電子道路收費是德政嗎?

電子道路收費問題的徵結在於道路產權並非私有,若然向道路使用者徵收的費用,最後亦只會收歸庫房,變相向市民徵收路稅,並不符合自由的經濟原則。政府一直以來奉行「大市場,小政府」的經濟原則,最理想的做法當然就是把道路承包出去,在產權私有、自由定價、市場主導的法則下達乎經濟效益,一舉多得。

六月初政府大力打擊非法泊車,經過一星期行動,發出逾四萬張告票,路上交通亦明顯有所改善。從不同渠道見到,有不少司機投訴,說自己怕食「牛肉乾」,整個星期一直心驚膽跳。

以嚴刑峻法去處理表明的問題,結果只是治標不治本,效果不可能持久地。其實,中區交通擠塞問題由來以久,最主要原因是城市規劃有欠完善。根據運輸署的資料顯示,現時中環區內的公共停車場有三個,分別位於大會堂、愛丁堡廣場和美利道,惟不少司機卻需要在干諾道中、德輔道中和皇后大道中一帶暫泊。畢竟中環人多路窄,而且部分商鋪坐落斜坡上,對行人和司機來說,都是危機四伏。

正如世界各地的大城市,中西區作為香港核心商業地帶,一定會面對交通上的挑戰。對其他道路使用者,尚且可透過各種誘因去促使他們轉乘其他交通公具。可是司機卻無可避免地要使用中環最核心地段的道面。要改變司機們的行為,就只能提供比平常更大的誘因,政府需推行一勞永逸的全面政策方案。

早前政府提出在中區試行電子道路收費,表面上自由市場信徒看到電子道路收費系統應該覺得要支持吧?但其實亦不以為然,電子道路收費問題的徵結在於道路產權並非私有,若然向道路使用者徵收的費用,最後亦只會收歸庫房,變相向市民徵收路稅,並不符合自由的經濟原則。政府一直以來奉行「大市場,小政府」的經濟原則,最理想的做法當然就是把道路承包出去,在產權私有、自由定價、市場主導的法則下達乎經濟效益,一舉多得。我雖明白亦贊成解決中環交通問題,對社會整體有莫大脾益,但這並不代表嚴刑峻法或者寓禁於徵是最終答案。

另一個棘手問題是應否向商業登記車輛提供任何車輛豁免。不給予商業登記車輛豁免,將會對中區的商戶造成極大影響。可是若然商業登記車輛有豁免,又難免引起公平的爭議。香港社會已經有太多爭議,我不認為值得因為這個問題製造更多嘈音。

我絕對支持政府正視中西區規劃問題,畢竟中環的交通問題除了影響民生,還影響了整個香港的經濟發展,要長遠維持香港的核心價值,需要與社會各持份人士溝通,共同制定一個更完善的交通規劃。

以現時的情況,在中環另闢空間興建停車場和上落貨區,殊不容易。但辦法總比困難多。以日本和台灣為例,部分地區採用立體停車場系統,利用地下的空間停泊車輛。政府可否在這方面作深入研究,在規劃容許商業區的建築有更恰當的停車及上落客空間?又或者,我們是否應該重新檢視中環街市地段的使用問題?

社會問題,越是由來以久的,就越不容易找到一個速成的解決辦法。像建議中的電子道路收費,想法太簡化,太單純。社會政策的制定需要有遠見之餘也要「接地氣」,否則這個城市既不和諧,亦難有發展。

Hong Kong Students For Liberty
(原文刊於香港獨立媒體網頁)

優質的士可行嗎?

交通行業最大的挑戰,一直是繁忙時間短,而且永遠不夠車;無論是巴士、專線小巴等,都是依靠繁忙時間的生意,來「拉上補下」;優質的士將會面對的,卻是一個完全沒有靈活性的制度--公司必須全職聘請司機,而繁忙時間需要的司機數量,與非繁忙時間是差天共地的 […] 這種經濟模式,除非收取高昂的費用,是難以維持的,更無法提供誘因,去令「做又三十六,唔做又三十六」的司機改善服務態度。

Source: eefeewahfah @flickr


特區政府打算推出「優質的士」服務,打算讓三至五間公司,推行「優質的士」互相競爭,而這些「優質的士」的司機,則不是以自由身租車或擁車,而是受聘於這些新公司,服到業界的強裂反對,不但令的士牌價下跌,甚至會令普通的士淪為「劣質的士」。

