29 February 2012

Danish State Spoils Motorists

The Danish government backed out of their election promise to create congestion charges around Copenhagen last week. It boggles the mind. The car centric mood in this country is stronger than any period since the 1960s, it seems.

To highlight this point, the Danish version of MetroXpress published this article yesterday, about a new study from an analysis institute - CASA, that shows that Danish motorists have been subsidized for many years. I've translated it here:

Petrol prices that continue to rise, high environmental taxes and the risk of a congestion ring. Motorists have felt as though they are a hunted flock that politicians would rather see taking public transport.

The fact of the matter is that the State has spoiled motorists rotten over the past 20 years.
That's the conclusion in a new report that analysis institute CASA published yesterday. It shows that motorists who drove 100 km from, for example Helsinge or Herfølge to work in Copenhagen pay 17 kroner a day for the commute. The same trip cost 67 kroner in 1990 - in 2012 kroner.

"Motorists should stop whining and recognise that they have been spoiled by the Danish parliament through the years. It has never been cheaper to drive to work as it is right now", says Senior Consultant Karl Vogt-Nielsen from CASA, to Metro Xpress.

The calculations focused on what the journey costs based on the price of petrol and tax deductions. According to Karl Vogt-Nielsen, politicians should, among other things, change the tax on petrol prices.

"Even though petrol prices have been rising, the petrol tax hasn't followed the price rises over the past ten years and therefore it's become relatively cheaper from year to year. I think the government should change that", he explains.

Petrol taxes, however, are not something the government is willing to touch.

"When you look at how high petrol prices are now, raising petrol taxes is not the right way to go", says the Social Democrat's tax spokesman Thomas Jensen.

It's not just the petrol tax and tax deductions that make it advantageous to drive to work, says the analysis institute. Since 2001, the previous government has lowered the registration tax on cars so much that they, according to CASA's calculations, missed out on 6.5 billion kroner ($1.18 billion) between 2001 to 2011. Add to that the low petrol taxes and the state could have put 10 billion ($1.8 billion) in its coffers.

"The question must be asked whether society is better served giving 10 billion kroner to motorists or to public transport, job creation or public health", says Karl Vogt-Nielsen.

The government has already written a change to the registration tax into their policy, but they they aren't placing it in the state's coffers. The money is to be divided up and used, for example, making it cheaper to buy an environmentally-friendly car.

"We have committed ourselves to making a proceeds-neutral restructuring of the registration tax, and promote the spread of environmentally-friendly cars. We have to get roughly the same amount of money into the state's coffers as we do now", says Thomas Jensen.

So, more cars is the conclusion from the current government. Wonderful.


Anonymous said...

A common misconception about the level of cycling in Denmark is that its motorists are somehow hard done by. A bit like the nonsense that the Dutch cycle because the country's flat and its cities are close together.

This shows that that is not the case. I suppose the one good thing is that despite the fact that it's getting cheaper for Danish motorists, your cycling is still increasing thanks to steady improvements including those awesome bridges over Copenhagen harbour. It goes to show that simply punishing motorists is not the way to build a cycling culture. You need a bit more than that.

Ryan said...

It's too bad they backed away from a congestion charge. IMO every city (at the very least major city) should one.
Didn't Milan just start with a trial run of a congestion charge?

Of course I say this from Canada where you see an average commute time of 80 minutes to get into Toronto daily, and even considering a congestion charge would be political suicide.

After all the first (and only) thing Toronto's mayor has done was remove to the $60 per year vehicle registration tax, ending the 'war on cars' while creating one with bikes, pedestrians and transit.

Paul M said...

A congestion charge is a much fairer solution than fuel taxes - or at least it would be here in the UK.

Thanks to our evolution into a car-dependent culture, public transport is no longer financially viable and can only operate with subsidy. This is especially true in rural areas. There has always been pressure to cut subsidies to local buses but in the current climate that pressure is almost irresistible. Meanwhile wealthy car-owners in my stockbroker-belt small town are howling in outrage over plans to introduce charges for parking on-street around the shopping areas which are very well served by (paying) offstreet car parks or near the railway station where the paying provision is not adequate but of course it is the street which fills up first because it is "free". Many of these whiners are themselves residents, in other words they live within a confortable walking distance (this is a *small* town) but are too lazy to walk.

The county highways department is obliged to plough back any surplus from parking charges into transport projects, in other words the modest amounts to be demanded from these recalcitrant motorists could keep a rural bus service running, but that isn't about to happen if these affluent car owners have anything to do with it.

Back to congestion charge - if you tell a rural dweller, probably a poor one, that you are not going to give her a bus service,m and you ae not going to make the roads safe for him to cycle on, it really is oppressive to price them out of using a car as well. Charging for use of a road which is well-served by public transport and cycle paths on the other hand seems entirely fair.

Or of course you can attack it another way - rack up the price of parking in the city centres, and treat free workplace parking as a heavily taxed employment benefit. That was contemplated here, briefly, but of course quickly got killed off.

hamburgize.com said...

@ anonymous:

As far as I know cycling increases in Denmark only in Copenhagen, Odense and maybe the one or other city, but not in the Danish average.

More . . .

Maybe Mikael can correct me if I am wrong ;-)


Anonymous said...

The fact that vehicle registration tax has been lowered, has in my opinion nothing to say. As of now, when you buy a car in Denmark, you are charged the price of the car AND 180% of that extra.

The reason that the congestion charge didnt go through, was because the Social demokrat party, had basically 30% of its voters, in cities right around the congestion charge "ring". Dumb move...

Gas prices are high compared to the USA (which has really low gas price), in Denmark, $7/gallon is considered cheap.

I personally think that the congestion charge was the new governments only good idea, and they couldn't complete it because they screwed it up by placement, and PR.

and today, the government announced lowering the prices of the public transportation.

Alo Klima said...

Instead of just making comments and trying to look smart... why can't we look to implement Denmark's bicycle culture to our own? I am driving 60 miles to work every day, it might not be the best solution for me... but might be a solution for you, my neighbor or thousands other :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think, congestion charge is a very good idea. Parking space policy could be much better way of limiting number of cars in our cities, what do you think?