Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) came under fire in the legislature yesterday over a government plan to introduce a toll fee scheme next year that charges drivers by the number of kilometers traveled.
Mao said the scheme would reduce toll fees for long-distance travelers, while only increasing the daily charge for short-distance travelers by about the same price as a ride on a public bus or the MRT.
The current policy requires drivers on freeways to pay a fee whenever they pass through a toll booth. As toll booths on freeways are not equidistant, some motorists may never have to pay toll fees, while others may have to pay twice even when they are traveling within the same county. The new “pay-as-you-go” policy will require all motorists to pay whenever they drive on freeways.
However, lawmakers on the Transportation Committee said the new scheme would be an additional burden on freeway motorists.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said that under the new scheme, office workers would have to pay an additional NT$1,000 on their monthly commuting charges.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Ming-chen (林明溱) said the ministry should consider implementing the policy when the nation’s economy has turned for the better.
“No matter how low the rate that the ministry proposes, freeway commuters are bound to complain because many do not have to pay anything for driving on freeways now. These people would soon see their commuting costs increase,” Lin said.
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) also opposed the plan. She said the scheme would rob the poor to pay the rich, unless it gives each freeway driver a toll-free distance of between 20km and 50km per day.
DPP Legislator Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said Greater Taichung residents currently do not pay tolls when driving on Freeway No. 4. He said the ministry could consider downgrading the freeway to an expressway on which no toll is required.
In response, Mao said the ministry’s plan would grant each driver a certain toll-free travel distance, adding that freeway drivers would only start paying an average of NT$15 to NT$20 daily under the new scheme, equivalent to the basic charge on a public bus or the MRT.
Mao said he would provide a detailed presentation on the proposed rates at the meeting of Transportation Committee on Oct. 8, adding that the ministry would be cautious when calculating the rates and selecting the implementation date for the new scheme.
The ministry will propose a ladder-type pricing scheme, which will show the minimum and maximum toll fees based on the distance traveled, he said.
The rates for eTag users and non eTag users will be different as well, he said.