Home > Economic policy > Buying back toll roads

Buying back toll roads

September 23rd, 2013

Reports that the NSW Liberal government is planning to buy back the Cross-City tunnel, following the bankruptcy of the second set of private owners mark an important step in the failure of the private infrastructure program launched in the 1980s with the Sydney Harbour Tunnel[1].

The interesting failure here is not the bankruptcy of the operators but the recognition that the whole idea of imposing tolls on a road designed to divert traffic from the city is nonsense. The most sensible plan, after buying the tunnel is to remove the toll and free road space in the CBD for a variety of initiatives including light rail and cycleways.

Unfortunately, the lessons have not been learned. The new WestConnex project in Sydney is to be a largely private tollway. The proposed East-West link in Melbourne is also a toll road but “is being procured as an Availability Public Private Partnership (PPP), with the State initially retaining tolling and traffic risk.” Whether or not these projects are economically and socially justified, there is no doubt that the use of toll funding will greatly reduce the benefits, leaving more traffic on congested, but untolled, roads.

fn1. A sham deal, which was eventually reconstructed as a publicly owned tunnel with a private operating contract.

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  1. September 23rd, 2013 at 09:19 | #1

    Can I interest you in this Harbour Bridge I have for sale?

  2. Austin
    September 23rd, 2013 at 09:21 | #2

    If we’re going to toll roads, why not do it in a way that more effectively allocates the resource? There doesn’t seem to be any sense in having roads funded by public means not tolled, but private ones are. How does that take into account any of the choices of allocation? And if we’re going to toll public roads, give us a break on the registration fees please. Seems in QLD that this wasn’t part of the “cost of living” that the LNP were talking about during the election.

  3. Will
    September 23rd, 2013 at 10:11 | #3

    What a model case for a cost-benefit analysis! I would bet my front teeth that the social benefits from reductions in congestion and pollution and travel time would offset the loss of toll revenue. However given the underlying economic ideology, scrapping the toll will not even be remotely considered which leaves society with a half-baked less-than ideal solution as per usual.

  4. David Allen
    September 23rd, 2013 at 10:59 | #4

    Can someone point to a ppp that is not a complete screw up?

  5. Steve
    September 23rd, 2013 at 11:09 | #5

    The East-West Link in Melbourne is in fact The Ord River on Wheels. It is likely to cripple the State of Victoria’s finances for a generation and its only redeeming feature is that it will forever explode the myth that the conservatives know how to manage money.

    Given that the Murdoch press in Melbourne is cheering on this folly, I think it would appropriate to name the tunnels after Rupert.

    You’re right John about the absurdity of tolls on a road which is ostensibly meant to divert traffic away from the CBD.

    The most economically rational way of paying for the road would be to fund it by the imposition of a congestion tax on the city and inner suburbs, which would affect the 90 percent of Eastern freeways users who are not heading for the Tullamarine Freeway/Western Bypass and therefore generate sufficient income to cover the interest on the 7 billion dollars that are going to be wasted.

    An extension of Transurban’s concession when that expires – I think in 2033 – is more probably going to be a more politically palatable if not economically sensible way of meeting the costs.

  6. Uncle Milton
    September 23rd, 2013 at 11:16 | #6

    I don’t see that the Cross City tunnel is such a policy failure (as it turns out). Getting private investors to pay for it and then buying it back for 10 cents in the dollar, or whatever the fire sale price is going to be, seems like a pretty good deal for the residents of NSW. They get the road which someone else paid for. What’s not to like?

    The amazing thing is that private investors keep lining up for more of the same, but as P.T Barnum did not actually say, there’s a sucker born every minute.

  7. Troy Prideaux
    September 23rd, 2013 at 11:41 | #7

    If you’re gonna make a Toll Road, Melbourne’s CityLink is the benchmark of how to do it ie: take some sections of state built freeway and convert an emergency stopping lane to a normal traffic lane and sting the motorists ridiculous fees to use it. Yes, you’re obligated to reduce the speed limit by 20km/h because there’s no emergency stopping lane, but you’ve “increased traffic flow” and that’s enough for you to get away with those wonderful tolls to render you the darling of all subsequent global toll road proposals and capital raising.

  8. Alphonse
    September 23rd, 2013 at 12:03 | #8

    Have motorway PPPs finally become debacular enough to be reacquired wholesale with finance covered by the proceeds of systematic GPS-based congestion pricing?

    As for the Sydney Cross City Tunnel, even our less economically rational major party could now sell a plan to acquire it cheap, de-toll it and cover the tolls foregone by perimeter-tolling the CBD on the successful London model.

  9. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2013 at 12:15 | #9

    There is absolutely no point in having toll roads. It’s an inefficient setup. Put a tax on petrol or increase the existing petrol tax. Call it an excise or a road tax if you don’t want to call it a carbon tax. Problem solved. Next public policy question please.

  10. crocodile
    September 23rd, 2013 at 12:20 | #10

    @Ikonoclast
    Here in NSW we already have one. Introduced by the Greiner govt as a 3×3 levy. Was meant to be 3c / litre for 3 years. Of course it was never removed after 3 years. Must have misread it, maybe it was for 30 years.

  11. September 23rd, 2013 at 12:32 | #11

    Taxi from Sydney Airport to CBD on Tollway = about $48

    Taxi from Sydney Airport to CBD on normal roads = about $26 and took same time or possibly a bit less.

  12. Uncle Milton
    September 23rd, 2013 at 13:05 | #12

    @Megan

    There aren’t $22 worth of tolls between Sydney Airport and the CBD. You got ripped off.

    In any case, train from Sydney Airport to CBD =$15.

  13. John Quiggin
    September 23rd, 2013 at 13:58 | #13

    @Uncle Milton

    I think you need to re-read the post. As I said, it’s not the losses to private investors that are the problem here.

    Overall, the bad deals for the public (mostly in the 1990s) have been matched by the bad deals for investors (mostly in the 2000s), leaving a Pareto-reduction in welfare due to

    (1) the misallocation of traffic risk to private investors
    (2) the perverse effects of pricing uncongested roads while retaining free access to congested roads

  14. Uncle Milton
    September 23rd, 2013 at 14:17 | #14

    @John Quiggin
    According to Wikipedia

    “The $680M tunnel was originally financed by a combination of international equity and both locally and internationally sourced debt.

    Equity of $220M was provided by three international companies, Cheung Kong Infrastructure (50 percent), DB Capital Partners (30 percent) and Bilfinger Berger BOT (20 percent). The remaining $580 million was financed through a syndicate of Australian and international banks led by Westpac and Deutsche Bank”

    so your conclusion about a Pareto reduction depends on whether you care about the welfare of foreign investors. You could argue either way.

    As to diverting traffic onto unpriced roads, the CCT did have measures in place (physical barriers) to stop this from happening, but they must not have worked.

