AUGUST 2007 NEWS
Thursday 30 August 2007
A week ago we reported on our Manchester page a Labour MP's suggestion in the Buxton Advertiser that tolls should be introduced to the Peak District - "How about a tourist "congestion charge" in the Peak?". This is some of the reaction -
"Is Big Brother coming to Peak?" "Charge would drive out vital business" "Too many lawyers..." "MP is feeding apathy".
Humber Toll - more reports on protest
Humber Action Against Tolls are protesting on Saturday 1st September - Yorkshire Post - "Fresh fight on bridge tolls" Grimsby Telegraph - "PROTEST PLANNED OVER TOLL CHARGES".
We reported on the 23rd that the road hauliers were not too keen on the Tory and Lib Dem idea of resurrecting the idea of tolls for lorries. Yesterday the Freight Transport Asociation gave their views - "Road pricing for lorries - only if it saves money, says industry". (This was RHA press release).
Another Euro survey
We reported on the 15th on a recently published EU survey on Transport including attitudes to road pricing. It is now reported that the EU are doing another survey in the North East - Newcastle Journal - "Drivers quizzed on charges".
USA round up
According to a poll just released there is a small increase in the majority that oppose the New York "C" charge proposal - Staten Island Advance - "Support for congestion pricing slips, poll finds" Crain's NY Business - "Feds meddling in congestion pricing: poll".
It is suggested that the extra "torque" caused by heavy vehicles starting after stopping at toll booths could be damaging one bridge - Niagara Gazette - "GRAND ISLAND: Condition of south bridges questioned".
Given that some Americans are keen to sell of roads and bridges, here is an interesting example of one private bridge - Detroit News - "Toll bridge firm is denied access to water lines".
Other stories -
Texas - "Loop construction should begin soon after agreement" New Jersey - "Cheer up, Guv, things could be worse" New Jersey - "First district Republicans attack opponents over monetization report" Pennsylvania - "I-80 tolls for thee" Pennsylvania - "Other businesses worry about I-80 plan" Pennsylvania - "County’s housing industry criticizes I-80 toll proposal" Florida - "Drive Now, Pay Later" Georgia - "Truckers: Toll lane draft plan is illegal" Colorado - "Parkway's foreign owner signs 99-year deal" Colorado - "Changes backed in U.S. 36 plan" Colorado - "Troubled toll road's sale is best of a bad situation" Massachusetts - "Highwaymen take their toll: They’ll drive us to poorhouse" Massachusetts - "Highway pile-up will hit the wallet" Pennsylvania - "State likely to take its toll on I-80" Virginia - "State spent bridge maintenance funds on other highway projects" Washington State - "Congestion tolls would keep us moving" Texas - "SH 36 widening may go private".
Portugal planned to convert this year some of its "shadow" tolls (paid by the authorities to the road builder) to real tolls paid by the road user. It has now been announced that this will be delayed to next year.
Wednesday 29 August 2007
Humber Toll - protest
Humber Action Against Tolls who are linked to our alliance have organised a protest against the tolls on the Humber bridge. The protest will take place on Saturday 1st September - Scunthorpe Telegraph - "PLAN TO PROTEST OVER BRIDGE TOLL LEVELS".
Shrewsbury Toll - opposition
Report on the meeting of those opposed to the toll. The local Tory MP has enlisted the help of Peter Roberts, so getting 15,000 signatures should be no problem at all! Shropshire Star - "MP aims for 15,000 names".
Cambridge Toll - More "mine is bigger than yours"
We reported on the 21st that Labour and the Tories were trying to outdo each other over how tough and how high the "C" toll proposed for Cambridge will be, now the Lib Dems have proposed that it should be even tougher - CEN - "Call to widen scope for road charging" (inc link to map of the charge area). The best laugh is provided by the Tory leader who says that the - "Lib Dems are into raising money through stealth taxes". Isn't it the Tories who suggested this toll tax in the first place?
Serbian toll deal
Serbia shows that it is now part of the West with a toll road deal and accusations of corruption - BIRN - "Watchdog Criticises Serbian Government’s Highway Deal".
London Hot Air Tax - comments
More reports on the proposed £25 charge. The first includes a comment from Chris Prior of the Stop Congestion Charging Party - Islington Gazette - "C-Charge zone residents face £6,200 bill for a 'gas guzzler'" This is Money / Evening Standard - "Gas-guzzler drivers face £5,000 C-charge bills".
More 407 tolls
Peterborough Examiner - "Highway 407 extension will be a toll road, finance minister confirms". One of the most unpopular toll roads in North America is Canada's 407, so it is no surprise that the provincial government proposes that it is extended.
PS Peterborough Examiner - "Del Mastro disappointed Highway 407 extension will be a toll road, Leal says it should be a public road".
David Cameron on Road pricing
The Shropshire Star gave the Tory leader this question from one of their readers - "The Government proposes a pay-per-mile scheme to try and take us off the road. Given that if done it would cost some of us £100-plus a week to get to and from work, do you think this is going to be fair? And will you and your party support this?"
His answer was - "We have been very clear that the Conservatives do not support a grand national scheme of road pricing. However, in some areas where congestion is a problem we support the use of a local road pricing scheme if it is supported by the local community. Such schemes can only work if the government invests properly in local public transport, something it has failed to do over the last 10 years. Just recently, John Redwood’s report on Economic Competitiveness highlighted the desperate need we have in this country for more trains."
Lib Dems on lorry tolls
The Lib Dems are obviously very keen on recycling as every six months or so they dust off their plans for what they say are "green" taxes, including some form of road tolls - Lib Dems - "Liberal Democrats reveal plans for zero carbon Britain" (includes link to "Zero Carbon Britain" document). Some news reports implied that they planned to toll motorways and other roads for all vehicles, though what their latest document says is that - "To provide the endowment for the Future Transport Fund, we would charge road freight on a pay per mile basis, varying according to emissions, similar to schemes that currently operate in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Distance charges on road freight would provide an incentive for freight to shift to rail and short sea and canal trips."
It is also reported on BBC that - "Lib Dems urge end to petrol cars".
Bikers "Ride against road pricing"
Bikers are quite happy to see others priced off the road, but want to be exempted from the charges. They are planning a "mass ride-out" around London starting at Wembley Stadium on October 20 - Motorcycle news.
USA round up
Pennsylvania - "Rise and be heard before Interstate 80 toll plan is approved" Missouri - "Tons of tolls not needed to fix roads" New Hampshire - "Lynch to talk tolls with town" Colorado - "Sales tax on gas one option to fund roads" New Hampshire - "Another nudge for tollbooth relief" New Hampshire - "State highway fund needs a real plan, not tolls or taxes" Colorado - "Talk of parkway extension riles Golden" Missouri - "Committee Brainstorms Ways to Get New Bridge" Texas - "No exit from toll roads".
Tuesday 28 August 2007
Shrewsbury Toll - opposition meeting
Shropshire Star - "MP vows to keep fight up".
Salik tolls may spread
The Salik toll has caused congestion on alternative routes and there are rumours that there may be more tolls - Arabian Business - "RTA denies Salik expansion".
USA round up
Yesterday's penny protest - Nashua Telegraph - "Merrimack drivers grab pennies, stage ‘toll revolt’" Concord Monitor - "Toll revolt rolls on through" Union Leader - "Most surveyed back Merrimack" Union Leader - "Toll revolt earns tickets, call from the governor" Boston Globe - "Penny protest causes congestion on turnpike".
From Tax Foundation - "Questions to Ask Before Raising the Federal Gas Tax".
More of the aftermath of the Minnesota bridge collapse - Modesto Bee - "What we don't yet know about the Minnesota bridge collapse".
Other stories - Colorado - "Council to vote on extending toll road" Pennsylvania - "Web site launched on I-80 toll plan" New York - "Spitzer disputes fare hike report" Indiana - "I-Zoom system is coming".
Star - "Tolls punish the poor and are only a temporary answer".
Monday 27 August 2007
USA round up - Sunday and Monday
Monday is penny protest Day - Boston Globe - "Merrimack preparing for toll protest".
There was one writer who disagreed with the tolls sell from Mary Peters in the Washington Post - NJ Blog - "Blind ideology is bad policy".
Other stories - New York - "Think before you act on '08 hike, state controller to MTA" New Jersey - "Residents show distrust for toll hikes" California - "Doyle Drive must be fixed, but toll plan is flawed" Texas - "Our tax dollars are paying for what?" New York - "Are scooters the answer to NYC jams?" California - "First cars drive over new Benicia Bridge"
Texas - "Free Ride On 45 West Tollway At An End" California - "City Hall expands LAX, then punishes travelers for the congestion" Pennsylvania - "Political War Over Planned Tolls on I-80" Florida - "If only Lee needs them, let Lee toll for I-75 lanes 7-10".
