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Chapter 3 | Congestion charging as an alternative strategy

walking or short-distance shuttle buses can readily penetrate and service the small

area within the zone. The mode of access to the zone can remain unchanged while

the alternative cost for movement within the zone can be modest or minimal.

The important, and often-neglected, point is that successful zone (cordon-based

and area-based) congestion charging

schemes rely on good public transport

for movement to, and within, the

charging zone. Without good public

transport it is likely that an extortionate

level of charges would be required to

achieve the necessary driver behavioural

change.

Good governance requires that the

allocation of funds for public transport

be subjected to standard public finance

assessment.

While the role of good public transport is generally recognised, this is widely

misinterpreted as providing a justification for automatically channelling funds to

public transport. This is not the case. Good governance requires that the allocation of

funds for public transport be subjected to standard public finance assessment. Lack

of transparency for funding of public transport in cities where congestion charges

have been introduced makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the rigour of the

approach adopted. Regardless, the standards of public transport that can be justified

for other cities may not be warranted in Australia: the population densities and urban

form of Australian cities is considerably different from those cities where congestion

charging is currently implemented and/or being considered. For instance, New

York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) operates North America’s largest transit

network, serving 2.5 billion riders annually, accommodating 80 per cent of all daily

trips to Manhattan’s business district. Even within the US, New York City stands out:

There are no other US cities with ridership like New York City. Approximately one

out of five US transit trips are made in the New York area (Schrank and Lomax 2007,

p. B28).

This is a considerably greater task than is performed by public transport in Australian

cities. However, while the relatively dispersed form of Australian cities is a handicap

when delivering public transport services, it ensures that the city centres avoid the

worst of the congestion found in the centres of other major cities across the world.

While Australian cities experience congestion beyond the city centre akin to that

found in other cities around the world, it is worth remembering that, thus far, most

schemes have focused on city centres. Zone (cordon and area) charging in Stockholm,

Dubai, Valletta, Durham, London, Milan and Rome apply to city centres and not to

the suburban hinterland.

Much attention has been directed at the London scheme and to the New York City

options. However, for Australia, city-centre cordon and area charging is harder to

justify due to business and retail dispersal away from the centre and the difficulty

in providing attractive alternative public transport. Facility charging (focusing on

congested routes linking the dormitory suburbs with city centres) has more relevance

for congestion relief than a city-zone charge.

However, the private ownership of many of these links adds another layer of

complexity to an already challenging policy option.

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