It's amazing that it takes a witty taxi-driver to interpret the ERP as Everyday Rob People. How this amusing taxi-driver's witticism strikes a chord with motorists depends on whether they are affluent who regard ERP charges as peanuts or they belong to the less afflluent who feel the pinch of the ERP charges. Of course, the government ministers are a class of their own as they either travel in official cars or do not give any thought to ERP charges as they are affluent enough with their obscene salaries to regard such charges as peanuts.
In June, 2008 there was a bright spark of a minister who was also the general secretary of the NTUC. He regaled an audience in a two-hour dialogue with what he thought was his ingenious driving experience of getting car beeps four to five times a day from the ERP gantries which he passed through on his way to and from work and thought nothing of it. What the audience did not realise was that he was a minister drawing a fat obscene pay and the car beeps charges probably did not come out of his pocket. The audience's laughter probably gave him a false sense of security that the audience, or for that matter the public, did not think that he was a joker.
Is the ERP system a boon or a bane? The Transport Minister, who represents the government, swears to it that it smoothens the flow of traffic where gantries have been set up. But does it? You still find traffic snarls in places like Braddell and Thomson Road gantry in front of Media Corp during peak hours. Then there is the so-called double whammy. For example, if one leaves Selegie Road and enters Orchard Road there is a 50-cent charge. But when the same person returns to Selegie Road from Bras Basah Road he incurs a $1.50 charge.
Whether the system is a boon or a bane is a moot point depending on whether it is from the government's point of view or from the motorists' point of view. Of course, It enhances the government's coffers, hence the ERP is called by some people "Everyday Rob People". It is quite widespread and not just the taxi-driver's interpretation. As to the Transport Minister's assertion that it smoothens traffic, he should listen to the uncomplimentary remarks of irate motorists.
Well, no system is perfect. So there is obviously a need for the beleaguered Transport Minister and his ebullient Land Transport Authority (LTA) to straighten out the unevenness of the ERP system. It is likely that the LTA staff have exhausted their ideas and there is nothing humiliating to invite innovative ideas from the public, with monetary incentives if necessary.