Czech truck toll
Czechs consider what technology to use for tolls on lorries - CBW - "Kapsch to build toll system on new highways".
More on NZ "C" toll
Politicians say that toll may not be necessary if instead they change school hours! Stuff - "Congestion tax could hit Wellington in 5 years".
Another Doubting Thomas
From Japan Times - Intolerance mars climate change debate.
Saturday 25 August 2007
More on Singapore ERP changes
The first story says that ERP is a great success, but if the aim was to discourage drivers and reduce congestion it has been a failure - ZD Net - "Is technology making us lazy?". The second story is similar but one deliveryman points out that toll increases only have a short term effect - Today - "Rush hour takes its toll". The system is reported by Today as collecting 90 billion Singapore dollars (59 billion US dollars or 29 billion pounds sterling) a year. If this report is correct, their biggest worry must be drivers may drive less! This may seem far fetched, but by coincidence the Government have just reduced the tax or "certificate of entitlement" needed when buying a new car - Channel News - "Car showrooms see surge in customers after dips in COE prices".
NZ "C" toll
Stuff - "Congestion tax being considered for Wgtn" Scoop - "Congestion pricing could ease traffic jams". The NZ politicians say that "Doing nothing is not an option". Isn't it time that the trolls came up with a new script?
Indian "C" toll
Mumbai newsline - "International firm to study ‘congestion tax’" ND tv - "Mumbai to charge fees for driving". As the proposed charge would be based on number plate recognition, perhaps a little judicious application of mud may help!
USA round up - Friday and Saturday
The writer of this story wants "road pricing" and says that if gas taxes and thus gas prices are raised then there will be - "more congestion and stagnating quality of life" - Washington Post - "The Folly Of Higher Gas Taxes".
The writer is Mary Peters - George Bush's Transport Secretary. Does she really believe that a tax which is expensive to collect and which would encourage more use of gas is good for America? Does she believe that it will reduce vehicle use or emissions or reduce America's reliance on oil? Does she really believe the myths created by the London Mayor's press people, and not know that traffic speeds in London are the same as before the London "C" charge was introduced? Or is that this tolls policy is what is wanted by those who control the petroleum supplies?
More on the commission appointed to investigate New York Toll - Staten Island Advance - "Despite vows, panel's makeup stirs anger".
Other stories - Kentucky - "Senator proposes toll power" Texas - "Highway agency launches multimillion dollar ad campaign" Washington State - "Glitch in bridge toll sensors issues erroneous tickets" California - "New Benicia-Martinez Bridge marks arrival of open-road tolling" New York - "New Seneca Billboards Along Thruway" Maine - "Cianbro offers up plan for East-West highway" Washington State - "Cross the bridge, pay a toll ... get a ticket?" Florida - "Study of adding toll lanes to I-75" California - "Innovation needed to replace aging bridges, reduce traffic congestion" California - "Innovation needed to replace aging bridges, reduce traffic congestion" Texas - "TTC drops Cintra, embraces NTTA" Pennsylvania - "Share responsibility for bridges" New York - "Collapsible Bridges" Pennsylvania - "Turnpike lease idea loses steam" Pennsylvania - "Congressman defends his move to block I-80 tolls" Pennsylvania - "$25 toll possible on Interstate 80" Pennsylvania - "$25 toll possible on Interstate 80".
Norwich Toll - "Choice"
According to the Norwich Evening News, the Transport Minister as part of her tour selling the new road pricing bill aka "Local Transport Bill" tells the people of Norfolk - "Congestion charge has to be a choice". Really? Which local people is that? The politicians, bureaucrats and consultants?
Newcastle Toll - TIF bid "just for information"
The Transport Secretary has told a local MP that improving the A1 round Newscastle does not depend on "C" charging - Journal - "A1 upgrade will not be driven by charges".
Proposed new toll bridge
Northern News - "For whom the bridge tolls".
Thursday 23 August 2007
View from the hauliers
Tory and Lib Dem plans and reaction from RHA - "Tories and Lib Dems consider road charging".
ERP changes (updated)
Singapore is making some changes to its Electronic Road Pricing system, though the system is already so complex that it appears to have no effect on drivers - Channel News Asia - "Extending ERP operational hours not enough to deter traffic jams" Channel News Asia - "LTA announces new ERP gantries, operational hours" Channel News Asia - "LTA announces new ERP gantries, operational hours".
As part of the consultation on the draft Local Transport Bill, the British Motorcyling Federation say that bikers throughout Britain should be exempt from charges - BMF.
USA round up
Another story that illustrates that many United States tolls are just a beggar my neighbour tax. The story says that there is no point in getting rid of tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike as 85% are paid by out of staters, and the in staters can claim the tolls against their other taxes - Charleston Daily Mail - "Turnpike tolls should be tax free".
New Jersey wants a seat on the commission appointed to investigate New York Toll - Star Ledger - "Jersey seeks a seat on New York congestion pricing panel".
Following yesterday's news, another story on the commission appointed to investigate New York Toll - Brooklyn Eagle - "Panel Forms To Consider Congestion Pricing".
Another example of the delusions in America created by the London Mayor and his toll spinners - Hartford Courant - "New York Needs Price Plan".
Testing the tolls collectors shockability - Miami New Times - "For Whom the Hell Tolls".
Where the tolls may go - Newsday - "Corzine ties new school construction to toll road plan".
And where they went - building and subsidising an aquarium, though it seems that a planned further spend of $43 million will now be stopped - Newsday - "Camden's Adventure Aquarium up for sale".
Other stories -
Massachusetts - "Legislators unhappy with possible toll hikes" Pennsylvania - "Corman hedges road money bets" Massachusetts - "Same old, same old" Massachusetts - "Toll plan spurs call for end of free rides" New Jersey - "Job cuts would stave off toll road plan" New Jersey - "Coalition watching Corzine's toll-hike plan" West Virginia - "State to track tax write-offs for EZ Pass" California - "Hate traffic jams? Buy FasTrak" New Jersey - "“WE’D BE CRAZY” TO TELL THE TRUTH TO THE PUBLIC" Pennsylvania - "A first-class road?" California - "Officials To Unveil Golden Gate Bridge Sponsorship".
The Age - "Transurban $151m in the red". It may seem strange that a toll road group makes a loss. But this is not unusual in the economics of private toll roads. The assumption is that despite large payments to bankers and "advisers", the concessions will eventually be big money spinners.
More on new SA Toll
Sowetan - "Gauteng roads may get tolled ".
Wednesday 22 August 2007
South Africa is to put tolls along the Gauteng highway system to help pay for World Cup in 2010 - IT Web SA - "No escaping Gauteng tolls".
USA round up
It seems that a New York Toll is now inevitable. The commission appointed to investigate it has some toll opponents but has been packed with toll supporters - NY Times - "Members Named for Panel Studying Traffic-Cutting Plan" Politics on the Hudson - "Brodsky named to congestion-pricing panel" Staten Island Advance - "No Islanders on the city's traffic panel".
Other stories - West Virginia - "Lawmaker warns tax deduction could lead to toll hike on Turnpike" Massachusetts - "Pike tolls headed for higher ground" New Jersey - "Republicans may sue to see toll road plan" Colorado - Letters New Hampshire - "Road plan would need 52-cent gas tax" New Hampshire - "Highway funding: Robbing Peter to pay Paul?" Texas - "CAMPO To Hear From Public On Toll Roads" Pennsylvania - "Tolls on I-80 could result in $25 cost to drive across Pa.".
Tuesday 21 August 2007
Tolls getting more popular
According to What Car, the oposition to tolls hasd dropped from 98% in 2006 to only 75% now - "You say: no to pay-per-mile tolls". An amazing result considering that in the last year, drivers have demonstrated their overwhelming opposition to road tolls.
Cambridge Toll - "mine is bigger than yours"
It seems that Labour and the Tories are trying to outdo each other over how tough and how high the "C" toll proposed for Cambridge will be - CEN - "Toll plan gets slammed".
What Cambridgeshire Council says.
The tale of a rich man
A tale of one person who is not deterred by the "C" charge - Daily Mail - "The hedge fund tycoon too busy to get Maserati from the pound". Why didn't he have the car registered in Paris and thus avoid all charges?
London Con hot air tax - "We're in the money"
Autocar estimates that the - "CO2 charge could net TfL £1m a day".