  15. jon frankis
    September 23rd, 2013 at 14:21 | #15

    I’ll happily bite then John – if not congestion taxing, do you favour a (tax) policy that’d be likely conducive to improvement of city centres and transport options in and around them?

  16. John Quiggin
    September 23rd, 2013 at 15:15 | #16

    @Uncle Milton

    To restate, I’m taking a sum over the set of PPP projects since the whole mess began in the 1980s. Private investors have lost money in some of them (like CCT), with the public getting a benefit, but not as much as the private loss. In others (Eastlink, for example), the public has had a big loss, and private investors a smaller gain. Overall, a Pareto reduction, whether or not you include foreign investors in your universe of concern.

  17. John Quiggin
    September 23rd, 2013 at 15:17 | #17

    @jon frankis

    I favor congestion pricing as the best option. If that’s ruled out on political grounds, petrol tax and other general user charges are next best. After that, you’re down to traffic barriers and similar.

  18. Fran Barlow
    September 23rd, 2013 at 15:42 | #18

    I like a general base price for using non-congested main connecting roads plus increments for congestion, tare, surface area of vehicle, accident profile, driving record of driver , in car transponder and calculator etc.

    If fully implemented, then abandon registaration, CTP, fuel taxes and excises etc.

    Encourage car pooling by allowing people to hold public vehicle licences and then be indemnified for personal injury.

  19. Crocodile Chuck
    September 23rd, 2013 at 16:54 | #19

    @David Allen

    There aren’t any-anywhere.

  20. September 23rd, 2013 at 16:57 | #20

    @Uncle Milton

    I only got ripped off when I took the toll road. Given that there were two passengers, I would also have gotten ripped off if I took the privatised and extortionately priced Airportlink Train.

    If the train was free or even priced like the rest of the train network almost everyone would take it. Which would also free up roads for drivers.

  21. jon frankis
    September 23rd, 2013 at 17:45 | #21

    @John Quiggin
    I guess the future livability of cities is important enough to justify a proper planning framework supported by state level legislation (or regional council, if we could lose these troublesome states). Keeping to simple principles I further suppose, with you, that congestion taxing definitely ought to be a part of the mix.

    Then there’s inevitable tension between providing reasonable certainty to people and on the other hand regularly reviewing legislation and regulation to keep it as simple and effective as possible. Shame we mostly do neither well 🙁

  22. Jim Rose
    September 23rd, 2013 at 17:49 | #22

    businesses fail. what is new about that?

  23. Mr T
    September 23rd, 2013 at 18:05 | #23

    Victoria is appalling in the way they manage Metropolitan Freeways, and how they address the question of public vs private ownership.

    Those freeways owned by the government (Eastern Freeway) are not tolled.

    Those owned by private operators are tolled (Citilink and Eastlink). Even for those sections that the private operator upgraded (rather than built from scratch) are tolled by the private operator. I reasonably sure the government does not get any of the toll for the previously built freeway. (I am prepared to be corrected in this)

    I would have thought that once the decision was made to toll any metropolitan freeway (this was done when Citilink was built), the Government should charge all users of freeways regardless of ownership. This massively biases the decision on new freeway projects towards private ownership, becasue it appears only private owners are politically able to charge tolls.

  24. sunshine
    September 23rd, 2013 at 19:15 | #24

    The east-west link project in Melb just makes me want to ignore everything beyond my front fence for the sake of my mental health .I give up -just do it to us !. The Libs went to the last election with a fair sort of a public transport platform (like the people want ), now its all roads and secrecy about the business modelling that got them there .Stage 1 costs 6 billion (I think). The Murdoch press cant campaign hard enough for it. If they went to the election with the east-west plan they may have lost .
    Troy P is correct about our city link PPP- its the bit that all the publicly built freeways funnel cars onto.
    As an aside -the vic govt has announced the doubling of size of the new prison to be built as their paranoid law and order push has overcrowding problems already . future=USA.

  25. kevin1
    September 23rd, 2013 at 19:24 | #25

    @Megan #1
    What is your take on the Brisbane airport link?

  26. September 23rd, 2013 at 19:36 | #26

    @kevin1

    Pointless. A huge scar across the inner North-Eastern suburbs so people can pay to save a few minutes getting to the airport (an hour before their flight leaves).

    Again, the train should either be free or the same price as the rest of the network – it would solve any traffic congestion issue around the airport.

  27. kevin1
    September 23rd, 2013 at 20:03 | #27

    @Mr T # 23

    My recollection of the political narrative was that existing freeways were financed from state govt revenue so new freeways should be financed separately. But the contract with privates was that actions to improve govt roads near tollways (or rail upgrades) would allow compensation for lost revenue to Citilink. This really inflamed the public transport lobby.

  28. Mr T
    September 23rd, 2013 at 23:06 | #28

    I remember the narrative. But it still remains that early freeways were a capital asset paid for out of funds not to do with people driving on them. So car users in the Eastern Suburbs get the use of the Eastern Freeway with no tolls. Freeway users from other parts of Melbourne pay tolls.

    When the decision to build Citilink was being made, the option for the Government to build own and toll the new road was not considered. This appeared to be because the government was not able to put a toll on the new road. so it had to built and operated by a private operator in order to have tolls to pay for the road.

    I see no reason why the model of the government owning and tolling new roads is not viable.

    I also see that from an equity perspective, the government is missing out on revenue by not tolling the Eastern Freeway and the the Ring Road.

  29. kevin1
    September 23rd, 2013 at 23:14 | #29

    @Megan $ 26

    A huge scar across the inner North-Eastern suburbs so people can pay to save a few minutes getting to the airport (an hour before their flight leaves).

    # 24

    From your estimate, the saving approximates 3 mins. (“a few”) X 20,056,416 passengers p.a. (Brisbane estimates of outwardbound passengers – from Wikipedia) divided by 60 mins/hr. equals 1,0002,800 hours. (The one hour waiting period is there whichever option is used, so is an irrelevant comment.) At a conservative $30/hour for executive time, this is $30.084 mill., a saving worth having at one airport.

  30. September 23rd, 2013 at 23:40 | #30

    @kevin1

    Twisted logic utilised in the service of a pre-disposed ideological (or ideo-illogical) position.

    1. You assume that every single traveller is an “executive” – fine, they can get to the airport quicker on the virtually empty road because the vast majority of non-executives are travelling on the free or affordable train;

    2. The taxpayers of Qld are not “saving” your posited $30 million because the “executives” are getting paid regardless of where they spend that 3 minutes;

    3. If you are an “executive” and you are getting $30/hr you are earning about 30% more than a casual in a bottle shop.

    I had a feeling you were itching for a fight, but I gave you my considered opinion anyway.

    Is it correct to say that you think toll roads and tunnels are great things?

