Electronic Road Pricing
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The scheme consists of ERP gantries located at all roads linking into Singapore's central business district - areas within the Central Area such as the Downtown Core. They are also located along the expressways and arterial roads with heavy traffic to discourage usage during peak hours. The gantry system is actually a system of sensors on 2 gantries, one in front of the other. Cameras are also attached to the gantries to capture the rear license plate numbers of vehicles. Currently, there are 80 ERP gantries in Singapore. New gantries are implemented where congestion is severe, like expressways and other roads.
A device known as an In-vehicle Unit (IU) is affixed on the lower right corner of the front windscreen within sight of the driver, in which a stored-value card, the CashCard, is inserted for payment of the road usage charges. The second generation IU accepts Contactless NETS CashCard and EZ-Link. The cost of an IU is S$150. It is mandatory for all Singapore-registered vehicles to be fitted with an IU if they wish to use the priced roads.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd sold the IU technology to Singapore, and the project was spearheaded by a Consortium comprising Philips Singapore Pte Ltd, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Miyoshi Electronic Corporation and CEI Systems and Engineering (now known as CSE Global Ltd) in 1995 through an open tender.
When a vehicle equipped with an IU passes under an ERP gantry, a road usage charge is deducted from the CashCard in the IU. Sensors installed on the gantries communicate with the IU via a dedicated short-range communication system, and the deducted amount is displayed to the driver on an LCD screen of the IU.
Improvements and adaptations
According to a paper presented in the World Roads Conference 2006, the Land Transport Authority has been testing a system based on the Global Positioning System that may eventually replace the current Electronic Road Pricing system. The proposed system overcomes the inflexibility of having physical gantries, which "are not so flexible when it comes to re-locating them".
A lightweight version of this same technology is implemented for use on parking, known as the Electronic Parking System (EPS). It has since been adopted in favour by several carpark operators, superseding the use of autopay tickets or parking coupons. These systems have also typically switched to charging by the minute.
The ERP system, although understandably unpopular among most road users, has helped to tweak road usage patterns since its implementation. The LTA reported that road traffic decreased by nearly 25,000 vehicles during peak hours, with average road speeds increasing by about 20%. Within the restricted zone itself, traffic has gone down by about 13% during ERP operational hours, with vehicle numbers dropping from 270,000 to 235,000. It has been observed that car-pooling has increased, while the hours of peak vehicular traffic has also gradually eased and spread into off-peak hours, suggesting a more productive use of road space. In addition, it has been noted that average road speeds for expressways and major roads remained the same, despite rising traffic volumes over the years.
In an effort to improve the pricing mechanism and to introduce real-time variable pricing, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority, together with IBM, ran a pilot from December 2006 to April 2007, with a traffic estimation and prediction tool (TrEPS), which uses historical traffic data and real-time feeds with flow conditions from several sources, in order to predict the levels of congestion up to an hour in advance. By accurate estimating prevailing and emerging traffic conditions, this technology is expected to allow variable pricing, together with improved overall traffic management, including the provision of information in advanced to alert drivers about conditions ahead, and the prices being charged at that moment.
Similar systems in other metropolitan areas
In Toronto, Ontario, Canada an electronic road pricing system is used on Highway 407 to collect tolls electronically and billed to the owner of the car by taking a picture of its license plate.
Despite the local public controversy, the ERP system attracted the attention of transport planners and managers in other metropolitan areas, particularly those in Europe and the United States. For example, the London Congestion Charge was introduced on 17 February 2003, after London officials visited Singapore to study the ERP system, and used it as a reference for the London system. London's charge area was expanded in 2007.
The Stockholm congestion tax is also a congestion pricing system implemented as a tax which is levied on most vehicles entering and exiting central Stockholm, Sweden. The congestion tax was implemented on a permanent basis on August 1, 2007, after a seven-month trial period was held between January 3, 2006 and July 31, 2006.
In 2007, Dubai, at the United Arab Emirates, implemented a corridor congestion pricing scheme called Salik which works on similar principles. Since January 2008, Milan introduced a traffic charge scheme as a one-year trial, called Ecopass, and exempts high emission standard vehicles and some alternate fuel vehicles.