London’s congestion tax, a levy on private cars entering the central part of the city, could be scrapped altogether in the near future because it has failed to serve its purpose, according to deputy mayor of London, Richard Barnes. “People complained that earlier they used to be stuck in traffic jams. Now they complain they have to pay (congestion tax) and still remain stuck in jams,” Barnes told TOI recently. He added that a referendum in Manchester revealed that the majority was against it.
The controversial congestion tax which came into force five years ago has been keenly followed by transport experts here in Mumbai, with a section of planners wondering whether Mumbai too should implement something similar in its narrow southern end to decongest the roads.
“In the transportation world it was touted as major success. One doesn’t know why it failed in London. In Singapore, the system is working successfully,” said transport consultant Bina Balakrishnan. Singapore introduced this traffic restraint technique more than two decades ago.
According to her, some amount of `bullying’ is required-a carrot and stick policy-to keep private vehicles off the roads in busy business districts. Mumbai Transportation Support unit’s project manager, U P S Madan, said a congestion tax for Mumbai has been discussed but never been actively considered. “Only a realistic model can succeed. Our priority is to first strengthen the public transport system,” he said, adding that an attempt will be made to study why the tax failed in London.
Aneerudha Paul, director, Kamla Raheja Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies, said a congestion tax is “irrelevant” in Mumbai’s case when you have an overcrowded mass transport system. “In Delhi, for instance, the metro has bettered the city’s transport network. People are actually leaving their cars behind and taking the train,” he said.
Urban development consultant for the World Bank, Prakash Apte, said a similar tax had flopped in New York. “In the US, there is more stress on separate lanes for car pools,” he observed. In Mumbai, Apte said, public transport buses should be used more effectively downtown. Balakrishnan said parking charges in Mumbai should be linked to real estate value. “For instance, if Nariman Point commands high property values, parking fees should be made expensive there,” he suggested.
Several experts complained that the government here continues to pander to private car owners by splurging on new flyovers and bridges which BEST buses cannot use because no bus stops can be located on them. The W S Atkins report, which prepared a comprehensive plan for Mumbai in 1994, had suggested “congestion pricing”, a levy where vehicle users must pay for creating congestion.
Original article here.