或許「優質的士」的唯一作用,就是打破目前的士業界的壟斷,搶走普通的士的「有錢客」的生意,令的士牌價不斷下跌,再變相令的士車租降低;然而從一般市民的角度看,對這種所謂「優質」的服務極大保留,甚至質疑這種「換湯不換藥」的制度,不但無助於改善其他「普通的士」的服務,甚至對這個「優質」是否能夠和 UBER等競爭,亦甚有保留。

UBER成功的要訣,是透過程式與管理,令優質的司機可以進一步載客;UBER首先是透過數量的優勢,再加上豐厚的獎金,而來達到目的;另一方面,在2008年特區政府透過「短加長減」打擊八折的士之前,一堆在自由市場自行組成的車隊,即透過簡單的電召與廉價,以「八折的士」同樣搶佔了有價值的長途客市場,因此這些成功的例子,都是透過 1. 司機行內的競爭 2. 價格的優勢。

然而特區政府現今推出的「優質的士」服務,首先就把自僱的司機,變成了受聘;其最大的問題,即令司機失去搶客的動力;而由於「優質」牌照有限,三至五間公司本身的限制,也令車隊失去了「八折的士」擴充的方便與廣開客源的市場。

交通行業最大的挑戰,一直是繁忙時間短,而且永遠不夠車;無論是巴士、專線小巴等,都是依靠繁忙時間的生意,來「拉上補下」;優質的士將會面對的,卻是一個完全沒有靈活性的制度--公司必須全職聘請司機,而繁忙時間需要的司機數量,與非繁忙時間是差天共地的;以三間公司瓜分六百個牌為例,繁忙時間200架車將會滿載,而非繁忙時間將會大量在街上等客,這種經濟模式,除非收取高昂的費用,是難以維持的,更無法提供誘因,去令「做又三十六,唔做又三十六」的司機改善服務態度。

另一方面,UBER Black 保持私家車的外表,可以令人似擁有私人司機的服務;乘坐優質的士,誰都知這仍然是一架的士,因此根本無法令乘客願意付出更多的車費;在繁忙時間缺乏車輛時,優質的士當然能搶得到客,但在非繁忙時間呢?為何不坐九折的士?或者索性坐 UBER?「優質的士」在非繁忙時間不減價,根本缺乏競爭力。

林忌
(原文載於全民媒體網頁)

Increasing light bus seating capacity won’t strengthen public transport

We believe that the focus of the discussion should not be on whether the PLB seating capacity should be increased, or whether 20 or 19 seats is more suitable; rather, we should focus on solving the long-standing issue of how to improve coordination between various public transport modes, and fitting PLB into the smaller markets as they are supposed to.

Public transport in Hong Kong needs a better rethink than just increasing the seating capacity of public light buses. Mismatch between public transport modes should be addressed with great urgency.


After a quarter of a century, the government is reconsidering increase of public light bus (PLB) seating capacity from 16 to 19 seats in order to alleviate the shortage of PLB services. The proposal is the result of the “Public Transport Strategy Study (PTSS) – Role and Positioning Review” for PLB, part of a government study to review the role of various public transport modes to respond to public’s concern on the over-reliance on railway.

The idea was suggested by the PLB trade union in recent years and gained overwhelming support from local politicians and opinion leaders. But given the complicated planning process and ownership of the public transport system, we hold the view that such approach to solving public transport problem is short-sighted and unsustainable.

PLB is one of the main public transport modes, carrying around 1.8 million passengers daily, accounting for about 15% of the public transport market, alongside franchised buses, non-franchised buses, and taxi services. On the surface, these modes differ only in capacity, routing, and rate of charge. However, they are treated much differently in terms of licensing, route planning, and government monitoring. Such differential treatment undercuts holistic transport planning and coordination.

For example, the operating licenses for taxis and PLB were issued or auctioned by the government and owned by individuals (or companies) with no limit of effective period – each license worth five to seven million dollars in the public market. Thus, any change of policy regarding these transport modes, such as a change in the overall number of vehicles (that of PLB has been capped at 4,350 since 1976), would affect the value of the licenses. So is an increase in the seating capacity of PLB.