USA round up
It pays to advertise - San Antonio Express - "Don't like toll roads? TxDOT is talking to you".
From Illinois paper - "Dark side of tolls and technology".
Other stories - Massachusetts - "Chandler holds line on Pike toll" Florida - "I-95 toll lanes aren't alternative" Florida - "Tangled in gridlock" New Hampshire - "Tax talk should waitfor a specific road plan" Florida - "County asks for study of toll lanes" New Hampshire - "State motorists burning up less fuel" West Virginia - "E-ZPass bill sets the table for a toll hike" West Massachusetts - "The toll of neglect" West Massachusetts - "The toll of neglect".
Monday 20 August 2007
Latest in the long running saga of trying to get "secret" information on the cost of toll roads - Herald Sun - "Eastlink test for Brumby".
Traffic up and down
Latest traffic figures published last week. It is said that overall traffic is up by 1%, but car traffic is down by 1%. Like all recent Government statistics, the figures may not be 100% reliable - Quarterly Bulletin - Q2 2007 Tables (Excel).
Newcastle Toll - won't lie down
Though North East politicians recently rejected any possibility of "congestion charging", the officials and consultants seem to be still working on the plans - Journal - "Drastic choices for gridlocked drivers". Official site.
"Why London-style congestion fees won't work in downtown Vancouver"
Sydney's toll roads - Telegraph - "Motorway costs trapping us in home suburbs".
USA round up
Following the Minnesota bridge collapse, the debate on how to finance roads continues. A typical article or editorial will say something like - "Some have suggested raising the gas tax to pay for roads and bridges. The President and other lawmakers oppose the idea. The national aim is to decrease the use of fossil fuels; doing so would make gas taxes an unreliable source for revenue. The answer to this problem is to replace the gas tax with tolls to pay for roads and bridges. That is the simplest and fairest way to pay.". Other papers have a slightly different reason for more tolls - "There is no alternative.".
It is also suggested that only free bridges collapse, toll bridges don't. In fact nearly all bridge collapes in the US are down to two causes - barges or ships colliding with the bridge supports, and earthquakes. There are a few exceptions including the most famous of all in 1940 when the collapse of the "Galloping Gertie" bridge was captured on film. That bridge over the Tacoma Narrows was operated by the Washington State Toll Bridge Authority. Another accident was the collapse in 1983 of the Mianus River Bridge on the Connecticut Turnpike (which at that time was tolled) with the death of three motorists.
One view on the move towards a price on everything society - St Petersburg Times - "Maybe I should charge you per word".
A rare instance of a free crossing replacing a tolled one - St Petersburg Times - "Celebration welcomes a lifeline".
Other stories - New Jersey - "Smart and sophisticated N.J.? / Don't count on it" North Carolina - "Money lacking for N.C. roads" Florida - "Roads, traffic control aren't giving us our money's worth" New Jersey - "Treasurer preaches patience as Republicans assail Corzine plan" Pennsylvania - "Turnpike officials pledge $1 billion for I-80 improvements" Virginia - "Facing reality" New Jersey - "Bridge Commission financial affairs not in working order" Washington State - "Warning signs for the fall; a sneaky tax" Pennsylvania - "Plan to toll I-80 divides state's rural, urban citizens" California - "City studies charging toll to drive into LAX" Pennsylvania - "Pay-as-you-go, not privatization, is the answer . . ."
Pennsylvania - "TOLLS ON I-80?".
Saturday 18 August 2007
Courier Mail - "End of road for free ride" - what will they want to charge for next?
Tory Toll Threat
Yesterday as expected the Tory Party produced proposals for tax changes including a lot more tolls - "Freeing Britain to Compete" (link to full report is near bottom of the page).
Perhaps the most amazing statement in the document is on page 27 - "£31 billion that the Government raises annually in motoring taxation (even without taking account of corporation tax on car manufacturers and retailers)". The Tories seem to have forgotten another £20 billion of taxes on roads use.
One of the main proposals is for road tolls on lorries. The report says - " ...... The British haulage industry has made strong representations to Ministers, but to no avail. We therefore recommend that an incoming Conservative government should implement a system of charging all lorries for their mileage on British roads. At the same time, either the duty on diesel, or the rates of truck excise duty, would be reduced for UK hauliers, so that their overall level of taxation would not rise. This would have several advantages: British truck owners could compete more fairly, without breaking any EU rules; the Treasury would benefit from extra revenues as foreign trucks started to pay user charges; and there would be more money to pay for much needed road improvements." This is truly amazing, Labour had similar plans but abandoned them when they realised that if British hauliers were to pay no more than now, then the income from foreigm hauliers would not even cover the cost of running the scheme.
As expected the Tories propose that there be a LOT more toll roads -
(page 17) - "Road improvements. The Government has demonstrated, with the new M6 toll way relief road to the north of Birmingham, that a new road can be completed successfully as a privately financed investment, with all the risks taken by private investors. We propose that this principle should be applied to the building and improvement of other road links, thereby taking their capital cost out of the government system."
(page 25) - "We recommend that an incoming Conservative government should tackle as quickly as possible the obvious shortfalls in terms of congestion, safety and capacity on the most stressed major routes. This will involve both improving management of the existing network, and expanding the current programme to increase capacity on the main motorways and trunk roads. (For example, adding one or more lanes to the M25, M1, A34, A12, A14, and M6, where congestion, and hence accidents, are most common; developing the A1M into (at least) a dual carriageway from London to Scotland; converting the A303 into a dual carriageway, with a by-pass or underpass to Stonehenge.)
It would not be possible, however, to carry out all the works necessary simply by using taxpayer funds, or by borrowing money on the government’s account, as part of the Highways Agency’s road programme. We do not believe that the country can wait another ten years while the government ponders such projects, and spaces them out in an affordable way. We need to accelerate the programme, and to have access to additional money from outside the public accounts.
Two very successful precedents for this are the former Conservative Government’s Dartford rivercrossing (to complete a higher-capacity M25 to the east of London); and this Government’s completion of the M6 toll route (to provide a bypass to the heavily congested M6 to the north of Birmingham). In both cases, bipartisan support enabled the private sector to design, build, finance and operate the bridge and road; and to do so by levying a toll (or charge) on the users. In the latter case, a completely new alternative has been provided for those who were fed up with the congestion on the existing M6, which meanwhile remains free at the point of use. In the former case, anyone wishing to use the M25 to cross the Thames can take advantage of the new bridge’s extra capacity, and hence a reduced journey time.
We propose, therefore, that selected route corridors should be put out to tender for private sector improvement. The valuable land would remain the freehold of the public sector. On offer would be, together with the right to collect a toll on the added capacity, the duty to provide extra capacity and an improved management of traffic flows. Other motoring taxes should be reduced proportionately to avoid double taxation.
The franchise period needs to be long enough for private contractors to be able to make substantial new investment while charging a realistic toll rate. The Labour Government established thirty years as the franchise period for its partial privatisation of the London Underground network; and, while we are critical of that scheme for a variety of other reasons, we believe a similar period would make sense in
the case of private sector road improvement schemes.
Of course, there do need to be safeguards, for the government and taxpayers. First, there should be laid down a regulated maximum tariff (with an index-linked maximum permitted rate of increase) for different categories of vehicle user. This is a wise precaution as a monopoly over a route is being offered; and it will not prevent a private contractor from being free to vary charges, both by time and day, in a way that will encourage the maximum spread of use, and thereby help to avoid congestion."
The proposals make almost no mention of "congestion charging" or "road pricing". Does this mean that the Tories have rejected these? Maybe, but probably not. As these policies are highly unpopular the Tories could have gained support by clearly rejecting them.
The Tories will be pleased that their toll plans attracted little comment and that most British people will be oblivious of them, as the news media gave the impression that somehow death duty and other taxes would be cut, and that there would not be a price to pay - BBC - "Tories 'will consider tax cuts'" Evening Standard - "Tories unveil blueprint for big cuts in taxation". One exception to this is in the North East - Newcastle Journal - "Row over Tory plan to pay for A1 work".
"Today London, tomorrow, all of us, warns Mike Rutherford"
Telegraph, Mike is usually very sensible so why on earth does he think that the AA and RAC would "lodge a legal challenge on behalf of the beleaguered motorists". They are as he says rich, but they do not in any way represent motorists, they act on behalf of their owners and are frequently allied with the anti motorist establishment.
"Congestion Charge: potentially unsafe for motorcyclists, claim researchers"
Cambridge Toll - cyclists view?