  31. kevin1
    September 24th, 2013 at 00:49 | #31

    @Megan

    Since all projects (including under socialism or whatever your utopia is) involve digging holes, how about putting a figure on the cost of “a huge scar across the inner North-Eastern suburbs” so we can compare it to the benefits? If you can’t do this, why don’t you spend some time understanding opportunity cost, or do a course or something to improve your mind? The way that rational economists approach such proposals is to include economic values on time usage – in a high employment economy $30 per hour, being roughly average f/t income, seems close enough. Some of this will flow through in lower prices to consumers.

    That you respond in such a visceral and personal way (“I had a feeling you were itching for a fight…”) to my sober attempt to quantify the cost of a toll road shows you are are an enemy of measurement/evaluation, and therefore economics, and that you prefer jumping at shadows. This is not twisted logic (your term) but standard economic evaluation whatever paradigm you support.

    Outside welfare support, yes I believe in user pays – ie. taxing the beneficiaries of govt support, such as companies enjoying govt provided mining, transport and ports infrastructure. This is not radical and hypothecation promotes transparency – I note that Eastlink in Melb charges up to 2.6 times the tariff for heavy commercial trucks compared to passenger vehicles. If there is a way to measure the full (social) costs and benefits of toll free provision I would like to see it – AFAIK, there haven’t been measurements yet, but let the policy change according to how the cards fall.

    The way to get JQ’s worthy ideas into the mainstream and driving change is exactly that. The measured social benefit of your feelgood self-indulgence will always be nil.

  32. September 24th, 2013 at 00:59 | #32

    @kevin1

    Is it correct to say that you think toll roads and tunnels are great things?

  33. hc
    September 24th, 2013 at 02:02 | #33

    “The most sensible plan, after buying the tunnel is to remove the toll and free road space in the CBD for a variety of initiatives including light rail and cycleways.”

    I think the most sensible plan is to congestion price all access to the city.

    If only certain roads should be priced they still should be but at lower rates than if all roads were priced. The point about constraining the capacity of the unpriced roads seems right.

    By the way AFAIK the only congestion pricing anywhere in Australia is the (limited) peak load pricing of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In every other case there is a cost-recovery plus profit-margin approach to pricing. Congestion pricing should price congestion with tolls zero when there is no congestion and at their maximum during the peaks.

    All pricing contracts in Australia should be redrawn to achieve this. This should always be possible by (if necessary) compensating private operators to get rid of daft initial pricing designs.

  34. Uncle Milton
    September 24th, 2013 at 09:14 | #34

    @Megan
    “A huge scar across the inner North-Eastern suburbs so people can pay to save a few minutes getting to the airport”

    My trip to and from Brisbane airport has been cut from 50 minutes to 25 minutes, and that is well worth the toll to me. But to each his or her own.

  35. kevin1
    September 24th, 2013 at 09:47 | #35

    @Megan #32
    I don’t have a yes or no answer to this as I can see some advantages sometimes. I can’t see any consistent rationale on why new major roads are tolled or not, with the Vic state govts regularly changing their minds over the years.

    Looking at Melbourne Eastlink , there was a huge struggle around whether there should be a surface road or tunnels at the Mullum Mullum creek valley, a very significant ecosystem in suburban Ringwood. The outcome was to go for tunnels to protect it, the second most expensive and second most environmentally friendly option. My recollection is that access to tunnell tolling was a big plus in raising the bar as to outcomes, and it’s now $2.61 each way, 4 or 5 times the toll on other parts of the system. The state govt at the time would have balked at the cost if on their account. Eastlink and M M Creek wikipedia entries give more info.

    The existence of Peninsula Link (untolled, but feeding into tolled Eastlink at its southern end) seems superfluous, running for 40 km or so from Seaford to Dromana in close proximity and parallel to Mooroduc Rd, and Nepean Hway as a third north south option near the coast. Congestion never a problem here! And the builders made a big loss.

    The weak business case for many of these projects suggests anything which limits govt discretion for dumb “development” such as Abbott’s road mania is good, and the appetite for PPPs shrivelled when the traffic risks to privates became apparent. As recently as last month people close to the Lib govt here (Rod Eddington, Kennett, Ian Dobbs head of the Public Transport Corp) were advocating govt borrowing for infrastructure including road and rail projects rather than PPPs, yet now they’re going for PPPs again and transferring the traffic risk back to govt, which sounds like the merchant banks are dealt back into the game. (Herald Sun Aug 30th, “Public Transport Victoria chief Ian Dobbs urges Government to fund crucial upgrades by borrowing”)

    On road congestion pricing, John B Cox has been writing lengthy submissions and books for 20 years for the BCA, AAA etc. but apparently with no traction, although it seems to be happening in air, rail, port facilities, and in other countries. Why is it politically ignored in Australia?

  36. kevin1
    September 24th, 2013 at 10:09 | #36

    @kevin1
    An interesting article at Crikey “Peak demand for road and rail: Is that all there is?” by Alan Davies on May 28, 2013 shows the amplitude of Melb and Sydney traffic peaks have increased greatly over the last 20 years, making congestion pricing to shift demand more relevant than ever, to save huge money and reduce unnecessary theft of space for more roads.

  37. John Quiggin
    September 24th, 2013 at 12:03 | #37

    @hc

    Of course, congestion prices are best. I meant the most sensible of the options any Australian government is likely to consider.

  38. kevin1
    September 24th, 2013 at 13:08 | #38

    @John Quiggin

    I may be naiive but can’t see exactly why congestion pricing can’t get on the agenda. Can someone enlighten me?

  39. Ikonoclast
    September 24th, 2013 at 13:10 | #39

    A possibly useful way of levying a congestion tax would be to electronically “tag” each car such that the time it’s engine is running is counted, logged and transmitted. The time you are on the road is a good measure of the congestion you are causing. Or again, even the amount of petrol you use is a good guide. Just price it in the fuel.

  40. may
    September 24th, 2013 at 14:33 | #40

    as long as it is cheap enough and convenient enough to travel short distances by automobile there will be congestion.
    what’s new?

    icono?

    over engineering a response complicates the simple.
    your last sentence is bang on but hits anyone who wants or needs to take a long journey.

    plus the way the food distribution is set up in this country with (unneccesary?)interstate food going all over the place.

    OT
    i really can’t see the point of buying eastern states eggs and can’t see how after coming all the way across the Nullabor they can compete on price with local ones.

  41. Luke Elford
    September 24th, 2013 at 14:49 | #41

    @kevin1

    Because taxes are evil, because cars equal freedom, because how dare you charge me for something that used to be free, and other assorted stupidity. One good thing about the increased use of tolls on some roads, however inefficient they are at managing demand on the road network as a whole, is that they might over time facilitate proper congestion pricing by reducing the resistance that many people have to paying to use roads.