Some of the major PLB operators foresaw the change in PLB seating capacity and introduced vehicles with longer chassis, which can fit in 16 seats, and can be easily converted into a 20-seat vehicle as soon as such conversion is made legal. Apart from a genuine need for a change, it was also part of the industry’s advocacy for greater seating capacity.

From an investment point of view, greater seating capacity enhances the speculation value of the license as well as the vehicle. The problem with promoting the value of PLB licenses, though, is that it will further perpetuate the fragmentation of the public transport market, hindering coordination across different transport modes. It is to our dissatisfaction that the government has not addressed this issue in the proposal.

Besides, PLB and franchised bus services are planned separately – franchised bus routes are planned more comprehensively in each district and are approved by local district councils. Meanwhile, PLB routes are planned more sporadically and only a limited number of local representatives are consulted in the process. Such arrangement was considered reasonable in the past given PLB’s supportive role to serve smaller communities with lower demand and areas with road design constraints. But as time went by, many PLB routes have grown into “main lines” in the area, pushing out its franchised bus rivals. The results are long queues of passengers during peak hours, traffic congestion as increased number of small vehicles requires more road space, and aggressive driving behaviour such as speeding and illegal disembarking outside of designated areas.

We argue that while the proposed increase of seating capacity might slightly reduce the capacity pressure on busy PLB routes, it will further cause PLB to deviate from their original purpose, which is to serve only low-demand markets. It fails to address the mismatch between passenger demand and vehicle capacity on these routes. The proposal does little to alleviate road congestion or nurture safe driving behaviour among PLB drivers.

Taking a closer look at the proposal, the government’s argument is hardly convincing. For instance, it claims that with increased capacity, the proportion of routes with passengers left waiting at the terminus for another PLB during peak hours would be reduced from 70% to 40%, and the number of routes with more than 10 minutes of waiting time would be reduced from 28 to 6.

However, even from a layman’s experience, these metrics are inappropriate. It is very common for a PLB queue to exceed 16 people. As each PLB cannot take more than 16 passengers, the rest will have to board another PLB. However, queue length does not necessarily imply intolerable waiting time; also, setting the threshold of waiting time at 10 minutes sounds arbitrary. It begs for more detailed study methodology which its results would better facilitate public discourse.

On top of that, the government has also acknowledged that a number of new railway lines will open soon, namely the Kwun Tong Line Extension and South Island Line in 2016, East-West Line in 2019, and North-South Line in 2021. These new railway lines will replace a substantial proportion of road-based public transport. Last year, as West Island Line began operation, some PLB routes have become almost obsolete.

More PLB feeder services will be needed for the new railway lines, but some “main line” PLB routes will be cancelled, truncated or merged, thereby releasing PLB capacity for the new feeder routes. The proposal does not indicate whether the government-hired consultancy has taken into account the impact of railway development on passenger demand for PLB. We suspect that it has not.

We believe that the focus of the discussion should not be on whether the PLB seating capacity should be increased, or whether 20 or 19 seats is more suitable; rather, we should focus on solving the long-standing issue of how to improve coordination between various public transport modes, and fitting PLB into the smaller markets as they are supposed to.

The idea to cope with increased demand for PLB services by increasing the number of seats per PLB is unsound. Logically, it would be more sustainable to “promote” routes with increased demand from PLB to larger vehicles, and “reduce” routes with lower demand to PLB routes. According to the government’s data, about 10% of green minibuses runs at a headway of less than 2 minutes during peak hours. Having single decker buses of 80-passenger capacity (seating plus standee) to run on these routes instead would result in a headway of 10 minutes, saving a lot of road space and pollution. From PLB operators’ point of view, why would PLB operators not be allowed to operate on single or even double decker buses if demand for their services has grown? All in all, there are many other more sensible solutions which should not be carelessly dismissed in public discourse.

We urge the government to address the public transport problem at its source and should not circumvent the dire need of a wider market reform that will benefit both the PLB operators and the society at large in longer term. We should avoid reinforcing the anomaly of the market, or worse, perpetuating the problem.

Sensible Transport
(原文刊登於 Harbour Times 網頁)

ERP 一定得?

