Electronic Road Pricing
The Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) (Malay: Sistem Elektronik Kadar Jalan ; Chinese: 电子道路收费系统) system is an electronic toll collection scheme adopted in Singapore to manage traffic by way of road pricing, and as a usage-based taxation mechanism to complement the purchase-based Certificate of Entitlement system. The ERP was implemented by the Land Transport Authority in September 1998 to replace the Singapore Area Licensing Scheme after successfully stress-testing the system with vehicles running at high speed. Singapore was the first city in the world to implement an electronic road toll collection system for purposes of congestion pricing. The system uses open road tolling; vehicles do not stop or slow down to pay tolls.
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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.
The charge for passing through a gantry depends on the location and time, the peak hour being the most expensive. Examples include a trip from Woodlands to Raffles Place via Yishun – CTE – CBD will cost about S$15 during peak as the driver will pass about 5 gantries, whereas during lunchtime, it will cost about S$2. Foreign visitors driving foreign-registered private vehicles on priced roads, during the ERP operating hours, could choose to either rent an IU or pay a daily flat fee of S$5 regardless how many ERP gantries entered, the payment is done and information is stored by Autopass Card until the vehicle leaves Singapore. Foreign-registered commercial vehicles, however, are required to install an IU.
If a vehicle owner does not have sufficient value in their CashCard (or EZ-Link) when passing through an ERP, the owner receives a fine by post within two weeks. The violator must pay the ERP charges plus a $10 administration fee within two weeks of the notice. Online payment is allowed; listing just the Vehicle Registration Number is required. Otherwise, a penalty of S$70 is issued by registered post to the vehicle owner, which rises to S$1000, or one month in jail, if not settled within 30 days.
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.
The system has its share of problems. For example, road users pointed out that the implementation of an ERP gantry along any road simply moves the traffic somewhere else, potentially causing traffic bottlenecks along smaller roads. One instance of this is that the ERP gantry along the Central Expressway (CTE) has been said to have caused traffic to increase substantially in north-south trunk roads, such as along the Thomson Road and Serangoon Road corridors. The rising traffic prompted the LTA to add a gantry along Thomson Road, while Upper Serangoon Road's capacity was increased somewhat with the building of a new viaduct. Similarly, the ERP gantry on the East Coast Parkway's west-bound carriageway was said to have led to increased traffic on Geylang Road and Nicoll Highway, where ERP gantries were also placed subsequently. This "chasing after the jam" phenomena has led the general public to question its effectiveness.
Another example is when vehicles leaving Singapore into Malaysia are charged a fee at the Singapore Immigration Checkpoint. It is unclear to most drivers what this fee is for.
While ERP gantries on major roads and expressways have usually been implemented on the carriageway which is city-bound, major traffic congestion on the north-bound carriageway of the CTE has led to the LTA considering its implementation there, a suggestion which has been met with protests by motorists who questioned the need to pay for the time they take to go home. The LTA, sensing the displeasure, attempted to alleviate the situation by widening the road between the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) and Braddell Road in 2003, in response to public feedback which frequently attributed the jams to this congested stretch. In addition, the LTA expressed hopes that the North East MRT Line would help provide an alternative form of transport for north-eastern residents, who usually use the CTE to reach the city. The pending completion of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway in 2008 has also been cited as a solution to the almost nightly jams. There were also suggestions for the CTE to be further widened, including the construction of a viaduct, which the LTA rejected citing its infeasibility. When the jams continued to persist, the LTA finally made an announcement on 30 May 2005 that a new ERP gantry would be set up on the northbound stretch between the PIE and Braddell Road from 1 August 2005.
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, 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 advance to alert drivers about conditions ahead, and the prices being charged at that moment.
This new system integrates with the various LTA's traffic management existing systems, such as the Green Link Determining System (GLIDE), TrafficScan, Expressway Monitoring Advisory System (EMAS), Junction Electronic Eyes (J-Eyes), and the Electronic Road Pricing system. The pilot results were successful, showing overall prediction results above 85 percent of accuracy. Furthermore, when more data was available, during peak hours, average accuracy raised near or above 90 percent from 10 minutes up to 60 minutes predictions in the future.
The Land Transport Authority is also considering Global Navigation Satellite System as a technological option for a second generation ERP. LTA objective is to explore if the latest technologies available in the market today are accurate and effective enough for use as a congestion charging tool, especially taking into consideration the dense urban environment in Singapore. Implementation of such system is not expected in the short term.
Similar systems in other metropolitan areas
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 1 August 2007, after a seven-month trial period was held between 3 January 2006 and 31 July 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.
In other cities, similar systems have failed to see the green light for various reasons. For example, Hong Kong first conducted a pilot test on its Electronic Road Pricing system between 1983 and 1985 with positive results. However, public opposition against the move stalled its implementation. New studies conducted in the 1990s and the opposition towards further reclamation of the Victoria Harbour recently has led to advocates of the ERP as a possible alternative for road management.
Singapore's ERP system has inspired Jack Neo to write a film. In Money No Enough 2 (钱不够用2), the movie's starting had shown "EPR" gantries placed all around the island, making the people finally protest, and they somehow had thrown "ERP" gantries into the river. Also, the film had severe criticism about ERP, mentioning that other Heads of States get taxes in a peacable manner, while the Singaporean government "sucks in" the money.
The ERP is sometimes referred to as "Exorbitant Road Pricing" or "Everyday Rob People" by locals and taxi drivers.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Electronic Road Pricing in Singapore.|
- Road Pricing
- Congestion pricing
- Electronic toll collection
- Hong Kong Electronic Road Pricing
- Intelligent Transportation Systems
- Singapore Area Licensing Scheme
- London Congestion Charge
- Milan Area C
- Milan Ecopass
- New York congestion pricing
- San Francisco congestion pricing
- Stockholm congestion tax
- Electronic Road Pricing. Land Transport Authority (Singapore)
- . G Santo. (2005) Urban congestion charging: A comparison between London and Singapore
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|Library resources about
Electronic Road Pricing
- Land Transport Authority (Singapore): ERP
- Integrated public transport in Singapore and Hong Kong, James Luk and Piotr Olszewski, Dec 2003
- Schematic drawing of ERP system using pair of 2 gantries and 5 step detection sequence 
- TripSum @ Xeesa.com: 1st online ERP / Fuel / Taxi fare calculator to check and calculate ERP amount needed for a motorist's driving trip in Singapore
- ERP current rate and timing(Singapore)