The effects of e-Tolling

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

While some may have rolled over and bought e-tags, judging by the majority of reports, most people are determined to fight the e-toll war to the bitter end.

If the various reports in the press are to be believed, some people have bitten the bullet, listened to the pleas from government and decided that it is useless trying to fight something which they believe they can't win.

Time will tell just how successful the e-toll initiative will actually be and to what lengths government will go in order to force the people in Gauteng to pay more for the roads they drive on. Ministers who have gone all out to defend the e-toll decision have been shouted down and interestingly, it appears, that perhaps for the first time since the end of apartheid, people from all walks of life and across the various colour lines have joined forces in an effort to stop the extremely unwelcome decision to make us pay to travel on roads that we have already paid for in the form of taxes.

There is little doubt that e-tolling is going to have a major impact on all of our lives, regardless of which province we live in. Food prices are set to soar, given that transport costs are going to escalate and it stands to reason that other roads in other parts of the country will share the same fate, if government gets things right in Gauteng.

The initiative could also impact heavily on people's decision on where to live. Commuting is a time consuming exercise in all major centres and in the past, living close to a freeway in such areas was regarded as a bonus. That could change however. Jan Davel from RealNet believes that the additional strain e-tolls are going to put on household budgets could see those who use the freeways to commute long distances to work, relocating.

“This is obviously going to be easier for tenants than homeowners, and the immediate result is likely to be a spike in demand for flats and other rental properties close to the decentralised office and industrial nodes, and in the CBDs of Johannesburg, Pretoria and other large centres in Gauteng,” he says.

Demand dictates price and for that reason there could be a very good chance that the cost of renting properties in these areas is set to climb significantly. In the same breath, one has to wonder if, given the subdued demand, the cost of renting a home in an area linked by e-tolled roads will drop.

Davel says that rental demand is also likely to strengthen in the increasingly popular areas close to public transport access points like Rea Vaya, Gautrain or Metro stations, as more people try to avoid commuting by car.

"Switching on the tolls could also cause quite a few first-time buyers to rethink their plans, but on a positive note, it is likely to speed up the rejuvenation of many inner-city areas and central suburbs by attracting new permanent residents to these areas."

He notes that many young people who work in Central Johannesburg or Pretoria are already embracing a lifestyle familiar in cities like London and New York and deciding to live in the city as well, so that just about everything they need is within walking distance or easily accessible by public transport, and they don’t need a car.

Of course, this could all become a bit of a 'storm in a teacup' and while people may be determined not to pay e-tolls, most could well roll over once e-tolls are implemented and become a way of life. Unfortunately, given the rising cost of living in this country, there are those who simply cannot afford yet another expense and will have to go to 'plan B' to simply survive. Regardless, there can be little doubt that the decision to toll existing roads in this country is going to have a major impact on all it citizens in one way or another.

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