked hin to sponsor it "I'll carry a bill for the department if the department asks me to" Times Picayune - "Proposals to raise CCC tolls opposed".

    Friday 7 April 2006

    london usa Undiplomatic language is OK
    The Standards Board is to take no action on the complaint by "Liberty and Law" against Ken for referring to the US ambassador as a "chiseling little crook" for not paying the Con charge. The board say it was not "sufficiently serious".

    usa Illegal Tolls are OK
    Both sides are fighting hard in the battle to remove the Niagara tolls. Opponents say that apart from anything else the tolls are illegal under the 1968 Niagara Toll Removal Act . The trolls have posted "fact" sheets on the web, trying to justify the tolls and say that the tolls are legal because under another Act (1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act), they applied for permission to keep tolling and were granted it:- Buffalo News- "A groundswell of anti-toll fervor". Title 23 (1958) is the main Act by which Federal funds are given for roads, Section 301 says "...all highways constructed under the provisions of this title shall be free from tolls of all kinds". Unfortunately various execeptions were and are allowed.

    usa New Toll Road for Old
    Colorado have come up with a brilliant idea for a new toll road. To save all the hassle of arguments over the line of the road and purchasing land, - they are going to build the 33 mile loop road by using existing roads and rights of way:- Colorado Springs Business Journal - "Toll road gains momentum".

    australia A bridge too dear
    People in Brisbane are concerned about a new toll bridge. Some don't want more traffic, others want the bridge, but not the tolls:- Westender - A bridge too dear".

    Thursday 6 April 2006


    M6 Toll decline
    Traffic on the M6 Toll in March was again down compared with the corresponding figure for 2005. This is the 10th month in a row that there has been a fall, though the year on year decline will probably stop soon.
    The latest published accounts are for the year ended June 2005. They show that the road made a loss of 26.5 million, on a turnover of 45 million.:- Detailed traffic figures.

    london united Arab Traders
    We reported on Monday that the United Arab Emirates were introducing tolls. By "coincidence" their Embassy in London has now decided to pay the 500,000 ($875,000) it owes Ken for his Con charge. Though they are obviously shrewd traders as they are getting an 80% discount:- Guardian - "UAE embassy pays congestion charge arrears".

    australia Oz Toll Lobby
    The Australians have been hiring toll advocates. Don't they come for free?Herald Sun - Toll advocate hired".

    canada london Ottawa says "No Tolls"
    Ottawa councillors have rejected proposals for "Congestion" style tolls:- Ottawa Citizen - "Committee rejects idea of toll for entering city ". What would happen if Greater London Councillors had any control over the Great Dictator?

    southkorea Where did I leave my car?
    South Korea is to start seizing and then auctioning off the cars of "Toll Delinquents". Could it be cheaper than paying the tolls?

    london sweden Trip to Santa Claus Land for Ken's Men
    Transport for London are going to Stockholm to see if they can get any ideas for the London Con charge. No doubt they are flying by hot air ballon so as not to add to pollution and Global warming. And no doubt they will be so impressed with Stockholm's plan for a referendum that they will copy it - but there again maybe not.

    britain Humber Bridge Toll Increase
    Further to our report on Tuesday about toll increases on the Humber bridge, here are a few subsequent reports:-
  • Hull Daily Mail report: "COST OF BRIDGE TRAVEL TO RISE". NOTE there is a VOTE at the bottom of the page.
  • Yorkshire Post report (with apologies to Conde): "Darling backs bid to raise Humber Bridge toll charges".
  • Grimsby Telegraph reports: "'WE CAN'T AFFORD NOT TO CHARGE PATIENTS'"   "BRIDGE TOLLS - A TIMELINE"   "ISSUES INQUIRY LOOKED INTO"   "BOOST IN TOLL BID"   "HUMBER BRIDGE TOLLS TO INCREASE". The paper has a long running campaign against the tolls. Unfortunately they only want them scrapped for hospital patients. The campaign is backed by a local MP, Shona McIsaac. Unfortunately, less than 3 years ago she voted in Parliament for what was effectively perpetual toll increases on another river crossing.
  • BBC reported it last night: "New Humber bridge tolls approved". The BBC is pro tolls so they avoid any mention of those who oppose tolls, and only give a link to websites of the authorities.

    britain chimaera Lies, Damn Lies, Spin and not "Real world"
    Yesterday the Guardian reported on a Defra paper that it said was recommending tolls as the vital cure for the problem of air pollution.
    In fact though the Defra paper (which is for consultation) does say that road pricing would save "398,000 life years". It precedes this fantastic claim by the statement "It is highly unlikely that any 'real-world' scheme would reflect the scenario that has been used for this assessment". This might explain why road pricing is not even mentioned in the Defra press release.
    Interestingly paragraph 33 of chapter 1 of the main report also admits:- "Emissions of key air pollutants from road transport have fallen by about 50% over the last decade, despite increases in traffic, and are set to reduce by a further 25% or so over the next decade.": Defra Press Release 5 April   Defra Consultation Documents