    What is it about the fate of recent economic reforms (e.g. carbon tax, mining tax) that makes you optimistic?

  42. kevin1
    September 24th, 2013 at 15:34 | #42

    @Luke Elford

    Luke, I thought maybe there’s something more than this. I could be out of touch but my impression is that Eastlink and Citilink in Melb are generally regarded now as a fact of life and without monopoly status to irk commuters, and have clearly moved some of the heavy trucks off suburban streets which was the major goal. Wasn’t the 3×3 program in NSW hypothecated to road funding and introduced by “dry” Premier Nick Greiner fairly popular? It used to be that about half of the petrol excise went to roads, half to general revenue, I don’t know what the balance is now. Be that true or not, you would expect the demonstrated success at some level to improve acceptance of these taxes.

    Carbon tax and minerals tax had different problems in linkages to outcomes, the first a big picture vision with much confounding noise, the second gutted at inception, revenue forecasts discredited and powerful opposition. Can’t see these factors applying for congestion pricing.

    Commuters accept it for planes and congestion pricing of infrastructure at producer/wholesale level happens – for roads, is the lesser productivity benefit (presumably mainly consumer benefit) not worth the political risk? I’m not optimistic just puzzled that with all the jurisdictions within Australia no-one has tried it.

  43. rog
    September 24th, 2013 at 15:56 | #43

    Along similar lines we have Turnbull running a red steer through the NBN. It seems obvious that there will be some breakup with private interests to replace some if not all of govt participation.

    This will undoubtedly result in initially lowering costs then having the govt bailout or buyback NBN. Plus a loss of quality.

    You watch, it happened before with telstra.

  44. Ernestine Gross
    September 24th, 2013 at 18:21 | #44

    Congestion pricing.

    Personally, I would not mind congestion pricing for the feeder roads to Sydney CBD because I live on the North Shore train line. I don’t have to deliver parcels to the CBD, and I don’t have to go anywhere in the Metropolitan Sydney area unless I want to. This almost always includes my choice of time. So my personal choice set is non-empty. (Or, as my introductory micro-econ teacher used to say to mystify the problem: We assume we are in the interior of the budget constraint, forgetting to note that the diagram he showed happened to show a budget constraint away from zero, the bigger problem.)

    Thinking of other circumstances, the picture looks very different and under some conditions a congestion tax results in no reduction in congestion but merely in a tax that is levied on people who have no choice and is regressive for many.

    Consider the following circumstances: The North-Western suburbs of Sydney have no train connection. The Northern Beach Suburbs have no train connection. This reduces the choice set of alternative transport modes significantly. Furthermore, people in these suburbs who have fixed working hours or delivery or other work related appointments with children to be delivered to somewhere along the route have a transport management problem which is very different from mine. That is, the actual choices available for people not only involve alternative transport modes but also many parameter value constraints regarding time of day.

    To put it in another way. What are the theoretical conditions for congestion pricing being an optimal (or even desirable) solution? These conditions (if they have been worked out for a sufficiently complex models to capture reality) should be compared to the actual conditions and only if the actual conditions sufficiently closely approximate the theoretical conditions would I conclude this is the way to go. I’d be happy to get a reference to the theoretical conditions. I have not discovered one.

    I know I differ on this one with the owner of the blog-site. But I also differ from Greiner’s ideas on transport infrastructure for Sydney and I don’t agree with Uncle Milton’s argument that tolls are a fair price for travel time saved. So I am the odd-woman out.

    Travel time saved enters as a non-cash item in the cost benefit analysis of roads. But the cost benefit analysis does not include costs for negative externalities such as traffic noise and air pollution. The method is biased in favour of roads.

  45. Jim Rose
    September 24th, 2013 at 18:31 | #45

    A pity that the NZ government did buy back kiwirail for $600m. The current book value on the crown balance sheet is $1.

    State owned mining company solid energy is insolvent and is been bailed out by the long suffering NZ taxpayer.

    The state owned enterprise portfolio as a whole in NZ earns a return less than the government bond rate.

  46. September 24th, 2013 at 19:15 | #46

    @Jim Rose

    That’s interesting.

    I had no idea about the NZ rail system and ‘Kiwirail’. Interestingly, its most stable years seem to be the 102 years it was simply a good old fashioned government department. As in this country, everything started to go pear-shaped after they ‘corporatised’ it in the early 1990s.

    Extract from Kiwirail Wiki:

    KiwiRail was created from a number of entities that date back to the 19th century. Prior to KiwiRail, rail transport in New Zealand has been under both public and private ownership. Government operators included the Public Works Department (1873–1880), New Zealand Railways Department (1880–1982), and the New Zealand Railways Corporation (1982–1990). New Zealand Rail Limited was split off from the Railways Corporation (which continued to own the land beneath the rail network) in 1990, privatised in 1993 and then renamed in 1995 to Tranz Rail. In 2004 Tranz Rail’s rail, ferry and trucking operations were taken over by Toll Holdings and renamed Toll NZ, with the central government buying back the rail network under the New Zealand Railways Corporation (trading as ONTRACK). The government then bought back the rail and ferry assets in 2008, renaming them KiwiRail. Toll retained ownership of its trucking operation.

  47. September 24th, 2013 at 19:32 | #47

    Amazing coincidence, I looked into ‘Solid Energy’ and (according to the ‘coalnz’ industry website):

    In 1901 the Coal Mines Amendment Act allowed the State to open and work coal mines and to set aside any Crown land, which might be required for coal mining. State Coal Mines ran for many years as a Government trading enterprise until 1987. In 1987 State owned enterprises were established and Coal Corporation of New Zealand was incorporated as a private company. It purchased a large part of the business of State Coal Mines. In 1996 Coalcorp as it had become, was rebranded Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd. Coalcorp and Solid Energy inherited many of the liabilities and assets of State Coal Mines.

    Yet again, everything was going fine until the neo-cons arrived! And as always, it starts with a harmless sounding corporatisation of structure and rapidly goes to pot.

    Got any more examples?

  48. Will
    September 24th, 2013 at 20:17 | #48

    @ Megan,

    Typical neolib obfuscation but sadly par for the course for old JR. Things went pear shaped as soon as the hard-nosed private industry bean counters moved in. Or maybe government must have blackmailed those innocent investment bankers to force them to purchase such terrible overpriced assets. Either way, it MUST be the fault of the public sector.

  49. Jim Rose
    September 24th, 2013 at 22:00 | #49

    @Megan coal prices fell by 40%

  50. September 24th, 2013 at 22:07 | #50

    @Jim Rose

    And what does that mean?

    How does it fit in with your original comment about NZ & Solid Energy being state owned?