Not unexpectedly a body called "Cambridge Cycling Campaign" are backing the "C" toll proposed for Cambridge - CEN - "Get on your bikes cyclists tell critics". Throughout Britain the bodies that claim to represent cyclists support road tolls and anything which adversely affects other road users. What is never made clear is that 99.9% of cyclists do not belong to these bodies and that they often rely on money given to them by the authorities.
USA round up
Land Line - "Truckers say feds are bribing New York, other cities with toll grants"
Other stories - California - "L.A. council to study driver fee at airport" Pennsylvania - "Improvements totaling $1 billion planned as part of I-80 conversion" Minnesota - "E-mail reveals Pawlenty’s hopes for session" Illinois - "Fines must be timely" Texas - "The RMA and the Road to Build" CNN - "Private Infrastructure Booming In Most Places, But Not In U.S." Minnesota - "Bipartisanship helps get transport funds" Texas - "Toll Road may expand sooner than planned" Florida - "Despite Collier objections, Lee toll lane effort moving forward" Massachusetts - "Pike tolls out of control" New Hampshire - "Council asks meeting with gov on tolls" Arizona - "Racing to keep up" Florida - "Tolling I-75’s new lanes a good idea" Washington State - "Gripe all you want, then take the cash" Washington State - "Gripe all you want, then take the cash".
Friday 17 August 2007
London Con hot air tax - more views
From the "C" zone front line - Fleet News - "Congestion fees are under attack".
Liverpool Toll moves up river
Liverpool already has the distinction of one of the oldest and most expensive tolls in Britain. There is currently a free route across the Mersey up river from the city, but the authorities plan to toll it using road user charging powers - Northwich Guardian.
USA round up
A different slant to the news that New York is to get federal money for agreeing to bring in "congestion" tolls. according to this story it ain't so - NJpols - "Take the Hint, Drop Congestion Pricing Plan".
A New Jersey view of Pennsylvania (and other states) tolling the Interstates - NJblog - "Toll enthusiasts can hit the road".
Other stories - New York - "As Sincere and Clever as Fill-in-the-Blank Praise" Texas - "U.S. 281 tolls get a green light".
Thursday 16 August 2007
USA round up
More on DOT handout - Environment News Service - "Tolls, Congestion Pricing Face Drivers in Five U.S. Cities" Atlanta Journal - "Metro Atlanta's bid for HOT lanes turns cold".
FLORIDA - Sun Sentinel - ""Lexus lanes" may sound bad but worth a try".
NEW YORK - Times Union - "N.Y.'s second chance" NY Daily News - "Congest aid not quite a green light, pol sez" NY Times - "Mixed Signals: Driving to Work as a Tax Break" Newsday - "LI pols fight heat on congestion pricing" WNYC - "Federal Transit Aid to NYC Contingent on Action".
SAN FRANCISCO - SF1st- "Ask Not For Whom Doyle Drive Tolls".
A story which points out that the gas tax paid by trucks is shared out amongst states according to miles travelled in each state, and not according to where the fuel is purchased - Morning Call - "Trucks pay their fair share through fuel taxes". The writer also says that "Tolling is a highly inefficient, environmentally unfriendly, and even dangerous way of collecting revenue. A fuel tax is simple, covers all the miles, and encourages fuel- efficient vehicles." We didn't write that, honest!
Other stories - Illinois - "Tollway has let cheats off the hook since fall" West Virginia - "Toll tax rebate likely" North Carolina - "State study to examine bypass tolls" Pennsylvania - "People need full reports on bridges and a better way to explain repair priorities" Pennsylvania - "Use fuel tax, not tolls, to raise revenue" Texas - "NTTA to drop cash option on toll roads" Pennsylvania - "Future of I-80 tolls unclear" North Carolina - "All tolled?" Massachusetts - "Pike tolls out of control" Pennsylvania - "Pike's not so E-Z at New Stanton" Pennsylvania - "U.S. Rep. English seeks time on tolls" Pennsylvania - "U.S. Rep. English seeks time on tolls" North Carolina - "N.C. Turnpike Authority Seeks Loan" North Carolina - "Turnpike Authority turns to private funding".
Wednesday 15 August 2007
Government car use up? It's a secret
The cost of Government cars has gone up 8%, though they can't say whether this is inflation or whether car use has increased "because a breakdown of the costs is not available for security reasons" - Fleet News - "Government attacked over car hypocrisy".
USA round up
Update on Minneapolis bridge collapse - Pioneer Press - "Storms keep divers out of Mississippi".
Late yesterday we had the official announcement of the federal financial inducements to areas that will agree to introduce tolls on existing free roads - DOT.
The process is a farce. As predicted the biggest share goes to New York, though many people are opposed to the Mayor's plans. But perhaps the biggest farce is that the total amount split amongst five "winners" is only $848 million. The Department of Transportation budget for the current year is $66 billion, of which just over $40 billion is on highways.
American road vehicles consume 174 billion gallons of fuel a year - Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Adding 10 cents tax a gallon would give an extra $17.4 billion a year to spend on roads and bridges. By way of comparison, all tolls income is about $7 billion a year gross or about $4 billion net of the cost of collection, so a three cent gas tax would enable ALL existing tolls to be scrapped.
Some of today's reports following the official announcement -
MIAMI - Sun Sentinel - "I-95 express toll lanes get boost from federal grant" Palm Beach Post - "I-95 lanes to let motorists pay to bypass gridlock" Miami Herald - "Fast lane may cut commute, for a price" Miami Herald - "Q&A on the Interstate 95 plan"
MINNEAPOLIS - Pioneer Press - "Minnesota gets $133.3 million to battle road congestion"
NEW YORK -
NY Daily News - " Feds put toll plan in gear" The Journal - "Manhattan congestion toll plan gets boost from federal DOT" Newsday - "Bloomberg has $354 million incentive to make traffic plan work" NY Times - "U.S. Money for Traffic Is Short of Bloomberg’s Plan" Am NY - "NYC gets $354 million for traffic-toll plan" Reuters - "NYC gets federal backing for new $8-per-car fee"
SAN FRANCISCO - Examiner - "Federal funds lend a hand to S.F.'s ailing Doyle Drive" Inside Bay Area - "Transport czar backs S.F. toll proposal" Inside Bay Area - "Tolled twice? Feds back SF toll plan" Marin Journal - "Double toll may await Golden Gate Bridge users" SF Chronicle - "Will drivers pay to fix Doyle Drive? Feds to help with repairs, but would exact a price"
SEATTLE - Seattle Times - "Feds offer $139M if state imposes 520 bridge toll" Columbian - "Seattle to get federal money for new floating bridge" Seattle PI - "Federal grant requires tolls on 520".
Other stories - Pennsylvania - "Foes of I-80 tolls will fail" California - "Glitches turn up in FasTrak improvements" Massachusetts - "Pike toll increase may get steeper" Florida - "Toll approved for 2 new I-75 lanes in south Lee" New Jersey - "Voters oppose a hike in tolls - Leasing highways is also a nonstarter" Massachusetts - "State mulls how big a toll to take" Pennsylvania - "Tolls don't have to be the bridge repair avenue" New York - "Problems with Truck Traffic" Georgia - "The real toll is your privacy - 'Cruise' cards' information can be used by others".
Our good friends in the "Directorate-General for Energy & Transport of the European Commission" have had a survey of 26,000 EU citizens on - Attitudes on issues related to EU Transport Policy. A few interesting bits from the report are -
Page 31 - "The ratio of those who think that charges for road usage (city tolls) could actually improve the traffic situation in their respective area is even lower (5%)." Interestingly the figure for the UK - 6% - was higher than the European average.
Page 34 - "No matter which of the demographic segments we analysed, we found that charges for road usage (city tolls) were mentioned by the least people as a solution to the traffic problems in their city. However, there were relatively more young people and those still in school who considered this solution worthwhile."
Page 37 - 35% of people agree that "all road users should pay for congestion and environmental damage through road tolls" 60% disagreed and 5% didn't know. The figures for Britain were 36% agreed and 61% did not.
Page 40 - When asked on how any profits from any road charges should be spent - 40% said on public transport, 36% on roads, 17% on general public expenditure and 7% did not know. The figures for the UK were markedly different from the EU average, only 20% thought that the money should be spent on roads as against 61% who wanted it to go on public transport (16% chose general public expenditure and 3% did not know).
It seems that the authorities in Britain have done a wonderful job of deceiving drivers so that they don't realise that they are already paying £50 billion in taxes, with only £7 billion being spent on the roads, and they thus support any extra money going into public transport rather than roads. Fortunately the authorities have not yet managed to con the public into accepting more road charges and tolls, whatever they may be used for.
