Motorists may have to pay new toll
Irish Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001
The traffic authorities in Dublin are looking at road pricing - charging motorists every time they drive into the city centre, reports Tim O'Brien
If you still drive into the centre of Dublin and think you can avoid the attentions of the clampers, tow trucks and charges by using your own parking space, your days of happy motoring are numbered.
The Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) has embarked on a study to determine ways of reducing demand for road space, including "road pricing", a toll for using certain roads, most likely those within the canals.
The study will also examine charging, possibly by taxation, for the use of private car-parks provided by employers.
And if you are wealthy enough to survive all that, the DTO plans to target you by reducing the number of car-parking spaces in the city.
The news of the "demand management measures" follows the recent announcement by the Mayor of Greater London, Mr Ken Livingston, that a charge of £5 per vehicle is to be levied on non-residents for car use in a wide area of Central London.
However, Mr John Henry, the director of the DTO, says Dublin is not simply following London and has, in fact, been looking at demand management measures for some time.
"There are basically two sides to the DTO overall strategy and demand management has always been one," said Mr Henry. He pointed out that the canals would provide a natural barrier around the city to facilitate the introduction of road pricing.
He explained that this would not involve toll booths but electronic scanners which would scan the vehicle's number-plate and automatically deduct the charge from a prepaid ticket.
In the case where the ticket had not been pre-paid a fine would be issued to the owner of the registration. "There would be no delays, no queues at booths. This technology is being developed and I am aware of a version currently going into service at the West Link."
Other measures to be addressed by the study include a change in the way local authorities assess planning applications. "They used to ask for a minimum number of parking spaces; the thinking now is that there should be a limit to the number of spaces which they would be allowed to provide."
This would involve planning applicants engaging in "mobility management" to assess how potential employees could best travel to work outside of a private car or outside peak times.
Mr Henry said the study would look at how this form of mobility management could be extended to existing companies through legislation and company car-parks could be charged at the rates of private car-parks through a system of benefit-in-kind.
Once companies look at mobility management, the DTO is hoping a time/price structure could divert demand for road space at peak times. "Pricing would be directed to encourage people not to travel on certain roads at peak times.
"The road must not generate a demand greater than its capacity, as is happening on the M50 at the moment. When that happens you have the peak time lengthening as it is currently. The demand needs to be restricted below the capacity so the road functions and you get value for it. Tolls and variably-timed tolls can do that. Road pricing on the M50 will have to be managed to reduce demand.
"The eastern bypass will also have to be managed. We may have to put cordons around the city and the canals would suggest themselves for that, and as there are only a limited number of crossing points it would be relatively easy. Prices will be set for different times so that we don't let demand exceed capacity."
For car drivers in panic at this point the DTO points out that the second half of their strategy is the implementation of "real choice" public transport. An essential part of the DTO strategy is "walk and ride" which is to be in place before the more draconian measures are introduced.
"You must be able to walk to a public transport corridor at the start of your journey and walk to your destination from where public transport leaves you," said Mr Henry.
And that may be sooner than later. The latest news on the metro, for example, is that 35 expressions of interest were received from foreign companies in relation to building the first section between the city centre and the airport.
"We think now that the first phase might be in place by 2007 or 2008 but anyone who thinks they have almost a decade before any of the demand management measures come in are mistaken," says Mr Henry.
The first two Luas lines would be in place by 2003, other improvements in the railways and the bus corridors "may already allow the introduction of road pricing on certain routes where there is a real choice", he said.
"It is all about choice. The demand management study will indicate how we can lead people to making a choice in favour of public transport: the brief of the study is to show us how, when and where."