  51. hc
    September 25th, 2013 at 01:16 | #51

    “To put it in another way. What are the theoretical conditions for congestion pricing being an optimal (or even desirable) solution? These conditions (if they have been worked out for a sufficiently complex models to capture reality) should be compared to the actual conditions and only if the actual conditions sufficiently closely approximate the theoretical conditions would I conclude this is the way to go. I’d be happy to get a reference to the theoretical conditions. I have not discovered one.”

    That you can internalise a congestion externality at sufficiently low transaction costs. There are many discussions of this topic dating back to the 1950s. See the World Bank study by T. Hau available free on web.

  52. September 25th, 2013 at 01:21 | #52

    I am wondering, since my mobile phone cost me ten dollars, why hasn’t someone handed me a free car navigation system that not only tells me the shortest route to take but is updated in real time to help avoid traffic jams and road works, and responds to traffic density and weather and so on? Surely this would be a lot more cost effective than building new roads and would save large amounts of fossil fuels, reduce CO2 emissions and other pollution, reduce road deaths and injuries, increase the lifespan of our vehicles by reducing the number of kilometers we drive, and make business more efficient as travel times are reduced? It really seems like a no brainer, but so far no one has handed me such a device. We don’t even need everybody to have one to see an improvement. If only 10% of vehicles had it we’d still see plenty of benefit. And even if we don’t want to go for fancy ones that are updated in real time we should still be handing out cheap, basic car navigation systems. If they reduce the kilometers people drive by 1% they should pay for themselves in a couple of years through reduced car costs alone while providing everyone with the benefit of reduced congestion and reduced pollution. Maybe we’re not doing it because we’re a little thick. Or maybe I am a lot thick and overlooking some major obstacle, but I don’t know what it could be, at least for simple car navigation systems.

  53. kevin1
    September 25th, 2013 at 07:37 | #53

    @Ernestine Gross

    Ernestine, re alternative transport modes in those northern Sydney regions – aren’t there dedicated buslanes and frequent peakhour services? What are the points of difference to a train connection for people with school etc. dropbys?

    John Cox (Road Pricing Literature Review in JB Cox and SJ Meyrick “Road charging and funding study” Aust Auto Assoc July 1997) says congestion pricing is less important in Australia cf. more densely populated cities in Europe and US, as congestion here is only a big issue in a few places and accommodated over time by housing and jobs spreading out to the suburbs (less so in Sydney, being more geographically confined with less low cost suburban land.) Such dispersion dilutes noise and local airpollution effects. However car use would increase from relocation due to fewer pub transport options. Cox notes that shopping and personal trips rather than work trips were the growth area over the decades leading up to the above report, and increasingly these are circumferential travel rather than radial into and out of CBDs.

    Change in land use would be accelerated by pricing inner city congestion as more price elastic shopping and personal trips would be moved elsewhere, unless affected interests lobbied for better public transport. I’ve noticed more and more young people don’t have cars and don’t want them – cost, lifestyle, lifecycle aspects I guess – but the constituency for better public options is still there. There’s obviously more cars around but does anyone know if passenger car travel is stagnant or in decline?

  54. kevin1
    September 25th, 2013 at 08:09 | #54

    @Ronald Brak

    car navigation system that not only tells me the shortest route to take but is updated in real time to help avoid traffic jams and road works, and responds to traffic density and weather and so on

    Maybe I’m being thick too but here are a few thoughts.

    1.My Garmin automatically directs me towards tollways which is a private cost I prefer to avoid if time allows
    2. wider dispersion of traffic update info. will increase movement to another place and due to the uncertainty of knowing how many others do it can cause a blockage (fallacy of composition)
    3. changes in trip routes while on the road can increase risky driving behaviour, not to mention the roadrage consequent upon frustrated expectations of a better option
    4. road works are often already flagged in advance enabling calmer consideration of adjustment
    5. weather – OK, I don’t live in the tempestuous conditions common to other places, but radio warnings, increasing use of SMS from road authorities/police plus visual observation etc. is already there; do we help or hinder responses by creating the idea that weather can be “beaten”?
    6. accidents – don’t see this one, some people are going to spend more time interacting with the things while driving, I admit to that; also, giving another distracting and annoying toy to someone who didn’t ask for it and isn’t adaptive to it safely (like me) increases safety risk
    7. “cheap and basic car nav systems” is not the way to go, intelligent systems are – over time as it becomes a standard feature, better and safer and adaptive to all drivers.

  55. Ernestine Gross
    September 25th, 2013 at 09:30 | #55

    @hc

    I am aware there are many discussions (in transport economics) about congestion pricing and they go back more than 50 years. But the models I’ve come across consider only the allocation of a public good (such as a road) among competing users in isolation from all other economically relevant marketable and non-marketable ‘commodities’.

    Models which take transport mode choice into account (eg Hensher) support my argument regarding Sydney. But these models still do not take into account other parameter values which restrict the choice set of people.

    To rephrase my question, taking your comment into account: To put it in another way. What are the theoretical conditions for congestion pricing being an optimal (or even desirable) solution, such “that you can internalise a congestion externality at sufficiently low transaction costs?” (In this case ‘sufficiently low transactions cost’ could be part of the definition of ‘optimal’. I don’t know whether this is your intention.)

    Congestion is a form of quantity rationing with an implied equal price, in terms of time, for each participant. If people have a choice to avoid congestion then they can do so (by using their personal price, ie preferences over how to allocate their time, relative to all other monetary – market transactions – and non-monetary -non-market – alternatives).

  56. Luke Elford
    September 25th, 2013 at 10:50 | #56

    @kevin1

    If you think that the public would be generally receptive to congestion charging, I invite you to track down any Australian newspaper article about the subject and review the comments left by readers. Here’s a particularly depressing comments thread from the Daily Telegraph, accompanying an article entitled “Congestion road tax on drivers is highway robbery” (http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/congestion-road-tax-on-drivers-is-highway-robbery/comments-e6freuy9-1226103742822).

    Internationally, where congestion pricing has successfully been introduced it’s generally been despite the balance of public opinion, and there have been proposals which have stalled in the face of spectacular public opposition. In Edinburgh and Manchester, for example, they held referendums on the issue, with support for congestion pricing a mere 26% and 21% respectively.

    In Stockholm, congestion charging only got on the agenda when the Green party made it a condition of support for a minority government, and only 40% of citizens were in favour. In London, where of course there is a large percentage of non-drivers, the balance of public opinion was nonetheless slightly against charging, but Red Ken pushed it through anyway. There is strong public support for congestion charging in both cities now, but it took political serendipity or bloody-minded commitment to get the schemes up and running in the first place.

    In New York City there was strong public support for charging, again not so surprising in a public transport-oriented city, but opponents were still able to block the mayor’s scheme at the state level.

