Distributor tolls for thee
know how the Daily Telegraph was running that stuff about the
Eastern Distributor last week: the Great Motorists' Revolt -- people
jacking up over paying the toll?" Joadja asked when I went down
to the Brushtail Café for lunch.
calling it the Great U-Turn down at Holt Street, I'm told. One day they
do this warm touchy-feely advertorial lift-out by Kelvin Blissbomb,
or Blissett, or whatever, praising the thing, and a couple of days later
the editorial petrolheads are screaming for Crown Street to be reopened",
I replied, eyeing off the grilled eggplant with sun-dried tomato on
right. Well, I've been re-reading that confidential RTA report on traffic
diversion -- the one they kept out of the environmental impact statement.
It makes vvverrry interesting reading now".
in 1994, when the RTA started getting serious about the Eastern Distributor,
they decided to find out how motorists would respond to tolls. They
hired Professor David Hensher of Sydney University to do some research.
He surveyed motorists who stopped at the traffic lights at Taylor Square,
and asked them how much they were willing to pay if they saved various
amounts of time. He asked them about three levels of toll: 50 cents,
$1 and $1.50."
a dollar fifty? But the toll now is $3!" I said, torn between the
eggplant thing and the Waldorf salad.
but at that time nobody in their wildest dreams had considered that
the toll for a motorway as short as this could be anything like $3.
Anyway, what Hensher found was that there would be very serious resistance
to a toll as high as $1.50. In fact 65 per cent of private commuters
-- that's people going to work and back -- said they wouldn't pay a
$1.50 if they saved 10 minutes and 85 per cent would divert if they
only saved five minutes."
At the moment, about half of all motorists are avoiding the road."
maybe Hensher didn't get it entirely right, nobody ever does with that
sort of survey, but he was in the right ballpark. He did warn them there
would be serious resistance."
what did they do with the research?" I asked. "You'd have
to suppose they gave it to the companies who tendered for the project.
I mean, it would be pretty bad if they didn't. And if they gave it to
the tenderers, well, they knew what they were getting into, didn't they?"
that was when the toll was going to be $1.50 maximum! Things started
to slide after that and the project got bigger and bigger and more and
more expensive and the toll got to be $3. Wouldn't you think that somebody
in the RTA would have spoken up. I mean, it had all got out of hand
they were facing disaster lots of superannuation funds were going to
invest in this thing. A sure-fire winner. Infrastructure. Everyone was
being told it was a real cash cow. Do you think anybody ever warned
the Minister for Roads about this, or the Premier?"
I dunno, good question. The political implications are huge", I
I almost forgot to tell you the big news: your little mate Rodney Johnstone
-- the bloke who went to gaol over the Burwood Council affair -- he's
popped up again".
I saw him on TV. He's the campaign manager for some ex-madam called
Stormy Summers who's running for Mayor of Adelaide on a prostitutes'
rights platform. He's bleached his hair."
wish you hadn't told me that", I said. "It's too weird. People
will think I make up all this shit".
See 'Distributor troubles' and 'Itinerary of an overactivist:
The Rodney Johnstone files'.