Should a congestion tax exempt motorcycles?

Melbourne roads lane filtering more often congestion

Melbourne hopes to join several other cities by introducing a congestion tax for its CBD to solve traffic problems, but it has made no mention of exempting motorcycles and scooters.

The city’s Reducing Traffic for Better Streets paper suggests a road-user charge per kilometre to replace vehicle registration fees and/or fuel excise.

As it is just a discussion paper, details are not yet outlined and the council cannot legislate the changes anyway as they are state and federal matters.

However, it does open up a valid discussion to alleviate traffic problems in one of our major congested cities.

Monash University Department of Civil Engineering Professor Graham Currie says it is too early to discuss specifics such as exemptions for motorcycles and scooters.

“In practice (as usual) they haven’t thought about powered two wheelers yet,” he says.

Congestion charges

Melbourne’s discussion paper is not totally original as the following cities have similar systems not only to reduce traffic congestion but also air pollution:

ride to work day traffic congestion car
Singapore traffic congestion
  • Singapore has road-user charges in a CBD zone resulting in a 20% reduction in delays and plans to ban pre-2003 motorcycles throughout the city in 10 years;
  • Milan’s Ecopass charges all vehicles entering a designated traffic restricted zone and bans old cars and bikes that do not meet set emissions standards;
  • A cordon charge in Stockholm has led to 24% fewer commuter trips by car (motorcycles and scooters are exempt), with most people switching to public transport and Gothenburg following the same example;
  • China and Brazil are considering congestion charges in various cities;
  • Oregon, USA, has trialled a voluntary pay-per-mile distance charge resulting in a 22% drop in traffic in peak hours and a 91% approval by participants; and
  • London’s Low Emissions Zone charge has helped stabilise traffic congestion over the past decade despite population growth of 1.3 million. Motorcycles, scooters and electric vehicles are exempt, but from April 2019 the new London Ultra Low Emissions Zone will charge £12.50 a day for motorcycles and scooters that do not meet Euro 3 emissions standards.

London scooters England UK  congestionRider concern

Riders should be concerned because these taxes and bans are likely to become more widespread in other congested cities in future.

Last year, the Grattan Institute suggested congestion charges in Sydney and Melbourne during peak hours and last month the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics recommended congestion charges in major cities saying congestion costs Australia upwards of $16 billion each year. 

But rather than also charging and banning motorcycles and scooters, they should be seen as a solution to the problems of congestion and emissions and be exempt.Sydney traffic congestion motorcycles lane filtering planning

The Singapore ban on older motorcycles seems harsh but may be warranted as the city is choked by thousands of two-stroke scooters that have since ceased production.

Strict European emissions standards have made powered two-wheelers much cleaner and the coming wave of electric models will make them even more attractive for easing CBD congestion and pollution woes.

As for Melbourne’s discussion paper, it is important that rider representative groups lobby strongly for exemptions.

Melbourne City Council has an exemplary motorcycle plan, yet the city no longer has free tolls for motorcycles and widespread free footpath parking is slowly being eroded, so nothing should be taken for granted.

The public is invited to make submissions on the paper at the City of Melbourne’s Transport Strategy Refresh Participate website until July 31, 2018.

6 Comments

  1. I applaud the concept of replacing registration fees with a kilometre charge even without an excemption or reduction for motorcycles. I believe such a charge will result in more people purchasing motor cycles, scooters or small cars more suited to commuting as many people are put off from purchasing a 2nd or third vehicle because of the registration cost. Tracking usage is very simple using the etag systems already in place.

    1. Dude, the etag systems are only on the tollways in Melbourne. And that’s to pay for the tollways not for congestion.
      What about all the cars on normal roads?

      1. By installing etag monitors & cameras on the normal roads in and out of the CBD or congestion areas. It appears to work well in London?

  2. There are a lot of ideas floating around, but the government will never make a change where they will lose revenue income. Why pay registration and TAC fees for multiple cars when you can only drive one at a time?
    The politicians don’t care about the costs of driving, or about anything but their own ambition.
    Motorcycles should be exempt from congestion tax because they reduce congestion by not driving their cars. This is simple maths.
    The only reasonable and workable way to decrease car use is to add taxes to fuel prices in the city. And use the money for rail infrastructure improvements.
    There are so many inconsistencies that it’s a joke. How could you record distance for every car in the city? Especially the older ones with mechanical trip meters. Is everyone going to have to keep a log book? Who is going to check them?

  3. Have you ever seen a traffic jam consisting entirely of push bikes?
    There are some places where powered vehicles are a rarity and the push bike is just about the only transport. If nothing is done to reduce the reasons for congestion it won’t matter what people use eventually the system will become overburdened.
    In this modern age of NBNs ( NBN) we are supposed to be able to telecommute and why does a city have to be the only place to work?
    The idiots who decided to concentrate every thing in one place are the same ones who will decide that motorcycles don’t exist as any kind of solution and apply what are effectively higher taxes on their use just like the safety levy.

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