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If there were fewer poor people on the roads, rich people could get to work more easily and everyone would be better off. This, in a nutshell, is the argument for the congestion tax, a charge on drivers of vehicles seeking to enter and exit the city during morning and evening peak times.
The idea has returned to public debate this week after the Grattan Institute released a report recommending its implementation in Australia’s capital cities.
Pointing to international examples London, Singapore and Stockholm, the report argues for a flat fee to be imposed on vehicles crossing a cordon around the inner city in peak hour.
The fee would be roughly equivalent to the cost of a public transport ticket.
This enables the remaining vehicles to move through the city more efficiently. People deterred by the fee would be expected to use alternatives like public transport, cycling and walking.
According to the Grattan Institute, we should care about congestion not only because it is uncomfortable to sit in traffic but because transportation inefficiency reduces the economic benefits of cities. Delays impose opportunity costs, limit employment mobility, and make it harder to access goods and services.
If this all seems familiar, that is because the congestion tax is a zombie idea, one that has already consumed many brains.Continue reading