大家諗吓喺灣仔出現ERP閘口,就知會有幾膠,如果ERP出現喺軒尼詩道、告士打道、中環-灣仔繞道,大家可以想像到之後皇后大道東、堅尼地道、駱克道、謝斐道等全部都係車,情況仲膠仲混亂。而羅便臣道、堅道、般含道變成ERP迴避道路嘅話,根本想像唔到。

雖然香港膠府同倫敦膠府都向新加坡學習,搞ERP,但新加坡人係好憎ERP,由新加坡呢間果汁店用ERP嚟玩膠,反映咗出嚟。

ERP Avoidance,幾乎係新加坡人嘅駕駛常識,新加坡好多人都有裝Galactio SG呢個App,呢個App最為新加坡度身訂造嘅地方在於,除咗避塞車,仲會度一個經過最少ERP閘道路線。而ERP迴避行為嘅結果,就係新加坡嘅交通擠塞充滿不可預測性,同埋唔應該塞車嘅橫街窄巷,或唔順路有車流地方,都會塞車,因為大家寧願俾多啲油錢同時間,都唔想俾ERP費用。

新加坡係一個無乜山嘅國家,ERP迴避行為雖然都會令交通好膠,但至少你避到ERP,未必造成大問題。但香港呢?

大家諗吓喺灣仔出現ERP閘口,就知會有幾膠,如果ERP出現喺軒尼詩道、告士打道、中環-灣仔繞道,大家可以想像到之後皇后大道東、堅尼地道、駱克道、謝斐道等全部都係車,情況仲膠仲混亂。而羅便臣道、堅道、般含道變成ERP迴避道路嘅話,根本想像唔到。

所以我奉勸張炳良,如果唔想全民問候你娘親,最好咪玩ERP。當然新加坡諗住玩GPS based ERP,呢個會造成另一個問題,之後再談。

黃世澤 Martin Oei

(文章刊載於黃世澤 Martin Oei 網誌專頁)

電子道路收費必然失敗

特區政府這八年來在交通政策的錯誤,早已證明政府的研究方法全錯,解決方法更錯,偏偏一錯再錯之下,沒有任何一位官員要負責,而且繼續把錯的政策堅持到底;因此「電子道路收費」這計劃,將肯定無法解決中環塞車的問題,如局長張炳良如堅持到底,必須為此政策的失敗,負上全面的責任。

香港的交通警察,於六月舉行多次針對違例泊車、在禁區路段上落客及貨物,以至停車等候的執法行動,特別是塞車的重災區中環;可是記者於市民皆發現,特區警察的「特別行動」只是有如「曇花一現」,雷聲大雨點小,只維持不到短短時間就散去,於是違例泊車立即死灰復燃去而復反。

這就是香港交通問題的死結,即政府的執法只限極短時間,因此車輛長期違法,也不會經常遇到執法隊伍,於是無論是上落貨的貨車,或俗稱為「老闆車」,以全職聘請司機的私家車,即可以低廉的價錢,甚至慳回泊車的費用,在中環的禁區胡亂泊車,而多數不會遇到任何的阻止或懲罰,因此塞車問題一直都無法改善。

p6IMG_20160602_150155-700x525

事實上普通法國家如英國、愛爾蘭、加拿大以至澳洲,都有專門招聘的「泊車執行者」 (Parking Enforcement Officer),香港當然亦有設交通督導員,然而數量上卻遠遠不成比例;根據2016年1月20日運輸及房屋局於立法會答議員的的回應,直至2015年底,全香港竟然只有281個交通督導員,去應付全港幾十萬架車,這完全不成比例,與倫敦在繁忙時間特別是繁忙地段,幾乎違例泊車不到幾分鐘,就必然有人前來抄牌遠遠不如。

中環塞車問題有一特別的起因,是由於中環泊車位嚴重不足,令泊車費貴絕全香港;由於中環是香港最核心的商業區,大量高薪與老闆,都紛紛改聘司機來駕駛私家車;然而比起自行駕車,司機駕車不但可以避過高昂的泊車費,更可以安排往返接受其他人,因此中環的路邊,長期滿佈這些「老闆車」,嚴重影響交通的暢順。

