Balance Between Meeting and Managing Demands

7.1 A choice is open to society as to the extent to which demands for travel should be met or managed, and the individual's preferences may not lead to the best result. The CTS-3 models are designed to forecast travel demand under the influence of assumed policy inputs. The selection of policies will have a great influence on the resulting demand, how that demand manifests itself, and hence the "need" for infrastructure to meet the demand.

7.2 The most important single variable in this context is the size of the private vehicle fleet, since this is known from experience to be manageable via fiscal measures. The commercial vehicle fleet size is much less amenable to change by fiscal measures, since the vehicles, and their trips, are needed to maintain the economy, and the cost of transport forms only a small proportion of the total production costs of goods or services. In effect, the commercial sector will track the changes in the economy, and the determination of the direction of the whole economy is beyond the scope of CTS-3. In addition, transport policy can have little effect on the other input variables that determine demand, such as population and GDP levels.

7.3 CTS-3 has examined the demand that arises from a wide range of development scenarios, as described in Chapter 2. A key element of the low, medium and high growth scenarios is the forecast fleet size. The high private vehicle fleet is that which is estimated by the Consultants to be most likely if economic growth picks up soon and continues and if no additional restraint measures are employed. The medium and low fleets imply a less booming economy and/or increasing levels of restraint. The Consultants consider that the implications of the high vehicle fleet on the need for infrastructure, and the probable deterioration in the environment, are such that it will be undesirable, and so in the long run restraint measures may be needed. However, given the current state of the regional economy, it may be some years before significant problems are encountered. Under these circumstances, the most prudent course is to monitor the increases in vehicle fleets, and the resultant increases in highway traffic, and to act firmly if the forecast problems start to manifest. This action could take the form of ownership or usage restraint.

7.4 The infrastructure plans provided by CTS-3, together with modifications resulting from subsequent review, will allow Government to handle future traffic increases. The possible restraint measures that may be used are described below.

Private Vehicle Restraint

7.5 The possible strategies for managing road use by private vehicles can be broadly subdivided into ownership restraint and usage restraint:

  • ownership restraint consists of controlling the size of the vehicle fleet and in this way restricting the number of vehicles available to use the road system; and
  • usage restraint affects how much, where and when, any given vehicle fleet is used.

Ownership restraint has been used in the CTS-3 model runs, but this does not necessarily indicate that this is the preferred option. Both of these types of restraints are discussed below, and it should be remembered that they are not necessarily exclusive, and so some combination of the two may be appropriate. In general, usage restraint has one very significant advantage in that it is a much more precise tool, attacking congestion where and when it occurs, whereas ownership restraint affects all vehicles, whether their use causes congestion or not.

7.6 The growth in licensed private vehicles is shown in Figure 7.1 from 1976 to the present, and strikingly shows the impact of the large increases of First Registration Tax (FRT) and Annual Licence Fee (ALF) which took place in the early 1980s. In 1982, FRT and ALF on private cars and motorcycles were respectively doubled and tripled, and then kept pace with inflation until 1991. However, there has been no increase since that time, and so this form of restraint on the private vehicle fleet has been increasingly less effective. As a result, the other factors that influence fleet size have caused the large growth that has been observed.

Private Vehicle Fleet

7.7 Fiscal measures to restrain private vehicle ownership have proven to be very effective in controlling private vehicle numbers in the past, and can be utilised again without radically new legislation. Many drivers consider that current conditions are acceptable, or at least tolerable, since average road speeds have been maintained over the past few years by the provision of new highway infrastructure. However, should the vehicle fleet show a trend to grow towards the higher scenarios, this would give an indication that appropriate fiscal, or other, restraints on car ownership and usage should be considered.

7.8 The chief objection to ownership restraint is that it not only restrains traffic in circumstances where this is desirable from the community's standpoint, but also in other times and places where no restraint is really necessary. Therefore, for the overall picture a finer, more precise, tool would be desirable. These tools come under the heading of usage restraint. The most precise tool would charge drivers directly for the usage of roads according to the congestion manifesting at the particular time and place, but not when there is no or little congestion. This type of tool can be implemented via electronic road pricing (ERP) and/or revised tolling strategy on the cross harbour tunnels and other major road links. Field studies have been carried out by a consultancy study commissioned by Transport Department to assess the practicality of applying the relevant technology for implementing an ERP system in Hong Kong. The merits of the ERP approach is that it follows the 'user-pays' principle, and can be tuned to achieve the best result for the community as a whole.

7.9 In general, restraint by the use of parking policy across the board is not supported by the Consultants, as this may lead to enforcement problems and congestion around car parks or on streets. Restraint should preferably act on moving traffic or fleet size instead. It is recommended that the advice of the Parking Demand Study to optimise use of existing facilities and manage the demand for these facilities, and to provide additional facilities to relieve the problems of deficits in parking facilities should still be followed. Parking restraint should only be implemented selectively on individual merits. Lower residential parking provision at developments around railway stations should be considered in view of easy accessibility to railway.

Tolling Strategy

7.10 Investigations into a preferred tolling strategy on transport grounds have shown that the benefits of a toll scheme that better balances demand with available capacity of competing tolled facilities, in particular across the harbour, are large. Ideally, revision of toll schemes for competing tolled facilities towards better balancing of demand and capacity among them should be pursued as a priority item. It is recognised that change from the present toll schemes will have potential political implications. A step has recently been taken by Government to increase the toll charge for private cars using the Cross Harbour Tunnel from $10 to $20 effective from September 1999. With a more balanced revised toll scheme the need for a 4th harbour crossing could probably be deferred until 2016 or beyond. Without such a scheme, the 4th harbour crossing may be required at an earlier date. It is recommended that the issues be revisited in due course.

