SINGAPORE'S MINUTE TOLLS: SPARE A MINUTE, SAVE A BUCK

Remko Tanis • 01 November 2018

I’ve always found the ERP system, basically toll roads, to be one of the very real ways that shows the city-state of Singapore is run like a highly profitable company. Whatever can be tweaked, will be tweaked in order to maximize shareholder returns. Stay with me here…

An ERP gantry in downtown Singapore, automatically charging toll from passing vehicles. (C) Remko Tanis

ERP stands for Electronic Road Pricing, made up of a system of gantries which drivers pass under. The gantries read a box that is installed in all Singaporean vehicles, automatically charging the owner the going rate.

It’s much more sophisticated than regular toll systems like the one in France or the congestion charge in London, charging a fixed amount no matter what.

Singapore’s ERP is a minute system, like pretty much everything in the country, constantly tweaked so the roads are used at maximum efficiency at all times.

Traffic in Singapore. (C) Remko Tanis

A while ago I read in a newspaper there that the toll tariff on a short stretch of highway would be raised by fifty cents (about 30 eurocents) between 08.05am and 08.15am.

Reason: traffic on that stretch was not driving at the average speed of 27 kilometers per hour - which the authorities deemed the desired speed to guarantee maximum flow - but at a mere 23 kilometers per hour. By the way: driving at 23 kilometers per hour is enough to cross the entire country north to south in under an hour.

By raising the price a bit for ten minutes, drivers would be pressed to either get on the road earlier or later and save a bit of money.

See how detailed the pricing is being adjusted on this map, which shows the changing rates in real time:

ERP rates in Singapore. Source: Land Transport Authority of Singapore

You pay 2 Singapore Dollar (1.28 euro) between 07:05 and 08:00 when driving from the northeastern suburbs to the Central Business District. Get up a minute earlier, and you’ll pay only half.

Downtown Singapore. (C) Remko Tanis

I assume the system works for two reasons.

First, life in Singapore is expensive. Whenever there’s a chance to save some cash, by leaving 5 minutes earlier for example, people do it.

Second, if the system wouldn’t work, the government would have gotten rid of it long ago.

Great news: the latest rate review is in! People on Dunearn road, who now get charged half a dollar, will not pay anything between 08:00 and 08:30 starting 07 November! Get there at 08:31 and you’ll be down a dollar though.

Want more thrilling ERP news? Hang in there. Next review of rates is due later this month, in anticipation of the 17 November to 31 December school holiday.