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Exploiting our roads to get home faster

Would you pay $5 to speed past the other cars? Maybe $10? Or would you go as high as $20 to get a lane to yourself, speeding past the rest of the cars with a quick “so long, suckers” out the window?

The idea of user pays for our roads is not new, but there is a plan to take that to a whole new level, or at least move it across a lane.

New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority director Ken Dobinson has pitched the idea to implement 'High Occupancy Tolling' in the bus lanes across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The concept is simple. Pay the cash, and you too are allowed to get a 'hot ride' home.

There's logic behind it all. Bus lanes, as more than a few disgruntled motorists have observed, are fairly empty — buses aside, obviously. And it wouldn't hurt, really, if half a dozen cars every few minutes jumped into the lane for a quick trip home.

The problem is, how do you choose the lucky few? If it was up to the fashion police, it might go by colour. Monday could be washing day and red cars in the hot lane.

Or you could go by types of car. Holdens and Fords could alternate, and never the twain shall mix. It would be just like Bathurst, except it would be all over in only one lap.

Which leads us to the nickname that Dobinson has already thought of for the hot system. He's calling it the Lexus Lane, because the hot system would come at a price.

It might start off as $10 a trip. If it is popular, or too popular, just up the price and keep going up until the balance is met between the number of people wanting a quick ride and the number of people willing to pay for the deal.

It's user pays, the more you pay the more you get. For those in the dough, the idea is brilliant. Sail past the waiting cars and give the working class a wave on the way.

It would become a status symbol, like those stickers on the back of 4WDs you see driving around Brisbane, proclaiming the passengers on board to be associated with a particular rowing team. If only they also had a sticker explaining why anyone else should really care.

“Quick, honey. Don't run up the back of that BMW X5 that's clearly got pull in the GPS. Smack into the Subaru with the Baby on Board.”

The system is not just a bright idea, it's a borrowed one. A US toll road company Transurban has launched a system for a route running south out of Washington DC, which has had a 230 per cent traffic congestion increase since 1983. Under that system, the price for special privileges depends on the time of day.

It's not clear how drivers are expected to know what they'll be slugged with, but we figure it's probably like the system on Coronation Drive. Instead of arrows and crosses indicating your lanes, there'll be dollar figures at the top of each lane.

The money, incidentally, is to be funnelled back into improving the public transport system.

It's not only clever, it's also catching.

If we're willing to pay for a quick ride home, what else would we be willing to pay for?

Who hasn't, on a cold winter's morning in the past few weeks, contemplated extended their four-minute shower just by a bit? If you put your hand in your pocket you could pour your money down the drain.

What about a special carriage on the Gold Coast train that guaranteed you a seat, even at peak hour for, say, an extra $10 a pop. Or even $5 just to get in a carriage where you knew everyone was wearing deodorant. Actually, Queensland Rail could probably make a killing on that one.

Sure, it leads to a class society, and a place where the haves have more and the have nots get left behind again.

Or maybe not. Find me the motorist who has never wished that the wanker in front of them had a lane of his own.


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