Cambridge Toll - Meeting for businesses
A meeting has been organised for businesses to discuss the "c" toll - CEN - "Road charge debate brings huge response". In some other parts of Britain those who run the Chambers of Commerce and the FSB have seen their job as helping to sell the idea of road charges - will Cambridge be different? And why are ordinary people excluded from these meetings?
London Con hot air tax - Something right
Auto Express report including charges falling on luxury hybrids - "£10m road-charging cost comes under fire".
Tuesday 14 August 2007
Newcastle Toll - probably not
Tyne & Wear is one of ten areas that were given money by the Government to research local road pricing or "congestion charging". They are still looking at it, but both the Lib Dem leader of Newcastle and the leader of the Labour opposition are opposed to the idea - Evening Chronicle - "Congestion tolls ruled out for city".
Cambridge Toll - defended by Council boss
The County Council say that they have not really decided to bring in a charge as "the Government would also have to accept the idea" - CEN - "'No decisions on toll have been made'". Does this mean that if the Government accepts the council's offer to introduce congestion charging, then the Council will say it was only a game?
USA round up
The federal Government is offering bribes to areas that will agree to introduce tolls on existing free roads. Various cities have applied including New York. The Big Apple should be well down the list as the Mayor's plan has not been agreed locally, but it is now rumoured that the city will get a large part of the bribe pool - NY Daily News - "Decongestion!" Washington Post - "U.S. Will Fund Plan to Charge Tolls In New York" NY Times - "Bloomberg’s Traffic Plan Gets U.S. Boost" Forbes / AP - "Fed Gov't to Back NY Traffic Fee Plan".
PS Though there is nothing official yet there are these later stories -
Seattle PI - "Seattle to get federal money for floating bridge tolls" Sun Sentinel (Florida) - "Feds OK money for 'Lexus lanes' on Interstate 95" Dallas Morning News - "Dallas misses out on federal transportation grant" Daily Camera (Colorado) - "Federal grant for U.S. 36 expansion work rejected" NY Times - "U.S. Allocates $354 Million to Reduce New York Traffic" MyFox NY - "Federal Officials Agree To Fund Congestion Pricing" AJC (Georgia) - "Metro Atlanta's bid for HOT lanes turns cold".
Other stories -
Florida - "Lee commission OKs tolls on I-75" New Jersey - "Poll: Voters oppose toll increases, but prefer them to tax hikes" Virginia - "Roanoke lawyers challenge abuser fees" Texas - "Highway shortfall estimate skyrockets" Washington State - "Bridge tolls paying for too many extras" North Carolina - "Support for turnpike may slip, backers say".
A red to oppose Ken?
One of the Tory candidates who openly opposes the con charge is Victoria Borwick - New Statesman - "Why I want to take on Ken".
London Con hot air tax - Daily Mail reaction
A bit late to report this, but it includes the Greens attacking Ken!!! "Small cars to escape congestion charge".
Norway goes further
Norway was one of the first countries to introduce "congestion charging" and has toll cordons round many of its town centres. It is now considering additional peak period charges - Norway Post - "Congestion charge to cut rush-hour traffic".
Monday 13 August 2007
London Con hot air tax - more reaction
Press release from ABD - "£25 Congestion Charge - Ignorance Personified".
From What Car - "London congestion plan under fire".
The purpose of the London con charge gets foggier and foggier. As a tax it fails as it costs too much to collect. As a means of reducing congestion it fails as traffic speeeds are back to pre charge period. As a means of reducing real air pollution (e.g. particulate matter) it has never worked. Now it it touted as a means of reducing CO2. Fortunately for London trees that would die without this CO2 "pollution", it will also fail in this. What will they think of next?
There has been a lot of toll pushing in Canada. What makes this one a bit unusual is that one of the firms selling the technology is openly doing some of the pushing - Toronto Star - "Congestion takes its toll".
Hungary going down toll road - Caboodle - "Budapest drivers could face congestion charge by 2010".
USA round up
Private toll roads are even less popular than publicly owned ones, so Texas has come up with a new way of presenting the idea - "availability payments" - Statesman - "Transportation panel finds another way to skin toll cat".
August should be a quiet month, but the Minnesota bridge collapse has added to the usual crop with more toll spinning - California - "Tag! You're tolled! $4 vs. FasTrak feelin' like free" Indiana - "There's no excuse for Toll Road delays" Christian Science Monitor - "How to pay for US road and bridge repair?" Maryland - "Taking their toll" Pennsylvania - "Tolls on I-80 will devastate all of commonwealth ..." North Carolina - "Freeway's end?" Colorado - "Gas tax no longer enough to fix our highways" Louisiana - "Big concerns around a loop" New Jersey - "Bridge repairs call for gas hike".
NZ toll row
The road which was not particularly wanted, then built on the condition that it was tolled even though most of the toll income is needed to cover the cost of having a toll - Stuff - "Fumes already rising from new toll highway".
The border is open again and tolls are suspended for 7 days while Colombia and Venezuela try to rech an agreement - Vheadline - "border traffic re-established after agreement signed".
Sunday 12 August 2007
USA round up
A toll accident, but no fatalities- Toledo Blade - "Chain-reaction accident injures at least 4 people".
We frequently have various vested interests pushing for tolls and for road sales, but here is an odd one - Philadelphia Inquirer - "Privatization, not tolls, is the best route for roads". It seems that these privatized roads would also have a "price". Presumably this isn't a toll, as the National Motorists Association is apparently opposed to tolls - NMA - "Why Toll Roads Are A Bad Idea".
Here is a story that has travelled. Though the most interesting thing is that the person pushing for the tolling of New York is an ex World Bank boss - "The greening of New York ".
Other stories - Pennsylvania - "Think again before tolling I-80" Massachusetts - "Power surge" Connecticut - "Interstate 95: Our Very Own Road To Ruin" Alabama - "Wheels of industry strain state's highways and byways" Washington State - "3,347 citations sent to toll scofflaws" Pennsylvania - "I-80 toll spat highlights longtime rural-urban divide" New Jersey - "Bridge repair needs may rekindle talks of gas tax hike".
Saturday 11 August 2007
American view of London hot air tax
From the Chicago Tribune - "London rolls out $50-a-day SUV tax". Let's hope that copies of this paper are not smuggled into Michael Bloomberg's domain. Some of the points might come as a shock to New Yorkers after what they have been told by Michael and Ken.
From the agnostic side
The Association of British Drivers have issued another press release to try and offset some of the offical pronouncements - "Climate Science Update (2) from the ABD".
Tories to back tolls?
The Conservatives inspired by far right guru, John Redwood, are reported as about to back road tolls - Evening Standard - "Cameron poised to embrace lower-tax economy".
USA round up
With electronic tolls it's not just official spooks and police who are watching - Courant - "Getting An E-ZPass To Divorce Court".
Other stories - South Carolina - "Reaction to possible toll on future Interstate 73" South Carolina - "State asks for right to toll I-95" South Carolina - "I-73 project gets toll approval".
Friday 10 August 2007
London Con hot air tax - reaction
The motor industry usually lies down and waits to be slaughtered but not this time - Easier Motoring - "Emissions based congestion charge ineffective say RMIF".
Press release from Kensington & Chelsea Council, whose residents will be the ones worst affected by the Mayor's plans - "30 times more to pay if Ken Livingstone gets his way".
Ken's toll spinners are working overtime, they issued a press release about this on Wednesday and now there is another one - "Consultation begins today on Emissions Related Congestion Charging". This seems to have inspired the BBC to out this out late on Friday - "Polluting cars C-charge discussed".
It already seemed lorries would not have to pay the £25 charge, but it has apparently been announced (though we can't see where) that some lorries will pay even less than the current £8 charge - FTA press release on TNN - "Euro 5 Lorries Get Thumbs Up From Mayor".
You would have thought that Ken did not need any free advertising but on Thursday the Guardian obliged - "Tanks for the memory".
USA round up
Another story about global warming. The author thinks that there is little that can be done and all efforts will be swamped by population growth around the world and economic growth in Asia. But "tougher measures will do the job" such as "tolls on the interstates" - Mountain Mail - "Pretending to fight global warming".
