Sydney motorists support congestion charges

28 June 2012

Parramatta Road, one of Sydney's most congested roads. [Image: Flickr/Tony Rodd]
Parramatta Road, one of Sydney's most congested roads. [Image: Flickr/Tony Rodd]

Sydney motorists are prepared to pay to reduce congestion and support public transport, according to a survey conducted by the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS) in the University of Sydney Business School.

More than 80 percent of the 200 motorists questioned said they would accept some form of road pricing scheme.

Just over 62 percent of participants said they favoured a cordon-based payment of $8 to enter the crowded Sydney CBD in peak hour and $3 outside of peak periods and would be prepared to pay the charge on top of existing registration and fuel costs so long as a 100 percent of the revenue was used to improve public transport.

This figure, the survey found, would drop to 49 percent support if revenue is not allocated fully to public transport.

While the survey conducted by the Institute's Professor David Hensher, Professor John Rose and Senior Research Analyst Andrew Collins, found a high level of support for a London style 'congestion tax', many motorists were opposed to a charge based on distance travelled.

The majority of survey participants said their support for any future road pricing reform that extended beyond the CBD and involved distance-based charges would be contingent on a reduction in other motoring costs.

In particular, the government, they said, would have to lower car registration fees, eliminate existing tolls and earmark much of the money raised for road maintenance and improvements to public transport.

Recent ITLS modelling found that a metropolitan wide, distance-based charging scheme that discouraged the use of private cars would significantly reduce congestion and raise funds for investment in road maintenance and public transport.

The ITLS research found that a charge of 10 cents per kilometre would reduce overall car use by 6 percent - enough to remove most of the serious traffic congestion in the Sydney Metropolitan Area. The charge would also generate revenues of more than $3 billion a year.

"The real enemy is the car and our pricing model would certainly go a long way towards cutting private car usage," said Professor Hensher. "However, it is clear from our survey that the government may have to begin with a fixed CBD cordon charge."

Recent media reports suggest that the New South Wales State Government is considering reforms options in the road user pricing system in an effort to reduce road congestion and support public transport.

The Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies this month celebrates 21 years at the forefront of national and international transport and logistics research.

This study was supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Program Grant DP110100454 titled Assessment of the commuter's willingness to pay a congestion charge under alternative pricing regimes and revenue disbursement plans.

Professor David Hensher is also a participant in the University's What Matters community engagement campaign which brings together people from across the University's spectrum to talk about how their work has made a difference in the world. See Professor Hensher's What Matters contribution now.

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