When the CBD (Central Business District) system was first introduced to relieve traffic congestion, a lawyer argued successfully in court that it was illegal to charge motorists for usage of roads for which they are already paying road tax. No matter, the government simply passed a new law to make it legal. For speaking up to protect the interest of the common people, the lawyer's career path had to take a slight detour.
The much maligned Electronic Road Pricing system never really worked in that heavy traffic was simply diverted to other roads, afflicting other routes with the congestion it was supposed to prevent. You still get to be late for work, appointments, or sales calls. But the ugly gantries continue to be erected, harvesting handsome sums for the tax collectors.
The Land Transport Authority announced that will fund 4 parties with $1 million each "to design, develop and demonstrate technological solutions" for a new system to charge motorists not only for where they travel to, but also for the distances they clock getting there. In other words, pay as you drive. Notice that in the stated objectives, there is no mention of making car ownership more affordable.
In Singapore, the invasive nature of knowing where you have been at certain hours of the day or night is something we are used to, although other enlightened countries might find that reason enough to kill the initiative. Instead of the visible iconic blue-and-white gantries to warn you of the daylight robbery ahead, the proposed innovation will have "soft" zones, which presence is detected only by a new in-vehicle unit (IU). Since satellite signals, such as those used by space-based global navigation satellite GPS receivers, cannot be used because of tunnels and "urban canyons", the positioning data will have to be transmitted using A-GPS. Meaning, motorists will have to subscribe to one of those pricey data plans marketedd by the ISPs. Good time to invest in telecoms shares.
Not too long ago, tempers flared when commuters discovered that the new-fangled distance-based fares ended up to be a disguised hike in transportation charges. Raymond Lim may be soon forgotten, but he won't ever be forgiven for that duplicity. So will this satellite tracking system be a repeat of history, another Everyday-Rob-People exercise? Suffice to say, it is no coincidence that the new guy in charge has a moniker that sounds like Ptui! Tuck Yew!