Many of the recent stories deal with funding of highways following the Minnesota bridge collapse. Many people see this as a "golden" opportunity for more toll roads and bridges. Others want any spending to come from gas taxes. At the same time there is increasing pressure to spend road and bridge funds on mass transit -
Connecticut - "Where To Find Infrastructure Funds?" Texas - "Stay off road to higher gas tax" Pennsylvania - "Bridge costs can’t be avoided" California - "Funding roadways without new taxes" Washington DC - "Sprawl and Crawl: Transit funds need to come from somewhere" Texas - "Bickering, uncertainty build as needs remain ignored" California - "Pay-as-you-use highways" Time - "We've Come Undone" New York - "A Funding Solution for New York’s Roads and Bridges - Let the private sector step in" New York - "Use highway funds for roads, bridges" Florida - "Toll bridges won't assure safe design and upkeep" New Hampshire - "Turnpike hike: Time for toll increases".
Other toll stories - New Hampshire - "Tie a copper ribbon: Penny protest grows" New Jersey - "Hi-jinks highlight Cape toll-road rally" Louisiana - "Map outlines loop corridors" New Hampshire - "Merrimack council wants to talk tolls" New Jersey - "Turnpike proposal" Texas - "Entities submit plans for share of NTTA $3.3B" Pennsylvania - "Turnpike commission makes first payment to PennDOT".
"Way not to go"
A fantastic vision from the anti road pro toll brigade - Guardian Comment.
This was inspired by this from Wednesday - Guardian Comment - "The road ahead is a 10-lane superhighway".
Wednesday 8 August 2007
Border toll protest - pay tolls or no gas
It is reported that the Venezuelans are threatening to cut off fuel supplies to Colombia who are collecting tolls on their side of the bridges - Vheadline - "Venezuela expects early solution to toll-tax conflict on the Colombian border".
London Con hot air tax - official
The plans for "Emissions Influenced Charging" that had already been leaked by the toll spinners, are now officially out - Evening Standard - " Ken launches £25 C-charge plans" BBC - "C-charge hiked for gas-guzzlers" Press release - "Tackling climate change - consultation on higher charges for gas guzzlers".
The Mayor admits that cars make up less than 11 per cent of the CO2 emissions which so worry him. He also says that the cars which will pay the new £25 a day tax, are only 8% of the cars that make up the cars travelling within the charge zone. So if ALL those cars were taken off the road and replaced by cars with lower CO2 emissions, then the amount of CO2 emissions would fall by about 1%. But the charge zone even with the recent extension is only 3% of London. So the reduction for London as a whole will be about one part in three thousand. And that is emissions, the vast bulk of the CO2 is already in the air, so even if the Mayor was to construct a glass dome over London and isolate London air from the rest of the planet, the change in CO2 would not be detectable. What will the Mayor's next move to save the planet be?
Birmingham Toll - no thanks
Birmingham and the other West Midlands councils are to put in a TIF Congestion charge bid without toll plans - Transport Briefing - "Road pricing veto threatens Birmingham transport plans".
Cambridge Toll - Tory plan criticised by Labour
The Tory led County say that in October they will put in a TIF Congestion charge bid but that they don't necessarily mean it - CEN - "'Consult the people soon'". Sounds very like what is happening in Manchester, except that there it is mainly Labour councils who want a con charge.
Not so magic next generation
Reports on a cloaking device - Auto Express - "Sat-nav ‘jammer’ threatens to sink road pricing scheme" Daily Record - "TRAFFIC JAMMER MAKES CARS DISAPPEAR" Times - "£700 in-car box would jam spy-in-sky road toll satellite". There will be easier cheaper ways of disabling "tracking boxes", and in any case the whole system would be backed up with cameras and ANPR equipment.
Herald comment - "Today’s surveillance society".
USA round up
Argument that Corn is not green - Sacremento Bee - "Corn, ethanol and other subsidized stupidities". Strange how some American economists think that one way to encourage fuel economy is through "tolls and other forms of demand management on roads and bridges". Using the same logic they should scrap meters for domestic and industrial fuel and power consumption.
A selection of some of the many stories following the Minnesota bridge collapse - Twin Cities Planet - "Infrastructure funding: abridged too far" Watching the watchers - "Minnesota Bridge Collapse Likely to Spawn Nasty Political Debate" Real Clear Politics - "Bridge Collapse Shows Nation Needs Infrastructure Work" Real Clear Politics - "Minnesota bridge collapse a wake-up call for Illinois lawmakers".
One of the story mentions the work of Amy Finkelstein that was published in February on how drivers seem to be milked 30% more if electronic tolls are used - National Bureau of Economic Research - "E-ZTax: Tax Salience and Tax Rates".
Other stories - Texas - "NTTA's 121 toll road win hits snag with federal funding" Texas - "TxDOT rides in hot seat as lawmakers fume" Georgia - "ARC transportation plan outlined for commission" Pennsylvania - "After tragedy, lawmakers hold their ground on Interstate 80 tolls" New Hampshire - "Dead end for turnpike spending?" Illinois / Missouri - "Mo., Ill. Officials Seek Bridge Deal" Pennsylvania - "State officials will study potential downfalls to I-80 tolls".
Tuesday 7 August 2007
Border toll protest
Stratfor - "Colombia, Venezuela: Drivers Protest Tolls" BBC - "Colombian tolls spark border demo".
US buys Mexican roads
Business News Americas - "ICA-Goldman Sachs wins first re-concessions package - Mexico".
More of the same
The American papers are still publishing the usual stories about the "success" of the London scheme - Washington Post - "In Support of the Congestion Charge". The RAND corporation for those who may have forgotten was set up by the US airforce as a think tank.
USA round up
One that we don't quite understand. A think tank argues that the tax on gas should be abolished - nothing odd about that, it's what you would expect from these think tanks. It also says that tolls and congestion charges are better than gas taxes - again what you would expect. But then they say that tolls etc are also bad! Earth Times - "Time to Abolish, Not Increase, Federal Gasoline Taxes" Cato Institute report (pdf file).
Another twist following the recent bridge collapse. The Commonwealth Foundation in Pennsylvania are arguing against toll increases etc, instead they want to revert to the idea of selling the Turnpike - The Bulletin - "Minnesota Bridge Collapse Intensifies Criticism Of Act 44".
The way to go - Morning Call - "Let's find the backbone to pay for roads, bridges".
Not the way to go - Morning Call - "Slow down, it's the Fast Lane". Removing tolls is the most efficient and safest system. But while there are cows patiently queuing to be milked, tolls will never be removed.
Other stories - Illinois / Missouri - "leaders to discuss river crossing at St. Louis" Pennsylvania - "It’s not the volume, it’s the trucks" Pennsylvania - "Trucks could bypass tolls" Pennsylvania - "Tolling Interstate 80 is a federal concern"
New Hampshire - "Merrimack council to decide whether residents can sue over tolls" Georgia - "A bridge to hard truths" North Carolina - "Private Money May Prove to Be Best Route to Toll Roads".
The way to go - Kiwi style
The "guard tower" goes - Bay of Plenty - "Bridge toll plaza bowled at last".
Reading Toll - but not for Reading
Reading is one of the ten areas in England that were given TIF "pump priming" money to research road pricing schemes. A report in Reading Evening Post has a council boss say that they are still looking at this "But we have said that people who live in Reading will not have to pay for moving around the city - the charge will be for through traffic.""No through road except for cyclists". The ideal tax, only the non voters pay!
More on London Con hot air tax
There are more reports about the "Emissions Influenced Charging" variation to the London Con Charging Scheme. It is not clear whether anything has happened or if it is only Ken's spinners talking to friendly greens and trolls - New Statesman - "Make a difference on 4x4s".
To Russia without love
Finland plans to put a toll on the road to Russia - "Finnish transport minister wants lorry tolls by end of term". A Ministry official says that "We cannot start discriminating against foreign vehicles. Isn't that the idea? Or is the idea that if they stop the lorries they stop trade with Russia?
Monday 6 August 2007
Local Transport Bill - PS
As reported on Friday, the Transport Committee of MPs have just published a report on the draft "Local Transport Bill" (see Friday for links to report). The report is over 100 pages and the evidence was another 400 pages or so. But having spent 5 minutes reading it all, here are our comments:-
The first main part of the bill re-regulates bus services, the other main part makes it even easier to introduce local road user charging schemes against people's wishes. The inapt name for the Bill was noticed by Philip Hollobone, a Tory MP. He suggested that the Committee recommend that "To better reflect the actual content of the bill, and its most important provisions, it should be renamed the Local Public Transport and Road Pricing Bill." - No one supported him, two Labour MPs voted against him, and the other six MPs didn't vote.
