I reported on 27 March that Infrastructure Partnerships Australia had published a discussion paper called "Road Pricing and Transport Infrastructure Funding" which has essentially recommended a move from ownership and fuel taxes to distance based charges for road use, including mass, location and time of day components.
I have since had a chance to read the report, so that I can now give a more detailed review of the paper. It's worth reading in its own right, at least because the way it is presented and structures the key issues is both accessible and logical.
It's notable for being a report commissioned not only by contracting sector lobby groups (who would traditionally be expected to endorse more construction), but also motoring clubs (who would traditionally be expected to endorse more construction and resist user charging). This report is not pushing construction, and openly admits that big cities are unable to "build themselves out" of congestion, although there will be an ongoing need for new road capital investment. It does support road pricing, and it also supports using some road pricing revenue to enhance public transport. That is fairly revolutionary in thinking from these sorts of entities, and is to be applauded.
It is important to note that not all Australian motoring clubs are parties to this report, but many key ones are. It indicates a level of analytical rigour and honesty to admit that the future will be improved by measures that, on the face of it, many if not most motorists will be sceptical about. There are plenty of motoring clubs worldwide that simply oppose user charges and call for more road construction to fix major problems, hopefully this report will catalyse some to apply some more economic rigour.
The report has a number of key things going for it:
- The key limitations of existing forms of motoring taxation are outlined. Taxing ownership and fuel has major issues of equity, sustainability and lack of flexibility, which are not compensated for by simplicity.
- The benefits of user charging are made clear around network efficiency and addressing congestion.
- A range of options are looked at, and assessed at a strategic level according to some clear objectives
- A pathway of small steps to go forward with is presented.
- It has the endorsement of a number of several (although not all) motoring clubs in Australia. Getting support from this lobby is crucial and important, given how influential it is.
It is worth reading in its own right, but I thought it would worthwhile providing a brief synopsis of the main points. I have also included some graphics from the report, which is blatant plagiarism, but help to explain some key points.