City of Melbourne's final transport strategy discussion paper seeks input on road user pricing

City of Melbourne's final transport strategy discussion paper seeks input on road user pricing
City of Melbourne's final transport strategy discussion paper seeks input on road user pricing

Road user pricing is a topic that the local and federal levels of government are happy to talk about, but not so much at the state level.

The City of Melbourne over June and July has progressively released discussion papers on all things transport related including car parking, walking, cycling and public transport and is seeking community input to inform its transport strategy refresh. 

Last week it released its final discussion paper and it's only that topic which state governments are not willing to engage with: road user pricing.

The basic concept of road user pricing reform will potentially involve doing away with annual one-size-fits-all registration charges, fuel excise and instead roll out a system which levies a fee on a vehicle owner based on the distance driven and the time of day trips are taken.

The rationale behind the shift to a distance and time-based model of road user pricing includes decreasing amounts of fuel excise (because cars are getting more fuel efficient and electric vehicles don't use petroleum at all) and managing the road network more broadly, whether it is in a specific suburb or metro-wide.

Infrastructure Victoria put road user pricing in its top 3 infrastructure priorities when it released its first 30-year strategy and almost immediately the state government ruled it out

As Melbourne's population grows towards 8 million people in 2050 our road network will be subject to intense pressure, we can't build our way out of congestion with new roads that will simply fill up with more cars. We need to come up with innovative solutions to ensure access to our road network is equitable.

There are a few different options for introducing road pricing, it can be a sum charged per kilometre or per trip, or a charge within a particular zone and these can be altered based on peak traffic periods. 

Trials have shown that charging in this way, instead of a lump sum for vehicle registration once or twice a year, encourages people to avoid driving at certain times where possible or switching to another mode of transport instead.

Cr Frances Gilley, City of Melbourne

The City of Melbourne discussion paper on road user pricing cites the benefits of shifting to a different taxation model using examples in the US, UK, Singapore, Sweden and Italy.

In the US state of Oregon, an opt-in trial of shifting to paying-per-mile driven has shown a 22% reduction in peak period driving and 91% of trial participants said they'd prefer to be charged based on mileage rather than fuel tax.

In Milan, drivers must pay to enter a designated zone and it has seen a 15% reduction in emissions over 4 years, 16% reduction in traffic volumes, 21% reduction in road collisions and 12% less public transport delays.

London has a central area congestion charge and it has seen 14% less trips within the charging zone and it has had 10 years of stable traffic congestion despite population growing by 1.3 million people.

The council in its discussion paper says that "many respected organisations have concluded that road pricing is needed and would deliver many benefits.  THey include the Productivity Commission, Infrastructure Victoria, Infrastructure Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, RACV and the Harper Competition and Henry Tax reviews."

The paper also says all three levels of government must be onboard for the shift to be effective and that any new road user charging regime should not be an added tax, it needs to be a holistic change.

To have your say, see participate.melbourne.vic.gov.au

Lead image credit: youtube.

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

Tags: 
Transport reform

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