    Wednesday 5 April 2006

    newzealand "Motorists should expect to pay"
    The Trolls are reneging on a promise not to toll the Transmission Gully road. The relevation comes immediately after Wellington City Council dropped its opposition to building the new road. It seems that though Tolls are not necessary, the trolls just don't like the idea of no tolls:- Stuff - "Gully U-turn: $115m in tolls"

    usa Fighting back
    Donn Esmonde in the Buffalo News "It's time to believe in ourselves" issues a rallying call against the tolls:- "It is about more than the money that they take out of our shallow pockets.
    It is about more than obliterating a commuter tax that isn't paid by folks in any other upstate city.
    It is about more than making toll barriers disappear.
    It is about fighting back. It is about not lying down and taking it anymore. It is about believing that, yes, things can change around here.
    It is believing that we are not pawns to fate.
    Like a long-stagnant waterfront and a long-obsolete Skyway and a long-vacant downtown, the two Niagara Thruway toll barriers at city's edge are symbols. They stand for our sheep-like willingness to accept the unacceptable, to roll over and take it, to believe that we can't change anything - so why bother trying?
    Psychologists have a name for it: Learned helplessness. Through decades of decline and disappointment, we have embraced a sense of infant-like impotence. The only way to kill it is by fighting back. By winning."
    Robert McCarthy also in the Buffalo News "Toll protest is taking on clout"

    ireland Award for Toll protestor
    No kidding! Ireland's Magill magazine awards were announced last night. The campaigning politician of the year award went to Senator Shane Ross for his efforts to block tolls on the M50.

    usa "Global Warming"
    Bruce Ramsay in the Seattle Times discusses "Global Warming" "One of the strongest beliefs of the political class is that we should all get out of our cars. They have wanted it for a long time. And so, to tackle this new problem of global warming, their first proposal is - we get out of our cars." "The global-warming debate: delusion vs. symbolism".

    britain chimaera Trust me - Tolls are good for your health
    According to the Guardian, the Government Trolls, this time in Defra are about to issue some sort of document saying that roads users are literally the cause of all Britain's ills. But they have found the magic cure - tolls: "Road charging 'vital to reduce pollution'". Perhaps they could explain why tolls are the answer - or do they realise that road fuel taxes are already high, and they hope that roads users are so stupid, that they won't notice the tolls?

    australia Peak Tolls
    Melbourne drivers may have to pay higher tolls in peak periods. The opposition Transport spokesman said that motorists:- "would choke on their dinner".The Age - "Motorists could pay higher peak-hour tolls". Anyone notice that they didn't suggest lower tolls off peak?
    It is also reported elsewhere that they wany more tolled roads, including reintroducing tolls on the West Gate Bridge, which was made free 20 years ago.
    australia "Truck Off"
    There is nothing unusual about people complaining about traffic, particularly trucks, using local roads to avoid the roads. What is unusual about this one is that it is in the Premier's constituency:- The Age - "Residents tell traffic to truck off".

    usa More democracy
    Frisco City Council has withdrawn its support for a new toll road, but it seems that the trolls will go ahead anyway. Dallas Morning News - "Frisco no longer backs 121 toll plan".

    Tuesday 4 April 2006

    britain Humber Bridge Toll Increase
    Tolls on the Humber bridge are to increase. The decision follows a public inquiry into an application by the Humber Bridge Board.
    The tolls for cars will go from 2.50 to 2.70, and the tolls for the heaviest vehicles will be 18.30 (an increase of 1.60).
    Objections at the public inquiry mainly came from the bus companies, who's cross river services have nearly halved in the last 10 years. Other representations included complaints about the unfair effect of the tolls on those using the bridge to go for hospital treatment.
    One of the objectors, Max Withrington called for the tolls to be abolished. He said that the bridge was constructed to bring the two banks of the Humber together, but the tolls acted as a barrier.
    Even before the approved increase, the Humber bridge was already the most expensive tolled crossing in Britain.
    The bridge debt would have been paid off many years ago, if it hadn't been for the capitalisation of losses. This meant that though the bridge cost just under 100 million ($175 million) to build, the debt at one stage reached 425 million ($750 million). In effect the current users of the bridge are paying what the Government should have borne 20 years or more ago. Increasing the tolls will pay off the debt quicker, but this will not benefit bridge users. In almost every case as a tolled crossing has become debt free, the Government of the day has moved the goal posts and kept the tolls.

    thailand Thai Long weekend
    The Bangkok Post reports that the Thais are changing their Songkran Day holiday. The day was to run from Thursday the 13th to Monday 17th April. But the Monday holiday has been shifted to Wednesday 19th, to encourage Thais to vote in the Senate election. The holiday change has not affected the suspension of Tolls which will run from 4 PM on the 11 th to 12 AM on the 17th. Doctor Surapong Suebwonglee said the suspension was because of the traffic bottle-necks as vehicles approach toll booths.
    Strange, that authorities around the world only remove tolls, when traffic is very heavy. Othertimes they don't mind the delays.

