The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has announced the shift to a distance-based Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charging system starting 2020. The satellite-based system that tracks vehicles islandwide will replace our current ERP system, which works on a fixed-location charging system, supported by approximately 80 ERP gantries. Next year, the operation to replace existing ERP In-Vehicle Units (IUs) with new On-board Units (OBUs) will commence.
Original Featured Image: LTA
Why implement a new ERP system?
Introduced in 1998, the current ERP system has been around for around two decades. In 2014, then-Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew announced in parliament that the annual operating and maintenance cost of the system had increased by 80 per cent over the past decade. Hence, the lifespan of existing physical infrastructure is one of the key reasons cited by the government.
New ERP On-Board Units
With the new system, existing ERP IUs will be replaced with new OBUs. While there are no official photos of the OBUs released, images of prototypes circulating online have sparked a debate. Some have likened the OBU to a taxi meter, while others have shunned it for its bulk that may block the driver’s view. However, it is fair to allow leeway for improvement since the device is still a work-in-progress.
Functions of the ERP On-board Units
The discussion on its aesthetic qualities aside, motorists can expect the OBU to serve useful functions. Utilising a touch screen, its features include: informing drivers of priced roads in advance, real-time traffic updates and roadside parking without a need for the traditional paper coupon.
Distance-based ERP Charges
The key difference between the new and existing system is the calculation of charges. While the existing system charges a flat rate when one enters a traffic populated area, the new satellite will track vehicles on the road to charge motorists based on distance. Gone are the days of illegal u-turning before ERP gantries to evade the ERP charges.
Real-time Traffic Feed
There are many factors on the road that can affect the time schedule of a driver on the road. For instance, volume of traffic, accidents and events leading to road closure. Capturing real-time data allows drivers to make prompt decisions to reduce time on the roads. The action of self-diversion from an impacted area alleviates the issue of traffic congestion.
The days of running from summon aunties are over. With this new satellite system, motorists pay for street parking through the OBU. While the downside is the inability to evade parking fees, exemplary law-abiding citizens can look forward to a hassle-free parking experience. In time to come, buying of paper coupons and scrutinizing the tiny print will become a memory of the past.
Transition to new ERP system
The new system will be rolled out progressively. During the 18-month transition period, motorists can visit vehicle inspection centers and selected workshops to make the free-of-charge switch to the new OBUs. Meanwhile, LTA has clarified that the new ERP system will co-exist with the existing ERP gantry system in the period of transition . With close to one million vehicles in Singapore, one can expect that the change will not happen overnight. It is estimated to span over a year.
All in all, how does this change affect the common man? Firstly, frequent road users that clock high mileages such as taxi and private hire drivers and delivery services are likely to be impacted most. This group can anticipate higher charges incurred. In addition, a motorist on the road will become increasingly reliant on the OBU. In the case where the system malfunctions or undergoes maintenance, chaos is expected. Lastly, some have voiced concerns on personal privacy – does this mean the government will be tracking our every move? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!