(If you've found your way here from my article inside the Sydney Morning Herald's "debate" on congestion pricing, welcome! There's a category of articles on Sydney here, but I hope you'll poke around more widely. The "about the blog" and "about the author" are the place to start.)
In the Herald's congestion pricing debate today, I tried to make the general case, but Professor David Henscher seemed to nail the policy angle that's needed, one that would respond even to the car advocate's complaints.
Congestion pricing, if and when it happens in Sydney, needs to start by replacing other fees associated with driving, especially those that affect rural areas where there's no alternative to driving and never will be. This won't be enough to build all the public transport that Sydney needs; we ran the numbers on that last year for the Herald inquiry. But it makes both political and practical sense as a way to start.
The NRMA [Auto Club]'s line about needing better public transport before you charge for roads is one I agree with, but of course NRMA has no idea how to pay for that, nor is it really their priority. Realistically, any congestion charging scheme would need to start with the places where public transport is already abundant, which means for travel into and out of the City of Sydney. That's the one thing that seemed missing from the four articles.
I certainly objected to the punitive tone of the framing question: "Should motorists pay for the congestion they cause?" No, motorists should have the option to pay to get out of congestion.
UPDATE: By the way, One reason that the Sydney car vs transit debate is so polarized is that both have major projects in mind that require expensive tunnels. NRMA (the auto club) recently proposed that they would support turning a surface street into a "transit boulevard" if transit advocates would just support a multi-billion dollar road tunnel underneath it. I doubt there's a deal there.