    london No Bridge!
    The Greens are demanding that the proposed new Thames bridge is not built. Their reason is that traffic has increased:- "Greens want end to bridge after traffic levels increase". If traffic had reduced, they would also have demanded that the bridge be abandoned, perhaps it would be simpler if they called themselves the "No Roads".

    usa "US" for or against Tolls?
  • Rep. Brian Higgins has warned the Governor that without immediate action to abolish Niagara Thruway tolls, he will introduce legislation to withhold federal transportation money. He says that the tolls are "'illegal, immoral and inequitable":- Buffalo News - "Stop tolls or else". We wish Brian the best of luck. There is something called the 1968 Niagara Toll Removal Act, but the trolls say they are not collecting tolls - they call them "user charges" - so how's about a "Niagara User Charges Removal Act"? Or will they just come up with another name?
  • Alabama officials want to toll a proposed Interstate 10 bridge over the Mobile River. They also suggest putting tolls on some of the existing crossings. But the Press Register says - "A toll would negate the whole point of the new bridge, which is to improve traffic flow and relieve congestion in and around the tunnels.":- "File bridge toll under 'ALDOT's bad ideas'".

    ireland macedonia No Tolls for Trucks
    Transport News Network reports on two protests against tolls by truckers:- "IRHA Plans East Link Toll Bridge Protest"   "Macdeonian Hauliers Stage Protest".

    australia No Tolls (for locals)
    The "Pacific Highway Task Force" tomorrow meet the Federal Government to press for the road to be completed within 10 years. The Government want it to be tolled. The Task force, which is a coalition of the National Road and Motorists Assocaiation and all the councils along the highway, is opposed to tolls. But if there is no other way, then they will accept them "provided the toll did not extend to locals".

    Monday 3 April 2006

    united chimaera Arab Tolls
    The United Arab Emirates, according to the Telegraph, has a world lead on using black boxes in cars to charge drivers per mile travelled: "UAE to profit from interest in road pricing technology"   "'Spy in the sky' keeps watch on speeding drivers". The system hasn't started but will eventually cover one million cars. The aim is apparently to reduce congestion. Perhaps it would be easier if they started charging for fuel!

    Sunday 2 April 2006

    london usa Ken and the Diplomat
    According to the BBC, Ken Livingstone has moderated the language used in his attacks on the American ambassador for not paying the Con charge. The ambassador has been demoted from crook to weasel:- "Mayor defends US toll payment row".

    usa Tolls "guaranteed to cost the average citizen time, money and aggravation"
    Amazingly we have a political boss who thinks that tolls are not the answer to road problems. It is Melanie Worley chairwoman of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners writing in the Denver Post:- "Coping with congestion".

    Saturday 1 April 2006

    britain New Toll Road
    What a way to start the month - an existing free road is to be tolled: "A4 To Become Toll Road". We reckon that this Troll "Otto B. Sacked" is one of Alistair's Poison dwarves and ought to be given the sack.

    canada Trolls beat Canadian Government
    Ontario have given up their legal fight against the operators of the 407Toll. They are dropping 14 separate legal challenges and accepting the operator's right to set tolls and to order the Government to stop licences for drivers with unpaid tolls. In return, the operators will give frequent users either airline points or gas discounts. Globe and Mail - "407 tolls won't be rolled back". No doubt all this will please those big supporters of tolls - the Greens.

    usa Tolls Referenda are too risky
  • Latest twist in the Texas Toll fight is that opponents have called for referenda on the issue. You might think that the Trolls with all their money and media "links" would be happy. But, no. It seems they are not convinced they can hoodwink the majority. So their lawyers are now saying that referenda would be illegal.
  • They may be right about the risk, judging by this report from San Antonio Express:- "Most at meetings down on toll roads".

    usa Land of the free? Or land of the Big rip off?
  • Virginia wants to give its toll road to the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority. It wants no money, instead the airport people will build a railway line. The plan is opposed by some politicians. Think again, if you reckon they want to stop the road users from being milked. Politicians are objecting because they want to sell the road to the highest bidder.
  • The trolls of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority have just moved into new super duper offices which they are showing off. The Winston Salem Journals asks "Who is paying the rent on this office? Those who will pay tolls on the state's soon-to-be toll roads. The state can build new roads with gas taxes, and use the existing infrastructure of the Department of Transportation and collect the tax at no extra cost. Or, the state can build toll roads, establish a bureaucracy to run them, hire toll takers to collect the fees and some day, pay for the director to go to Hawaii for the annual convention of the National Turnpike Authorities Association."

    australia Australians still not buying Toll tunnel
    Sidney's Cross city tunnel is part way through a three month half price toll period, but it seems that they are still not attracting enough users, even though the company paid 97 million Australian dollars ($US 70 million or 40 million sterling) to the Government who closed other roads to "encourage" use of the toll tunnel:- Daily Telegraph - "Toll halving fails to boost tunnel".

    london usa NY Times backs Ken
    The BBC and others report yesterday's New York Times editorial backing Ken Livingstone against the American ambassador in the Con charge dispute. The editorial doesn't mention Ken's offensive remarks. Is this backing a sign of how Americans turn the other cheek, or a sign that the paper like its London namesake is a fan of tolls?

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