Singapore’s congestion pricing system
05-15-2010 by Challenge Bibendum
Since the 1970s, the City-State of Singapore has multiplied all sorts of initiatives in an attempt to ease congestion and limit pollution. The two principal demand management tools for road traffic management are the Vehicle Quota System (VQS) and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP). In fact, Singapore was the first city in the world to create a road pricing system.
Easing congestion and mitigating pollution
Singapore is a small, densely populated City-State which decided to limit congestion. This was a social challenge since the high standard of living of its inhabitants encourages auto ownership. Since the 1970s, Singapore has multiplied all sorts of initiatives in an attempt to ease congestion and limit pollution.
From tax to Electronic Road Pricing (ERP)
In 1975, the "Area License Scheme" (ALS), a remotely controlled toll system, was launched to regulate traffic flow and avoid congestion in the city center depending on the time of day. At the beginning, the system used adhesive stickers on the windshield.
Then, in April 1998, the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system was created to replace the former Area License Scheme (ALS). Faster and more flexible, the ERP is completely automatic and allows vehicles to pass the control gantries at normal speeds.
The pay-as-you-use ERP system has the flexibility to charge different rates for different types of vehicles, different locations and different time periods. It is designed to be a fair system as motorists are charged when they use the road during peak hours.
An acknowledged success to be shared with others
Since its implementation, traffic speeds are maintained at an optimal speed range of 45-65 kph (30 to 41mph) for expressways and 20-30 kph (13 to 19mph) for arterial roads and roads in the Restricted Zone.
Singapore was the very fist city to adopt a road pricing system. Now, many cities have implemented such a system: Oslo, Stockholm, Bergen or Trondheim. For example, the London Congestion Charge was introduced in 2003, after London officials visited Singapore to study the ERP system, and used it as a reference for the London system.
Restrictions for vehicle users
Since 1991, the "weekend car scheme" is aimed at drivers who use their cars only on weekends and holidays, in the form of reductions on import duties and vehicle registration fees. They can purchase permits to drive on weekdays when required.
Import duties and registration fees are very high, limiting vehicle purchases, and are proportional to engine power. Imports are subjected to overall quotas and the right to buy a vehicle is purchased by bidding. This system, called the Vehicle Quota System (VQS), was implemented in May 1990 to control the growth of the vehicle population at a sustainable rate. Under the VQS, Certificates of Entitlement (COEs) must be obtained through a process of competitive bidding before a vehicle can be registered.
An essential prerequisite: A highly efficient public transport system
In order to compensate for these restrictions, Singapore has provided its citizens with a very efficient mass transit system built around buses with dedicated traffic lanes. The city has thus succeeded in containing traffic and local pollution within acceptable limits in spite of an unfavorable geographic situation.
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