As the Committee are one of the main advocates of road tolls, it must have been tongue in cheek that they start off the road pricing section of the report (para 111) with - "In 1858, the House received a Petition from the Toll Reform Association describing the continued existence of toll booths in London as "an evil of such magnitude as to require the immediate attention of Parliament, with a view to effecting a speedy abatement of a nuisance so long and so justly complained of by the public.".
Road user charging schemes can only be introduced by local traffic authorities. The draft Bill proposes amending the law so that the "passenger transport authorities" can join in the fun, but only in cooperation with the local traffic authorities. That is the law, the reality is that it is the passenger transport authorities (which are not directly elected, and mainly consist of people who want to force some drivers off the road) who have been pushing the road pricing pilot schemes. The result is that the Committee have got a bit confused and let the cat out of the bag as to what is really happening e.g. para 115 - "The Government has made clear that its intention is to proceed with road-pricing pilots at the local level, initiated by local transport authorities."
Given the obsession of MPs with global warming it is odd that they reveal (para 122) with - "When we visited Stockholm, we were told that their congestion tax had produced a 14% fall in harmful emissions within the charging cordon but only a 2-3% reduction in emissions over the County as a whole. Stockholm County's Public Transport Authority has taken the view that encouraging the use of greener vehicles-such as ethanol-powered buses-by other means was more likely to be effective in reducing carbon emissions. The exemption for "green" vehicles will be removed in five years' time because of fears that, otherwise, the uptake of cleaner vehicles will be sufficiently great to undermine the tax's effect on congestion.".
We have always assumed that most MPs want to turn a deaf ear to what anti toll campaigners say, we were therefore a bit surprised that at paragraph 136 they mention NAAT with reference to privacy concerns. The committee seem to recognise the concerns but seem to think that these concerns can be dealt with by putting additional "details" in the Bill. Whatever is put in the Bill, who would believe that the information from tags and cameras will not be used for surveillance purposes? The Committee also passed on some of our other observations with a 1,001 from others to the DfT for comment (Annex 1). Though naturally neither the DfT nor the Committee agree with what we said.
As we said on Friday, the Committee when looking at the Transport Innovation Fund money unexpectedly said that it should be available even if an authority does not agree to introduce road charging. This is what they said in full (para 173) - "If the Congestion TIF is to encourage genuine innovation the fund should be open to all authorities, including those for whom road pricing does not represent the best solution to their congestion problems. We recommend that the requirement for TIF bids to include road pricing or a workplace parking levy be dropped. An important role that can be played by "soft" measures, which also need to attract funding in order to be developed more fully."
The Committee were most upset that authorities might use any of the TIF money to reduce congestion by improving roads
(para 176) - "... large scale road building has potential to run entirely counter to the objectives of the fund... We urge the DfT to be vigilant in preventing opportunistic attempts to access Congestion TIF funds to support long-standing, controversial and expensive road building programmes, particularly as it could be linked to, and thereby undermine, support for local road pricing schemes." I.e. the greens will have a nervous breakdown.
The Committee's last conclusion was that the TIF local congestion charging schemes were risky and expensive they wanted pilot studies for road pricing on other roads - (para 225) - ..These (TIF-funded projects at the local level) are supposedly trials and experiments but their costs are extremely high. In the cases of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, £3 billion and £2 billion respectively, with debts lasting for up to 30 years. The failure of these projects would place a huge burden on the public purse. A range of town and city centre pricing schemes will not tell us a great deal about the impact of road pricing on inter-urban routes and major trunk roads. If the Government proposes to bring forward proposals for a national road-pricing scheme, we recommend that it first conduct pilot studies of the effect of pricing on the strategic road network.".
The views of the Committee on road pricing can be guaged by who they invited along to one of their evidence sessions. At Ev30 there were three groups - the AA, the RAC Foundation and Transport 2000. The first two give the impression through the news media that they represent car drivers, but don't. The third is an anti roads group. What they have in common is that they have supported road pricing, and their main criticicm is that the Government doesn't do a good enough job in selling the idea. The only group that really represents drivers is the ABD This was their written submission.
Local Transport Bill - PS
"What Car?" says that most drivers oppose the bill - "Our poll reveals council control fears".
Hot air toll
The University of Manchester have come up with a device that they suggest can be used to adjust road tolls in line with vehicle emissions - "See what you're spewing as you speed along". Perhaps some other academics may discover fuel taxes, or maybe not.
Cambridge Toll - "Not the leader's fault"
The Cambridgeshire Tory leader is defended over the County's proposal to put a toll on Cambridge - CEN - "Colleague defends Shona as toll debate gets hotter". The reality in most councils is that these things are decided by a handful of people, most of them not even elected; but if all the Cambridgeshire councillors wish to fall on their swords then they should all resign and stand for reelection on a toll ticket.
PS The Cambridgeshire position on congestion charging is difficult to understand if you look at the evidence that they submitted to the Committee of MPs and which has just been published (see Friday). Their written evidence was half a page which said nothing. They were also called to give oral evidence on the 23rd May. The MPs pushed the Cambridgeshire representative to say that the council would introduce congestion charging, but the officer refused to do so.
Shrewsbury Toll - MP forms opposition group
On 20th July, Shropshire Council unanimously rejected proposals for a TIF bid based on congestion charging and for a new tolled road. The proposals have been opposed by local Tory MP, Daniel Kawczynski. He has not let his guard down and has formed an umbrella group to continue the opposition - Shropshire Star - "MP in warning on road charging". One puzzle is why the opposition includes the "Friends of the Earth", who are against the use of road vehicles and support tolls as another stick to beat drivers with.
No tolls, by order
If there is one thing that the trolls hate more than free roads, it's suspending toll on tolled roads - Forbes - "Abertis mulls compensation claim for weekend motorway toll lifting". This of course is Spain, in Britain, this would never happen as the authorities would be scared of upsetting the toll operators.
USA round up
New York toll - Gotham Gazette - "A Divided Council Confronts Congestion Pricing".
Gary Rotstein of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says - "Ask not for whom the toll tolls".
Other stories - New Jersey - "Republicans demand Corzine reveal asset sale offers and advice" Massachusetts - "State of neglect" Pennsylvania - "Be wary of adding tolls on Pennsylvania roads" Pennsylvania - "Be wary of adding tolls on Pennsylvania roads" New York - "Riders asked if they'd use new toll lane" California - "Dreams of an Avocado Autobahn" New Jersey - "Corzine intrigues conservatives with part of toll road plan".
Sunday 5 August 2007
London Con to become hot air tax?
The Troll Times today reports that some cars in the con zone may soon be paying £25 a day, instead of £8 - "Drivers to face £25 a day tax". This idea (and a plan that the lowest emission cars would be toll free) was announced some time ago but delayed. We will see later this week whether this "leak" is correct.
This report in yesterday's Times will amuse those who are not green - "Walking to the shops ‘damages planet more than going by car’".
USA round up
Andrew Sullivan in Atlantic Online on - "Privatizing the Roads".
One of many continuing reports on the Mississippi bridge collapse - Buzzle - "77,000 Us Bridges in Need of Urgent Repair".
Another of the mind conditioning reports that regularly appear, one phrase that you won't find is "gas tax" - Sustainable Industries - "No such thing as a free ride".
Other stories - Florida - "Shadow tolls a financing option for big 595 upgrade" Illinois - "I-355 expected to rearrange traffic patterns in the Southland" Pennsylvania - "'Hocus-pocus' on roads has run out" Virginia - "HOT lanes review ahead" Virginia - "QUESTIONS, ANSWERS ABOUT HOT-LANE PROPOSALS" New Hampshire - "Merrimack’s toll-whining tiresome old complaint" Pennsylvania - "Lawmakers trade barbs in escalating debate" North Carolina - "State shortchanging highways, jeopardizing Skyway plan" Missouri - "Doing nothing about roads ‘very bad option'".
No Athens Toll
Not really news, but a pleasant relief from news of troll lands - Kathimerini - "No charges for driving in Athens".
Ireland has few toll roads, but they are licences to print money given away by the state, now they have their eyes on the money that might be made from a con charge - Sunday Business Post - "Call for congestion charge for Dublin".
Friday 3 August 2007
Transport Committee Report on Local Transport Bill
Before they broke up for the summer, the Transport Committee of MPs had a look at the draft Local Transport Bill (if enacted, then bus services would again be regulated and it would be even easier to introduce local road user charging schemes against people's wishes. The politicians know that drivers do not want road pricing and they do not want this Bill. Its road user charging provisions would make the process of introducing local schemes even less democratic than it already is.
