So, appropriate congestion charging is a sensible component of travel demand management.
But a flat annual fee, as proposed by the WA Government, is not a congestion charge as it is not related to to the time, place or amount of car use.
People who drive little will pay the same as those who drive a lot.
People who live in the outer suburbs and rarely drive into congested areas will pay the same as those who frequently drive in the inner city at peak times.
People on low incomes will pay the same as people on high incomes, but the surcharge will be a much larger proportion of their incomes - it will be a classic regressive charge.
One hopes that country people will not be asked to pay this surcharge, but it needs to be borne in mind that cars are not necessarily used where they are registered - especially in the case of cars leased by non-metropolitan businesses.
A congestion charge, to be effective, must reflect the time and place of use. If it does not, it will justifiably be dismissed as no more than a piece of revenue-raising opportunism.
UPDATE 4th December 2014
According to the West Australian, the WA Treasurer, Mike Nahan, has ruled out a 'congestion tax' or any increase in 'household fees'.
Apparently, however, that assurance might only apply to the mid-year Budget review. Premier Colin Barnett has said that 'how to fund road and public transport' would be part of next year's budget.
Interestingly, at a seniors' function in the City of Vincent yesterday, Minister for Seniors, Tony Simpson, ruled out any reduction in seniors concessions on council rates, utility charges and public transport fares (including free public transport in the middle of the day, weekends and public holidays).
We'll wait and see what actually happens.
SECOND UPDATE 4th December 2014
Posted by Ian Ker, Convenor, STCWA