當街上出現一架違例泊車,就等如令道路少一條可行的行車線,這才是令交通擠塞的元兇;每次票控違例泊車,可判罰$320元,而每十五分鐘可抄一張,每日上限四張,則可達$1280元;然而特區政府一方面認為票控違例泊車「阻嚇力不足」,認為每次$320的懲罰無力阻嚇令交通擠塞的違例泊車行為,卻認為每次數十元的的電子道路收費,可減少塞車問題,這是完全不乎現實的估計。

當「老闆車」司機可透過胡亂泊車,來慳回每小時幾十元的泊車費之後,又何懼電子道路收費呢?事實上外國的例子如倫敦,早已證明電子道路收費只能短暫減少車輛數字,很快數字上就會回復到收費之前的水平,偏偏特區政府不針對「老闆車」,以及大量的貨車上落貨問題,卻幻想電子道路收費,可以令在中環用車的人,改為不用汽車,這是完全脫離現實的政策,有如政府用幾年時間辯論強制立法停車熄匙,最終法例通過之後,車輛照樣不停車熄匙,而且至今仍然是零宗檢控個案一樣。

p6-IMG_20160602_151454-525x700

政府這種以荒謬政策誤導公眾作風,可從這幾年對解決三條隧道擠塞的政策得知;早在2007年本人與不少時事評論員,早已於報章提出要求興建第四條海底隧道,以解決海底隧道塞車的樽頸問題,特區政府推說以三條現有隧道分流即可解決問題,甚至於2008年斥資7百萬聘顧問公司,研究方法去改善三條隧道的流量;至2010年公佈初步研究,至2013年公佈三個方案,建議東隧減價,舊隧加價的方針,至2014年卻又才突然發配東隧早已飽和,宣佈擱置所有分流計劃;至今年2016年則公佈,8月收回東隧專營權時,將不會改變任何收費。

特區政府這八年來在交通政策的錯誤,早已證明政府的研究方法全錯,解決方法更錯,偏偏一錯再錯之下,沒有任何一位官員要負責,而且繼續把錯的政策堅持到底;因此「電子道路收費」這計劃,將肯定無法解決中環塞車的問題,如局長張炳良如堅持到底,必須為此政策的失敗,負上全面的責任。

林忌

(原文刊登於Harbour Times 網頁)

利字當頭:誠哥撐加稅的背後

「不論貧富」增加利得稅,恐怕只會令社會中層一群負擔增加最大,正如中環實施電子道路收費,最終也是由中環覓食一族負擔了額外開支。說到底,增加社會上流不是靠財富轉移,正如處理交通問題,最終要靠疏導,而不是一味只知道寓禁於徵。

我從不懷疑李嘉誠對香港的良好願望。所以當他說不介意加一至兩個巴仙的利得稅,作為紓緩貧富懸殊的措施,我信他是真心的。不過,大家要知,李嘉誠也有提到,抽稅需要公平進行,不可只針對富人。這一點我也明白。所謂的累進利得稅,在技術上有很大困難。因為企業可以為減低稅率,透過成立子公司,將盈利攤分。千祈不要低估企業為了省下幾個巴仙利得稅而作出的複雜行為。
在競爭的環境下,尤其是資本回報率極低的環境下,那幾個巴仙的差別,已經可以令一間企業由能夠立足市場,變成無人問津的公司。話說回頭,增加利得稅以減貧富差別的想法,卻令到我聯想到今時今日中環的一個現象。

話說,今年初政府提到構想在中環推出電子道路收費,這個建議沒有幾個人討論過;就算有,也有人說要是此舉可以減少「老闆車」對中區構成的交通擠塞問題。我想,持有這種想法的人,或許思想太過單純。要知道,在中環的車輛,除了「老闆車」,還有不少貨車、搵食車;中環,亦不是社會棟樑心目中超級富豪的地盤。事實上,整個中環生態圈,因為有齊七十二行眾生平等,貨車、搵食車服務的各類街舖,客戶就是我們這些中環覓食一族;增加了這些店舖的成本,最終肯定負擔最大的卻不是想像中的大老闆。
「不論貧富」增加利得稅,恐怕只會令社會中層一群負擔增加最大,正如中環實施電子道路收費,最終也是由中環覓食一族負擔了額外開支。說到底,增加社會上流不是靠財富轉移,正如處理交通問題,最終要靠疏導,而不是一味只知道寓禁於徵。

利世民