Friday, 16 November 2012

S'pore solution for Bogota road woes

Firm doing feasibility study on congestion pricing in Colombian capital
By Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, 15 Nov 2012

SOUTH American city Bogota has turned to Singapore-based CPG Corp to help keep traffic gridlock at bay.

The capital of Colombia, about twice the size of Singapore, has 7.4 million people and 1.6 million vehicles, of which 53 per cent are cars.

A six-month feasibility study by CPG - previously the Public Works Department and now owned by a Chinese company - will be completed next month.

The $200,000 study on implementing congestion pricing in the city is done by a team that includes Mr A.P.G. Menon, a retired Land Transport Authority traffic engineer who helped roll out Electronic Road Pricing in Singapore in 1998.

Now a CPG consultant and Nanyang Technological University professor, he said: "We're there to highlight the various issues the government needs to look at." Issues include deciding on the physical boundaries of the system, the timing and rates as well as the type of vehicles to be charged.

Since 1998, Bogota has been tackling traffic congestion with Pico y Placa, a system that restricts vehicles at certain times of the day according to their number plates. But Ms Luz Helena Martinez Mora, an executive with Bogota's Department of Transport, said the scheme "is experiencing declining effectiveness" due to various factors, including a surge in vehicle population.

From 2000 to last year, its vehicle numbers have risen by nearly 140 per cent to 1.6 million.

Ms Mora attributed this to economic growth, access to easy and cheap loans and falling car prices.

She said the government "believes that it is the appropriate time to consider other alternatives that supplement or replace the current measures" of congestion control. Congestion charging has been identified as "a priority project".
Mr Menon said CPG's study will include the various technologies available, including satellite- tracked systems. "But, ultimately, it's not so much a technological decision but a political decision."

On that front, Bogota seems to be ahead of most other cities. The government was among the first to roll out schemes to curb car usage and promote other forms of mobility.

These include a weekly event where more than 100km of the city's roads are closed to traffic to encourage residents to walk, run, cycle and skate.

Bogota is also home to TransMilenio, an 84km bus rapid transit (BRT) network. BRT, which allows high-frequency bus services to run on dedicated lanes, often rivals the efficiency of trains. The average daily ridership of TransMilenio is 1.9 million.

Mr Menon said a congestion pricing system will also allow the government to raise revenue to improve its public transport system - something the current Pico y Placa system does not do.

The Singapore Government collected some $400 million in ERP revenue between 2009 and last year.

Cities with road pricing


ERP is an automatic system that charges between $1 and $5 each time cars pass a gantry during peak hours. There are about 70 gantries cordoning the city centre, and on highways and main arterial roads. It replaces the manual Area Licensing Scheme, a flat $3-per-day system started in 1975. Only emergency vehicles are exempted.


CONGESTION Pricing, a camera-based system that charges vehicles entering Central London between 7am and 6pm on weekdays, kicked off in 2003. Charges are £10 (S$19) per car. Many vehicles qualify for concessions or exemptions, including those owned by residents of Central London and low-emission cars.


CONGESTION Tax was introduced in 2006. Variable rates are charged, from 10 kronor (S$1.80) at 6.30am to 20 kronor from 7.30am to 8.29am and from 4pm to 5.29pm. Vehicles are charged each time they enter a restricted zone, with the cap at 60 kronor a day. Low-emission cars, motorcycles and taxis are exempted.


AREA C, a CCTV-based system, levies charges at €5 (S$8) per vehicle entering the city centre on weekdays between 7.30am and 7.30pm (6pm on Thursdays). Residents inside the area have 40 free accesses per year and pay a discounted charge. Older vehicles with high emission levels are banned from entering. Electric and hybrid cars, motorcycles and scooters, buses and taxis are exempted from the charge.

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