Private vehicle users on busy roads in the city may soon have to pay a toll during peak hours by way of congestion tax. The state’s Directorate of Urban Land Transport (DULT) is considering this measure to ease traffic in heavily congested roads in the city. Congestion tax is common in western countries, and is imposed on private vehicles for causing traffic jams.
To begin with, roads such as Old Airport Road, Old Madras Road and JC Road, among others, are being considered for a pilot implementation.
V Manjula, DULT Commissioner, said a survey done between 2008 and 2011 showed that travel time has gone up and the total delay for a vehicle increased from 12 to over 30 minutes. For example, a distance that would take 20 minutes during non-peak hours took 32 minutes during peak hours in 2008. The same travel took over 50 minutes during peak hours in 2011.
At this rate, by 2030, city traffic would be moving at a speed of just 10 km per hour. “Improvements in public transport are required, but at some point, we also have to put in place travel demand measures. Congestion pricing is one of those measures,” she said.
The pricing will be fixed in such a way that commuters using private transport ‘feel the pinch’. She, however, said the DULT is yet to decide on the congestion price. “The principle is that the congestion fare plus travel cost incurred by car or two-wheeler owners should be more than the bus fare for the same route.”
She said the tax may be charged at certain times of the day such as peak hours or throughout the day on a particular road that is congested all day. Commuters can choose a different road or shift to another time category or mode of public transport, thus reducing congestion, she said.
“However, we also have to make sure that proper public transport connectivity is available,” Manjula said.
“We also have to make sure that alternate roads are available so that commuters have other options too. Also, commercial roads will be identified so that residents of a particular area are not penalised,” Manjula said.
At least seven gantries (points of collection) have been planned at various places. To ensure that traffic jams are not caused because of toll collection, DULT is looking at the option of smart cards to automatically deduct the tax. Recharge points will also be set up across the city where the smart cards can be recharged.
DULT, which has taken up the project on the direction of the Ministry of Urban Development, is still in the early stages of drafting the plan. If approved by the state government, tenders will be called by the implementing agency to put the plan in place on a build and operate model.
However, before this, the directorate is hoping for a debate on the need for congestion pricing for the city and looking forward to reactions from citizens.
London has Congestion Tax
Congestion pricing has been in force in central London for over a decade and is believed to have reduced congestion-caused delays by at least 30 per cent.
Cameras have been installed at various points in the charging zone to read the number plates of vehicles. Passengers pay the tax of 10 pounds at kiosks or online.
Other places where congestion tax is imposed include Singapore and Stockholm.