The Ministry of Urban Development (MUD), in a bid to reduce traffic during peak hours, has written to the chief secretaries of states to introduce ‘congestion charge’ in cities.
The concept of congestion charge, although relatively unknown in India, has been effectively implemented in cities like London, New York, Milan and Singapore. Levying of this charge would mean that vehicles driven into congested areas of a city would have to pay an entry fee or heavy parking charges. The congestion charge would deter people from taking private vehicles to congested areas of cities and encourage them to use public transport. This would result in lesser number of vehicles on roads.
The letter written by MUD secretary Sudhir Krishna states: “Now-a-days mobility in our cities, either big or medium, is a huge challenge due to congestion during peak hours, which is mainly due to excessive use of private vehicles. There is a need to resolve the congestion issues urgently for improving mobility of the people.”
The problem of congestion may be partly resolved by adopting Transport Demand Management (TDM) strategies to ensure that the economic development of our cities is decoupled from excessive motorization by encouraging investments in sustainable transports like public transport, cycling and walking, the letter read.
Due to the demographic, business and archaeological compulsions in certain areas in the cities, de-congesting is a tough process, Krishna added in the letter.
The letter was sent along with case studies of London and Singapore, which show impressive results.
With the levying of the charge, traffic in Central London went down by about 21 per cent and the traffic speed went up by about 10 per cent.
The MUD’s letter suggested a manual permit/ coupon system, as was done in Singapore, when it first introduced congestion pricing. London uses automatic number plate recognition cameras at entry sites around the core areas of the city to record the vehicles. Those incurring the charge then pay it online, through mobiles or at specific stores and those failing to pay the charge get fined, the MUD said.
There is a need to discourage use of private vehicles in the core areas of cities so that people can reach offices, workplaces and business centres in time.
This can be achieved by proper TDM and consequent levying of congestion charges on the vehicles entering the specified zone. The congestion pricing is premised on a basic concept -- “charge a price in order to allocate a scarce resource to its most valuable use” the letter read.