As expected the Committee implicitly accepts the principle of road user charging and that it will be introduced without local people being given a say through referendums. What is unexpected is that the Committee say that Transport Innovation Fund money should be available even if an authority does not agree to introduce road charging.
For some resaon best known to themselves the news media have concentrated on privacy issue - BBC - "Road tolls 'must respect privacy'" Guardian / PA - "Road pricing privacy fears raised" Telegraph - "Pay as you drive 'threat to privacy'" Guardian - "Privacy fears 'undermining support for road pricing'".
The reports published today - Committees main report - road pricing is in part five onwards Committees main report - road pricing is in part five onwards (PDF version) links to all evidence oral and written our submission our submission- appendix.
Tolls and No Tolls
Every 12 months or so the Lib Dems brush off their "green" taxes plan and send out a new press release. Their latest version includes toll for lorries - our Guardian. Apparently - "Private motorists avoided punitive measures such as road taxes in the plans, since the Liberal Democrats thought that the effects of any road-pricing schemes would not be felt within the 10 years needed to halt global warming."
USA round up
The Mississippi bridge collapse at Minneapolis has resulted in stories saying that more needs to be spent on roads and bridges; almost no one suggests gas taxes, they want more tolls. Here is one contrary view - Mother Jones - "Bridge Collapse: Whose Roads Are They Anyway?".
other stories - Texas - "Are tolls back on the plan? CAMPO to examine funding options" Oklahoma - "Tulsa toll bridge: Opinion divided on need for span" New Hampshire - "State considering new turnpike toll to raise revenue" Pennsylvania - "GOP state senator, congressmen quarrel over I-80 tolls" Pennsylvania - "Tolling I-80: Intellectual dishonesty" Georgia - "$2 toll to finance planned I-20 expansion".
"Vital" toll road
Councillors want to build a new road to Canvey Island. They say that -"This project is not only vital for Canvey but for the whole county." So vital that they want to toll it - "Third road on track".
Thursday 2 August 2007
Cambridge Toll - No Go Area
It seems that they want to get you whether you are moving or stopped - CEN - "Now motorists face plan to hit parking".
To stop "evil motorists" - Wired blog - "Dtect Camera Counts Bodies in Cars".
USA round up
New Hampshire - "Tollbooth protest tries for elusive relief" Maryland - " Tolls: Coming soon to a highway near you" Pennsylvania - "I-80 tolls debate intensifies" Florida - "City rejects tunnel share" New Hampshire - "More money needed to fix NH highways" Texas - "Area highway plan may require more tolls" Pennsylvania - "Seeds for toll opposition planted by Rendell himself" Virginia - "Feds Raise Questions about Dulles Rail".
New York's Streetsblog incorrectly says that the majority of Stockholm residents voted for charging. How much of the rest of the "facts" is correct? "Congestion charging returns to Stockholm".
Talk of a toll in the West Sussex city - Chichester Observer - "On the road to a less-congested city centre".
Later report - The Argus - "Congestion zone plans".
Wednesday 1 August 2007
London Bridge not going Up
The saga of the plan to build a new bridge over the Thames and to toll it goes on following a decision a few days ago. Ideally the greens would like to see drivers pay the toll and then swim across. It looks as if the Inquiry Inspector and the Government agrees with them - This is Local London - "Little support for new bridge" East London Advertiser 31st - "What a farce! Thames Gateway inquiry is on-off-on" Guardian 26th - "Blears reopens Thames Gateway bridge inquiry" BBC 26th - "Review ordered into Thames bridge" ABD Press Release - "Thames Gateway Bridge Blocked by PPG13".
Cambridge Toll - "Doing nothing is not an option"
Cambridgeshire Tories have adopted the Labour Government's mantra in order to sell their plan for tolls in Cambridge - Hundred Houses Society - "500 million to solve Cambridge congestion".
Other stories over last few days - CEN 31st - "Intelligent thinking and listening is needed from our councillors" CEN 30th - "'Let's debate charge without the hysteria'" Ely Standard 26th - "Road pricing could have cash benefits" CEN 26th - "Fenland council offers hand of friendship to city firms".
Stockholm has reintroduced the congestion charge from today - BBC - "Stockholm introduces road charge" SRI - "Congestion Charges Re-introduced" The Local - "Congestion charge returns to Stockholm" AP - "Swedish capital introduces traffic congestion charge". Some of the reports say that the people voted for this in a referendum. The truth is that those in the central area did narrowly vote for it, but the majority of those in the overall metropolitan area voted against it.
USA round up
The New York Toll - It seems that Michael is overdoing it a bit as he is using two SUVs - NY Times - "Mayor Takes the Subway - by Way of S.U.V.". Perhaps one is for his bicycle?
Another example of the thinking that you can't increase the gas tax, and should instead increase income from tolls - Delaware News Journal - "Highway money gets mired in state politics' resistance to reality".
More from the Trolls - The American - "A Bridge to Traffic Reduction".
The whole system is in a mess. Politicians want to sell roads, increase existing road tolls, and introduce new tolls to fund things other than roads and to avoid raising gas taxes. There is some opposition, but the Trolls have most of the politicians behind them and the Federal Government. If you judge by what is published the roads users are apparently quite happy to be milked, and many of the papers attack those few politicians who try to stop this - Allentown Morning Call - "Congressmen's mischief on I-80 tolls doesn't help Pennsylvania solve problems".
More on the attempt to block tolling of Interstate 80 - Center Daily - "Bill to block I-80 tolls under fire"
Allentown NEPA News - "Rural Pa. lawmakers announce bill to stop tolls on Interstate 80" Pittsburgh Tribune Review - "Detractors were once I-80 toll backers" WPSU - "Congressmen come up with plan to nix I-80 tolls" Pittsburgh Tribune Review - "I-80 lawmakers propose roadblock to imposing tolls".
And other reactions - The Derrick - "I-80 plan proving unpopular with motorists, businesses too" Morning Call - "Public kept in the dark on details of tolling I-80" Centre Daily - "Taking Pennsylvanians for another ride" Times Leader - "Battle lines being drawn over I-80 tolls" phillyburbs - "Southeastern Pa. most affected by turnpike toll hike".
Making you pay - Boston Hearld - "Summit on tolls targets creative cheaters".
This must be a mistake. A Maryland county wants tolls removed as they "have discouraged businesses and residents from locating there" - Washington Times - "Cecil seeks help for BRAC boom".
Penny Protest - Nashua Telegraph - " Merrimack council takes toll protest a step further".
Other stories - Florida - "Chasing scofflaws doesn't add up - Florida goes after toll-road freeloaders, but collection efforts cost the state money." New Hampshire - "State still looking for several thousand E-ZPass scofflaws" New Jersey - "Gov. Corzine stalling toll road monetization plan" Washington State - "It’s amazing what $3 can buy Bridge tolls going even further" New Jersey - "Democrats cry hypocrisy in toll road debate" "Tennessee transportation officials to study interstate corridor" Illinois - "Tolls could fund new bridge" "Missouri road maintenance faces a “cliff”" "Alabama governor stumping for tolls, privatization of roads" New Jersey - "THE COURAGE TO SPEND … YOUR TOLL MONEY" New Jersey - "Gov. Corzine wants referendum on toll road plan" Florida - "One-way tolls may bring traffic troubles" North Carolina - "Lawmakers Seek Gap Funding For Roads" Pennsylvania - "Southeastern Pa. most affected by turnpike toll hike" Pennsylvania - "Road funding a pickpocket plan".
Running on hot air
A report on why it is mainly the well heeled who drive hybrids - Herald Tribune - "Hybrids better for the environment than for your wallet". Conserving fuel is good, but is it "better" for the world economy and the environment that resources are wasted so that a few can appear to be politically correct?
A Telegraph report - "Government tells us which cars are greenest" implies that the paper really believes that CO2 is a dangerous poisonous gas. By following the delusions of the politicians, the really harmful emissions such as particulates are ignored.
An interesting press release from the Trolls who are doing their best to encourage people to drive, and drive, and drive - Mississigua News - "Payback for the regulars on Hwy. 407".
Phillipines Toll case - Daily Star - "Landowners, DPWH seek court ruling on 2 toll gates".
IBM have produced a computer system so that Singapore can predict traffic levels 10 to 60 minutes ahead. Apparently this will help to keep traffic flowing" - Press Release - "IBM and Singapore’s Land Transport Authority Pilot Innovative Traffic Prediction Tool". It's not clear how knowing this will help. Are they otherwise doing something to delay the traffic? Will they put up the tolls without notice and expect the drivers to react instantly?
More Brisbane toll plans
Courier Mail - "Bell tolls for driving public".