30 December 2009

New tolls



Sydney and the Toll Booth

Is it me or does the toll increase every 1 January around here? When most people are out having a good time on New Year's Eve on Sydney Harbour, the state government wants to remind everyone that our money is like the beer we drink at the pub. It's only ours for a short time. Some describe it as 'on loan.' We have it for now, but it will leave us very soon. Same with our funds in our wallets. The government will have it soon enough, thank you very much.

Take the increase in the tolls. Every three months the rates can rise. They could fall. (Someone wake me up-- I was dreaming for a moment) According to the law, the rates are fixed to the CPI the Consumer Price Index.

For instance, officially, the CPI has risen 36.5 per cent in the past 10 years, but tolls on motorways have gone up by between 52 and 100 per cent during the same period. I was a mathematics teacher in my 20s, and even though the governments of the world have brought in new maths, and every student has iPods, iPhones, and computers to help gather google information, 52-100 is still much larger than 36.5. Know what I mean? So who is kidding whom?

I'm a missionary now, and yet I run a book shop, albeit non-profit in Bondi Junction for seekers and the informed. We have nearly 500 products available and we do all right. If we were not doing all right, I'd ponder, "How do I get more customers?" or "How do I attract more money/ capital for the mission?" Sensible? Sure. Maybe that's what the state government is thinking. But are they....really?

When a store like Myer or David Jones is trying to get more capital, what do they do? They have a sale! They actually discount items to attract more (long-ranged) customers and keep the loyal ones inside. Aha! Such an old idea, you would think the government would have sorted this one out long ago. But no, they tax, and punish, rather than discount. Let me explain.

It makes sense to me that when the government is trying to increase its net worth that it should actually discount the toll, drop the fees, as a means of increasing loyalty and ridership, not for a month, much like a drug dealer would hand out free drugs to get people hooked, but forever. When the Cross City Tunnel was going belly-up and needed such a bailout, the government tried this freebie, but only for a very short term. Leave the costs down. Increase ridership. Get the people using these already paid-for roads!

As it is, now that the tolls will increase again on the Lane Cove Tunnel, on the Eastern Distributor and no doubt other crossings, the government is actually punishing the very people who have been paying for this service already. Don't punish the users; bring in more users! Sensible? I think so.

Who is with me?

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