Australia, Transport News

Expert calls for NSW road pricing debate

Professor David Levinson has presented his ideas to shake up the NSW toll road system and revitalise transport for operators in and around Sydney

American civil engineer and transportation analyst Professor David Levinson has released a new report on the Transportist calling for NSW to look at introducing road pricing to fix the road toll issue.

The previous NSW government passed a law saying electric vehicles will have to pay an odometer tax by 2027 or once EVs reach 30 per cent market share of new vehicles.

Levinson says this effectively introduces road pricing one vehicle at a time, with a new toll road review to investigate the worth of tolling rates on different motorways in the state and different contracts for toll road management.

“The inquiry has already ruled out a Congestion Charge (an extra charge for driving to or through the CBD on all roads, not just motorways) and presumably more general road pricing (charging for the use of all roads),” Levinson says.

“It seems open to time-of-day pricing differences.”

Yet Levinson has argued for road pricing, saying it represents the single most significant step that society could make towards a more efficient, sustainable and accessible transport system.

The idea of road pricing is to charge a fee per use of all roads in the state instead of only charging for use of certain toll motorways.

It then encourages drivers to shift travel to off-peak hours for transport operators or motorists shifting travel behaviours to limit congestion.

So far, Levinson says this idea hasn’t been implemented to fix NSW’s toll road issue due to political opposition, technical challenges, lack of public awareness and equity concerns, with some arguing it would disproportionately impact some people more compared to others.

However, he argues that road pricing has been adopted in “tiny little steps” in Singapore, London, Stockholm and Milan successfully.

For Sydney, Levinson says the current toll network means people avoid these motorways and instead congest local roads, only benefiting wealthy drivers.

“The better policy would be to impose tolls on all roads and lower those tolls in the off-peak hours,” Levinson says.

“David Hensher argued in 2019 for $0.05 per km in the peak and $0 in the off-peak. It seems low to me, but it is better than where we are now.”

Levinson is calling for people to express ideas around this to the current NSW toll review consultation.

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