    Of course, the tricky part of selling congestion charging is that many motorists lose out in terms of the policy’s direct effects, even if they continue to drive, so there’s a need to highlight the uses to which the revenue which is raised is put. There’s strong evidence from opinion polls that hypothecating revenue for public transport projects is vital for assuaging people’s concerns about being forced to use a substandard alternative and dealing with the perception (and depending on the context, reality) of congestion pricing as regressive in its direct effects.

    By the way, with respect to your comment about “all the jurisdictions within Australia”, surely there are only at maximum five places where congestion charging might be introduced in Australia in the near term.

  57. Luke Elford
    September 25th, 2013 at 10:54 | #57

    @kevin1

    With regard to inner city congestion charging shifting trips elsewhere, there is evidence for Sydney CBD at least (Hensher and King 2001) that increased parking prices would overwhelmingly lead to mode shift rather than diversion or elimination of trips, given current public transport service levels; presumably congestion charging would have similar effects.

  58. September 25th, 2013 at 12:48 | #58

    @kevin1
    Kevin1, good point that people fiddling with their car navs might have the unintended consequence of causing more accidents even if people are spending less time on the road because of them. One major possible obstacle to the adoption of an intelligent car navigation system is that some people would want to make the systems into electronic tattletales that rat drivers out when they do something wrong. Obviously this would cause a massive resistance to their uptake. Better by far to save lives by having car navigation systems that keep their electronic mouths shut rather than not have them at all. (And really, people are stressed out enough as it is. We should take into account the unintended consequences of raised blood pressures caused by electronics programmed for betrayal.)

  59. kevin1
    September 25th, 2013 at 13:33 | #59

    @Luke Elford
    Thanks for int’l. info Luke, I didn’t know about that. Yes, media will have a field day. CityLink in Melb has day/night differential tolls for heavy and light commercial vehicles, but not cars. Maybe congestion charges at destination is more efficient, through CBD s/t parking Council pricehikes, State Revenue Office “congestion levies” on parking spaces significantly raised and extended to s/t parking, and now supported by RACV if applied to roads and public transport. Of course this boosts demands for greater public transport.

    Although perhaps a cover for plugging budgetary holes to some extent, applying congestion revenue to congestion reduction investment elsewhere sounds like an approximation to rational economics. If it results in mode switching to trains, with similar effects in ameliorating congestion, aren’t we already having the tax that dare not speak its name?

  60. Donald Oats
    September 25th, 2013 at 16:34 | #60

    It seems to me that it is feasible to have a realtime traffic condition analysis and route-advisory system, under certain conditions:
    * If the devices are widely available, and if they report back to a server their current locations, that in itself provides information about local traffic density;
    * A system that takes into account the effect of advising (some) cars to change route;
    * The opportunity to use other sources for assessment of traffic congestion, such as local cameras, car-mounted cameras (eg like those used for parking), etc.

    None of those conditions are impossible to meet. The more people who opt in, the better the system is likely to work well enough.

    Of course, the best answer of all is to find ways of reducing the traffic burden in general: if the sheer number of drivers seeking to drive during a particular time window is reduced for a given origin-to-destination, then the easier it is to reduce the likelihood of frustrating congestion (all other things being equal). With the ubiquity of mobile phones, organising a car pool shouldn’t be particular challenging, these days. Better public transport helps as well. Bike riding when travelling short distances is another way of reducing traffic burden. Removing any form of salary packaging with cars etc, would also assist in reducing some of the non-essential traffic burden, a) by removing incentive to purchase a car because of tax reasons, b) getting rid of the crazy effect of people driving a lot in order to bring the mileage across the threshold for the financial year.

    I thought the Liberal philosophy was to allow individuals to be free to modify their behaviour as the individual sees fit, not for government to shape it with onerous taxes and levies 🙂

  61. Will
    September 25th, 2013 at 16:53 | #61

    I thought the Liberal philosophy was to allow individuals to be free to modify their behaviour as the individual sees fit, not for government to shape it with onerous taxes and levies

    Totally true, even if it leads to worse Pareto outcomes.

  62. September 25th, 2013 at 17:10 | #62

    Free public transport would solve traffic congestion instantly.

  63. Jim Rose
    September 25th, 2013 at 17:38 | #63

    @Megan Why should the taxpayer bail-out a coal miner?

    I suppose the anti-coal campaigners would be conflicted on this mining company bail-out: choosing between supporting government ownership and saving the planet?

  64. September 25th, 2013 at 18:05 | #64

    @Jim Rose

    They shouldn’t.

    If coal mining and electricity generation had remained state owned they would also have no profit motive for ever expanding GHG emissions.

  65. SJ
    September 25th, 2013 at 18:12 | #65

    This real-time traffic navigation thing that’s being talked about here already exists. I’ve been using one for about 18 months. Tomtom makes them. They contain a SIM card and use the mobile phone network for communication. They will tell you, for example, that there’s a 5 minute delay on your route, and there’s alternative route that’s 3 minutes quicker if you’d like to use it.

  66. September 25th, 2013 at 19:15 | #66

    @SJ
    SJ, that sounds like the sort of thing that could have a significant effect on congestion and it may be worthwhile to simply give these systems to people. Now giving people car navigation systems may sound a bit odd to some people, but I’m being given hundreds of millions of dollars worth of roadworks on South Street and I really don’t think I’ll get as much benefit from that as I would from a car navigation system.

    (Of course, an Australian city doesn’t have to be the first to do this. We can ride on the coat tails of foreign type cities.)

  67. SJ
    September 25th, 2013 at 19:54 | #67

    I should add that Android phones can do something similar. Perhaps iphones can as well, but I don’t use them.

  68. Fran Barlow
    September 26th, 2013 at 01:50 | #68

    @Megan

    Free public transport would solve traffic congestion instantly.

    Doubtful.

    1. Public transport in the major conurbations at peak and shoulder is very close to capacity. You couldn’t fit many more people onto the trains or buses so whether people driving cars are being discouraged ifrom using it is neither here nor there.
    2. It’s unlikely in my view that many driving cars in congested traffic are doing it to save money. You’re unlikely to save much, if anything and you will only save money if you live far enough away to waste a lot of time in your car (but not so far that you’d lose money)

    Some of the routes that fit the descriptor in #2 above have tolls excluding them.

    What’s needed is more public transport capacity, and one way of funding that is through congestion pricing. Another option is to build more housing close to the places where people commute to so that there is less demand for transport in general. You could also design suburbs with entries and exits that made driving through them to commute impracticable. You’d then run your trains through the suburb and have buses wend their way about moving people around within the suburb and between adjacent ones.

    The rationale for cars would decline in a setting like that. With consolidation you could shop and access services more often locally.