Commercial Vehicle Transport

7.11 The amount of commercial vehicle transport that is required is a function of the type and strength of the general economy of Hong Kong. Over recent decades the economy has converted from being largely manufacturing to being largely service, and this has meant that freight transport has become less important, except for access to the port, and service transport has grown. However, the quantity of commercial vehicle transport is inextricably linked with the economic activity, and any attempt to reduce the overall quantity may have adverse impacts. It is not clear how quickly the volume of such trips will increase, because the direction of the economy is not clear. Therefore, it will be necessary to keep monitoring the growth in commercial vehicle trips. If they start to escalate rapidly and begin to cause undue problems to the transport system, then a study should be carried out to review the situation.

7.12 As far as the localised highway system is concerned it is possible to institute policies of banning commercial vehicles for all or part of the day. However, this will affect the types of land-use that can be accommodated in the affected areas, and Hong Kong with its mixed type of development in older urban areas offers few opportunities for alternative routes for goods vehicles to make such a policy practical. If a policy is instituted which aims to move trips from the busier hours to the less busy hours, in the evening or at night, then it must be recognised that this will impose extra costs on the community. Many of the trips are already made throughout the day, including the evening, and so if more are to be made during un-social hours the providers of the transport will need more equipment to make the same number of trips in shorter time. In addition staff will need to be present at both the origin and destination of the trips to handle the deliveries. This may also increase the noise during the normally quieter hours, which would be less desirable than during the day-time. It is considered that opportunities for the regulation and restriction of commercial vehicles are very limited, but that they could be examined further in any forthcoming district traffic studies so that the competing needs for limited road space could be examined on individual merits. Large fleet operators should be encouraged to apply fleet management measures including the use of real time vehicle positioning systems to improve efficiency and reduce unnecessary trips.

Cost-effective New Technologies

7.13 Fulfilling the need for a transport system that is both economically sound and environmentally friendly requires a new way of looking at and solving transport problems. The evolutionary development of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) demands an equally revolutionary plan for deployment. The use of ITS world-wide has been greatly accelerated through mutual co-operation of the public and private sectors. Similar co-operation is required in Hong Kong. However, unlike the state-mandated co-operation found in many countries, Hong Kong requires a voluntary commitment to co-operation that preserves the benefits of the free enterprise system while ensuring that the broad goals established by CTS-3 are met. The model for this type of co-operation is the public/private partnership, a voluntary association of public and private interests committed to the successful development and deployment of ITS.

Typical in-vehicle transponder (vehicle position device)

Typical in-vehicle transponder (vehicle position device)

7.14 By the use of increasingly powerful in-vehicle computers linked to external information sources and traffic control centres by means of modern communications, a range of solutions to improve road safety, to improve traffic management of the transport network and to provide travel information are available to make more intelligent transport decisions.

7.15 ITS provides the intelligent link between travellers, vehicles, and infrastructure. Among other services, applications identified as the worthwhile core applications will:

  • Collect and transmit information on public transport service schedules for travellers before and during their trips. Such information could be provided at public transport termini or on the Internet. A Trip Planning System can direct visitors and the public through the maze of intermodal travel routes providing them with information about the most direct and efficient means to arrive at their destination safely. In future, real time information can identify hazards and delays, which will aid travellers to change their plans to minimise inconvenience and additional strain on the system;
  • Decrease congestion by reducing the number of traffic incidents, clearing them more quickly when they occur, re-routing traffic flow around them;
  • Automatically collect tolls and parking charges through a common transponder technology;
  • Improve the productivity of commercial, public transport and special purpose fleets by using automated tracking, dispatch and weigh-in-motion systems;
  • Alleviate congestion by reducing bottlenecks through the use of traffic signal control, speed control, lane control and ramp control systems. These will help maintain constant speeds and improve the overall flow of traffic over the entire road network. Not only will this improve management and overall efficiency of the network, but it will also help reduce air pollution. (Note that the Area Traffic Control systems are already in operation in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, Tsuen Wan and Shatin); and
  • Assist drivers in reaching a desired destination with a driver information system that can be further enhanced in future with navigation systems for route guidance. Additionally these systems can help motorists select the best routes available.

7.16 The public stands to derive significant benefits from the deployment of these applications. The innovative application of advanced technologies has great potential to bring about lower costs yet enhanced transport services, and a healthier environment.  

7.17 The area in which ITS can be most effective is in "real time" applications. In situations which do not change from hour to hour or day to day, such as a rail system or ferry services, then a simple time-table will usually suffice. However, even for these systems real-time notification of the public of any exceptional change to the services would be of value. The road system is different in many ways, in that under the typically congested conditions that exist in Hong Kong, any traffic accident, even a minor one, can cause major delays to the road users.

7.18 Government is currently investigating the methods available to improve information services via a Geographic Information System based transport information system which will provide static transport information to guide motorists and, more generally, the travelling public. This system may also include information on public transport services, transfer and parking facilities, road use restrictions and other service related information. However, it is obvious that if this information were dynamic, so that for example it could give the interval to the next bus, or define current parking availability, then it would be much more useful. Government is also investigating opportunities for better management of the Strategic Road Network.

7.19 One of the most effective methods of collecting and disseminating dynamic road-based data would be through a satellite-based Vehicle Positioning System (VPS). This is one of the technologies being examined by the on-going Feasibility Study on Electronic Road Pricing. This would allow motorists to have knowledge of incidents as they occur, and so avoid the affected roads if possible. VPS would also allow bus passengers waiting at the stops to know when the next bus would arrive.

7.20 It is considered that all the above measures can have beneficial impacts on the transport system of Hong Kong, and are recommended for further study.





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