RING TOLLS:Rekeningrijden ijm Randstat Nederland

April 12, 1999

RING TOLLS:Rekeningrijden ijm Randstat Nederland

Originally published in issue 38 of Tollroads Newsletter, which came out in Apr 1999.


Subjects:ring tolls cordon


Locations:Netherlands Holland

Sources:Harry Van der Pol

The proposal called Rekeningrijden is to toll entry into each of the four cities between 7am and 9am each morning when congestion is worst. The proposed toll points will be about 10km (6mi) from the center of each of the four cities on entry radials.

They would pay about $2.50 for crossing a toll ring using a transponder, and about $3.50 for billing by automatic license-plate photography, as on 407-ETR in Toronto.

Econometric modeling and the experience of ring tolls in Norway and Singapore indicate a prospective reduction of vehicle-km in rush hours of 10-15% and a 30-40% reduction in congestion hours. The most significant effect is expected to be a time-of-day shift of travel by motorists.

Holland with 14m people has 6m cars, and despite the romantic American intellectuals’ notion that every Dutchman rides a bicycle – a lot do but only for a short trips – most of the Dutch drive cars, like people in other prosperous countries. The move to the car is so strong that by 2010 the transport officials estimate there will be a third more (8m) cars.

Four groups are competing to supply the technology for the ring tolling. If all goes as planned by the Dutch govt – a big IF – it could be one of the world’s largest electronic toll systems, with 2m to 3m transponders in use at about 120 toll points, a system comparable to the e-toll system of New York City. The system specifications are a mix of Singapore and Toronto’s 407. All tolling will be done at full highway speed in open road conditions as in both those. Like Toronto and unlike Singapore it will cater to motorists without transponders. Like Singapore and unlike Toronto it will enable motorists to pay with a smartcard inserted in a slot in the transponder, so an account will not need to be established or bills sent for tolls.

The tolling points will require some fancy gear – vehicle detectors and trackers, profilers for classification, and highly capable short-range radio equipment and license plate cameras. Unlike Toronto which operates at 920MHz and Singapore at 2.45GHz, the Dutch ring toll will work at the CEN 5.8GHz.

The bidders are:

• Q-Free (Micro Design, Twense Kabel Brisa) Norway

• Bosch Telecom, Philips Nederland

• Siemens Nederland, Combitech

• Alcatel CGA, Nederland Haarlem

Only the Siemens-Combitech system gets away with 2 gantries per tolling point. That is because it uses an unusual stereoscopic video system with multiple functions. The other bidders all need three gantries since they need to separate license plate imaging from detection and tracking. Both front and rear have to be imaged for video-based tolls according to Dutch requirements.

American and Japanese e-toll vendors declined to participate, in part because the system has to conform to the European CEN standard for ETC, which few of them regard well.

Volunteers have been testing the bidders’ equipment on the A12 motorway at Meern. Two finalists will be chosen for more intensive testing over 12 months of testing, then one supplier will be selected to deliver an operational system before 2002.

Harry van der Pol of the Ministry of Transport in Rotterdam, a striking figure with intense eyes, chunky Breugel face and flowing hair, told us at TRB and in emails that there is a major package of transport improvements going along with the pricing – enhanced rail services, park and ride, telecommuting centers and motorway upgrades. Up to 100 lane-km of extra motorway will be built at a cost of $500m over 12 years to increase road capacity, though this will be less than the expected increase in traffic demand.

Opinion polls have shown 75 to 80% public opposition. (With a name like Rekeningrijden, who can be surprised, we thought, except that even the most beautiful women there have the ugliest names.) The government has apparently failed so far to persuade people that the benefits make the cost worthwhile. The costs are starkly seen as “five guilders” ($2.50) per trip, says van der Pol, but people find the promised benefits of a smoother quicker ride in reduced congestion difficult to believe, they have become so used to worsening traffic. He says that if the people force the government to call off the project, then this will show they don’t really care about congestion: “Pricing is the only serious idea for tackling the problem. If they don’t want to give it a try, then forget congestion. They aren’t serious about congestion, just whining.”

Van der Pol strongly supports the toll rings and says the Transp Minister Tineke Netelenbos has “been magnificent” in almost singlehandedly championing the project. He told us that at one recent televised confrontation with prominent critics she left them speechless by challenging them to “come up with a better idea” and then saying to their doubts about the payoff: “If it is not working after a year, we’ll simply discontinue it.”

Graajt Sound Bijhts

There are some Dutch critics of pricing, like those elsewhere who hold simultaneously two contradictory propositions. They say the proposed pricing (1) will have no effect on traffic volumes and won’t relieve congestion, and (2) that large numbers of people will find the toll charges unbearably high and will do business elsewhere. Somehow pricing will not deliver on the benefits of reduced traffic but, still, will impose great new costs through diverting traffic. For these guys elementary logic must never be allowed to get in the way of a great sound bite.

Some Dutch critics of the however have been arguing for a mix of toll express lanes and free lanes which would offer choice to motorists. The Dutch motorists association and some business and parliamentary critics favor a mix of toll express and free lanes rather than the ring tolls, arguing that this gives motorists a choice. There’s enormous interest in 91X, I-15/San Diego in Rotterdam. [Memo Value Pricing Nerds at Federal Hwy Admin: Consider recruitment of K. Orski & M. Replogle to spruik for ring tolls in Washington DC area, say on all roads leading into the Beltway to get our anti-pricers, AAA etc, to react with HOT lanes as soft alternative. Imagine that Billy Graham of road-gangsters Lon Anderson of AAA hot for HOT lanes!]

The Dutch Ministry of Transport’s position is that toll express lanes are not a viable substitute for ring tolls. Most Dutch motorways are only 2x2-lanes which makes if difficult to allocate a third or a quarter of the roadway capacity to toll express as proposed in the US. But Minister Netelenbos has said there may be a place for offering such a choice elsewhere in the Dutch highway system. She is interested in getting private sector proposals for HOT and toll express lanes. And van der Pol is following truck toll lanes and other pricing ideas, he says.

COMMENT: As ring tolls in Norway and Singapore have demonstrated they can make a major difference in reducing congestion, and they don’t ruin business. Indeed most places they have been implemented they seem to be helping business. Ring tolls are not some irrevocable, unalterable regime. They can be, and are tweaked and fine-tuned and adapted. They have not been a panacea, or a disaster, but a useful management tool for reducing congestion and improving roadway efficiency and comfort. Usually road improvements go along with the tolling because the pricing generates a new revenue stream to support them.

The Dutch govt has confronted pricing with a boldness few other democratic govts have shown, attempting to do half the driving population of the country in one pricing hit. It is as if the US govt proposed this for New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Wash DC and Chicago simultaneously! The conventional political advice is to take it slowly, do a small ‘demonstration project’ or two first, and hope to move to bigger things. But that gradualism hasn’t been a raging success either. The people in the demonstration project often protest: ‘Why us? We don’t want to be guinea pigs.’

Maybe if the Dutch govt needs to retreat it can compromise by implementing Rekeningrijden in one city first. Rekeningrijden ijm Utrecht has a certain guttural ring to it? (Contact Harry van der Pol 31 10 402 6435 h.vdpol@dzh.rws.minvenw.nl www.minvenw.nl/rekeningrijden)

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