  69. Crispin Bennett
    September 26th, 2013 at 08:00 | #69

    Fran Barlow :
    @Megan
    2. It’s unlikely in my view that many driving cars in congested traffic are doing it to save money. You’re unlikely to save much, if anything and you will only save money if you live far enough away to waste a lot of time in your car (but not so far that you’d lose money)

    I agree with most of your comment, but mention of PT costs presses any Brisvegasite’s buttons! It is absurdly expensive. Petrol + parking is cheaper than PT for every journey I’ve costed for two people, and is frequently cheaper even for one. If you’re heading somewhere with free parking, driving is always less expensive. It costs $16 to $20 for a return trip to the CBD for two of us, from a suburb only 7k distant. Many people here drive to work because they can’t afford the bus.

    Brisbane PT is clearly priced to benefit the road construction industry which, in concert with the coal miners, pretty much runs Queensland via their proxy-troglodyte Can’tReadCambpell.

  70. Crispin Bennett
    September 26th, 2013 at 08:02 | #70

    @Megan

    Free public transport would solve traffic congestion instantly.

    2. It’s unlikely in my view that many driving cars in congested traffic are doing it to save money. You’re unlikely to save much, if anything and you will only save money if you live far enough away to waste a lot of time in your car (but not so far that you’d lose money)

    I agree with most of your comment, but mention of PT costs presses any Brisvegasite’s buttons! It is absurdly expensive. Petrol + parking is cheaper than PT for every journey I’ve costed for two people, and is frequently cheaper even for one. If you’re heading somewhere with free parking, driving is always less expensive. It costs $16 to $20 for a return trip to the CBD for two of us, from a suburb only 7k distant. Many people here drive to work because they can’t afford the bus.
    Brisbane PT is clearly priced to benefit the road construction industry which, in concert with the coal miners, pretty much runs Queensland via their proxy-troglodyte Can’tReadCambpell.

    [JQ: an attempt to escape overzealous mod filter. Delete last if this gets through]

  71. kevin1
    September 26th, 2013 at 08:54 | #71

    @Crispin Bennett

    Re parking charges, I previously said “Maybe congestion charges at destination is more efficient, through CBD s/t parking Council pricehikes, State Revenue Office “congestion levies” on parking spaces significantly raised and extended to s/t parking, and now supported by RACV if applied to roads and public transport.” I should have clarified that these are not proposals but decisions.

    FYI, Council parking charges in CBD Melb rose last May for on-street parking from $4 an hour to $5.50 an hour and council’s car parks in the CBD up from $5 to between $8 and $12 an hour. The state levy was expanded to s/t slots, previously only to long-term or all-day parking slots. Residential, hospital, disabled and charity spaces will remain exempt. Treasurer said “at $1300 a year, the levy was still short of the $2160 per space charged in Sydney” and claimed the lift will boost government coffers by $44 million a year.

    Interestingly, both state govt and Council rises were 37%, happened within a couple of weeks of each other, and were defended for budgetary not congestion reasons, though state said they would be applying the revenue to PT and roads. Nothing like this in SE Qld?

  72. September 26th, 2013 at 08:59 | #72

    @Crispin Bennett

    and Fran,

    I intended to imply “and increased capacity to whatever level demanded by increased usage” in there as well.

    Brisbane did a trial about ten years ago where all bus fares were a flat $1 during December and January. Congestion was markedly decreased – even accounting for school holidays – and the buses were jam-packed.

    The responsible Councillor was Maureen Hayes from memory and the results were never released AFAIK.

    I maintain that free public transport, with required capacity increase, would solve traffic congestion.

  73. September 26th, 2013 at 09:06 | #73

    PS,

    In SEQ anyone who has a ticket for a major sporting event can use that ticket for free public transport to the venue from anywhere in SEQ – buses, trains, ferries.

    Of course it’s a subsidy for those events but it also is designed to reduce traffic and parking issues around the venues – and it works.

  74. Luke Elford
    September 26th, 2013 at 11:50 | #74

    @kevin1

    Yep, parking levies are a politically acceptable and administratively expedient, yet highly imperfect, alternative to congestion charging.

    Nope, they don’t exist in Brisbane (although maximum parking rates do exist in the city centre and frame). My understanding is that there’s not much prospect of them being introduced while Campbell Newman is around.

  75. Luke Elford
    September 26th, 2013 at 11:51 | #75

    To clarify, maximum rates of parking space provision, not maximum parking prices.

  76. Crispin Bennett
    September 26th, 2013 at 12:09 | #76

    @Megan: You won’t find me arguing against heavy PT subsidies. Entirely free is possibly wasteful. But it should be cheaper than driving. Zero chance of that here, though.

    @kevin1: I don’t have enough knowledge of (or interest in) transport policy to add more than anecdote. On reflection, my anecdote probably isn’t representative anyway: what commuting I’ve done has always been by bike, so the trips I’ve priced have been atypical re times, parking availability and price, etc. I certainly know people here who would far prefer a PT commute, but reluctantly drive because of PT’s patchy availability and exorbitant cost.

    Anti-PT / pro-fossil-fuel values amongst the Queensland elite (probably reasonably representative of the population, though the two groups’ motivations differ) inevitably trump detailed policy considerations here anyway, so transport economics, as it relates to Queensland, is just a word game. Values are more important than the detail, as so often.

  77. September 26th, 2013 at 13:21 | #77

    One development that could greatly reduce congestion is the use of mobile phones apps, or alternatively specialized devices, that allows everyone who desires it to let their car function like a taxi. You tell your mobile phone where you are going and it guides you to passengers going in the same direction that you pick up on the way. I presume there would be a rating system that would give people who are uncouth low scores and make them less likely to be picked up by drivers or less likely to be used by passengers. Of course organised opposition will make such systems hard to implement.

  78. September 26th, 2013 at 13:42 | #78

    @Crispin Bennett

    I’d very much like to see the question thoroughly and independently assessed.

    If PT was totally free to use, some things on the ‘plus’ side are:

    – no ticketing, enforcement, money handling, no time spent ‘swiping’ cards or buying tickets to get on and off;
    – less traffic congestion and road building/maintenance;
    – faster travel time for PT and others;
    – less GHG;
    – increased economic activity via tourism, worker utility, customer convenience and amenity in CBD and other centres.

    About the only thing on the ‘minus’ side is how much extra it would cost net of the savings.

  79. Crispin Bennett
    September 26th, 2013 at 15:53 | #79

    @Megan It would be interesting. But ’till all the redneck burghers are replaced with something better, it’s no more than entertainment.

  80. September 26th, 2013 at 15:57 | #80

    @Crispin Bennett

    I’m not sure we can wait that long! In fact if we waited for them, nothing would ever get done.

    Like AGW nothing will be done unless people make it happen. Or at least try.

  81. Fran Barlow
    September 26th, 2013 at 16:40 | #81

    @Crispin Bennett

    I quite take your point. If there is indeed spare PT capacity during periods when there is congestion, along parallel corridors then in theory substitution would be some of the answer. Also, if pricing is as you say a serious barrier, then you’d have an argument for pricing roads and parking and underwriting public transport more heavily. Part of that underwriting should be the capital expenditures on new capacity and also new urban housing.

    I still would say though that more fundamental changes would be needed in the design of cities.

  82. kevin1
    September 26th, 2013 at 16:52 | #82

    @Luke Elford
    Could I ask for a comment on why parking levies at destination rather than journey levies are a highly imperfect substitute for congestion pricing? Is it because of exclusion of through traffic, although this might be included by camera tolling?

  83. Donald Oats
    September 26th, 2013 at 17:18 | #83

    Public transport that is entirely free has several benefits: it encourages people to make use of it; so long as the services are managed so as to provide appropriate capacity, it would reduce car traffic, all other things being equal; the entire ticket/smartcard machinery can be dispensed with; the ticket inspectors are unnecessary; in the case of buses, the bus driver’s job has a little less risk, as they no longer need to carry cash from direct ticket sales with them; there are no zones to worry about; the system is trivial to understand; car park spaces in the city areas can be freed up for other uses; the higher density of people to vehicle helps reduce overall pollution, including GHG emissions; fewer raw resources (metals, plastics, rubber, etc.) are required for people-shifting; quite probably a reduction in car accidents and the associated costs; etc. There are some obvious costs as well, and it doesn’t play nice with capitalists I suppose, as it has the obvious effect of reducing car sales, among other things. Councils that are locked onto car park revenue and traffic / parking violations probably won’t like it at first, either.

    It would be interesting to see how a totally free system—with appropriate extra capacity to cope comfortably—stacks up against our current mix of private and paying public transport system, with car park fees and all those other costs taken into consideration. Obviously from city to city there will be substantial differences, at least potentially, given geography, urban layout, demographic factors, and so on.

  84. Donald Oats
    September 26th, 2013 at 17:21 | #84

    And yes, there could be some bounce-back as a few souls decide to drive, once free public transport has de-cluttered the road system. On the other hand, if free public transport has adequate capacity and frequency of service to satisfy the vast majority of people, any bounce-back that occurs is likely to be quite limited.

  85. hc
    September 26th, 2013 at 17:39 | #85

    kevin1, Yes the conventional argument against using parking charges is that they are only an imperfect substitute for congestion charges. The usual reason is that they impact only on terminating traffic and by doing this and making the roads less congested on this account encourage more through traffic. In addition they don’t reflect congestion costs. A car travelling a short distance pays the same charge as one travelling a long distance. Finally its hard to figure out exactly how to use them as a surrogate. You don’t want people to drive during the peak. So “early bird” offers might make sense – you pay a low charge if you arrive before 7-00am and leave after 6-00pm for example. Generally the charge you would want to levy should depend on when you arrive and when you depart.

    There are however huge advantages in using parking charges. They have high community acceptability – people see paying for a space as paying for something tangible unlike congestion charging. There is a long history of using parking charges. They are also relatively low transaction cost.

    Transport economics nerds like me got a lot from Donald Shoup’s “The High Cost of Free Parking”. Its the best reference I have seen on parking economics and enjoyable though long reading. Strongly recommended for city administrators trying to improve city congestion and parking issues.

  86. Alphonse
    September 26th, 2013 at 19:17 | #86

    About the objection to congestion pricing on the ground that some have rail alternatives and some do not. Surely, until congestion pricing revenue generates an income stream to cover the financing of new rail where needed, and until that rail is constructed, congestion pricing will enable uncongested bus services to serve those priced off the roads.

  87. September 26th, 2013 at 20:11 | #87

    In relation to an earlier post on this blog, I’ll just mention that congestion charges, electronic car pooling, and free public transport are all things that are apparently worse than the collapse of civilisation.

  88. September 27th, 2013 at 00:53 | #88

    @Donald Oats

    One of the other advantages of free public transport is that people who aren’t using it (eg: trades with utes full of tools) also win by getting all the rest of us off the roads and out of their way so they can get about their business.

  89. Crispin Bennett
    September 27th, 2013 at 13:30 | #89

    Megan :
    Like AGW nothing will be done unless people make it happen. Or at least try.

    Point taken. But what kind of “try” generates how much useful effect? And at what opportunity costs to other efforts? Clive Hamilton hit the nail on the head re AGW in this AGW piece. The crux of it is:

    If the science challenges the values, the values will win.

    It’s clear with AGW politics that scientific findings are a small and diminishing influence on what actually happens. I’d venture that the same may be true with rational transport policy. The corpulent Brisbane Club geezers who run Queensland have a picture of how things are to be. Prominently included in that picture would be: concrete, utes, 4WDs, block-filling houses, dogs, coal, yuccas. Barely visible in that picture: the Great Barrier Reef, single-parent mothers, solar power, buses, native shrubs, dugong. The picture acts as a filter. No matter how many reports come in advocating sensible policies for urban design or efficient energy use, the filter excludes them from honest consideration.

    When the mental picture of the world held by leaders (or those shopping for leaders) alters to include the things we might consider of value, then detail (of science, of policy) becomes relevant. Until then: how to change the picture, that’s the thing.

  90. Crispin Bennett
    September 27th, 2013 at 13:32 | #90

    Megan :
    Like AGW nothing will be done unless people make it happen. Or at least try.

    Point taken. But what kind of “try” generates how much useful effect? And at what opportunity costs to other efforts? Clive Hamilton has just hit the nail on the head re AGW in a RenewEconomy piece entitled “IPCC report will make no difference in culture of denial” (can’t link because doing so enforces moderation). The crux of it is:

    If the science challenges the values, the values will win.

    It’s clear with AGW politics that scientific findings are a small and diminishing influence on what actually happens. I’d venture that the same may be true with rational transport policy. The corpulent Brisbane Club geezers who run Queensland have a picture of how things are to be. Prominently included in that picture would be: concrete, utes, 4WDs, block-filling houses, dogs, coal, yuccas. Barely visible in that picture: the Great Barrier Reef, single-parent mothers, solar power, buses, native shrubs, dugong. The picture acts as a filter. No matter how many reports come in advocating sensible policies for urban design or efficient energy use, the filter excludes them from serious consideration.

    When the mental picture of the world held by leaders (or those shopping for leaders) alters to include the things we might consider of value, then detail (of science, of policy) becomes relevant. Until then: how to change the picture, that’s the thing.

  91. kevin1
    September 28th, 2013 at 10:48 | #91

    @hc
    Thanks for ref. to Shoup hc, lots of insights there.

    John Q, I have tried to track down your 1993 sub to IC Inquiry into Urban Transport “External Costs of Private Vehicles – Harm to Other Road Users” without success. Not on PC site, nor on your UQ site under submissions, and can’t find at CAEPR. Would be interested to read it if available somewhere. Thank you.

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