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New York to levy $23 congestion charge on drivers to reduce road traffic, should India follow?

New York City is planning to introduce a traffic congestion charge of up to $23 a day from next year in a bid to reduce road traffic Premium
New York City is planning to introduce a traffic congestion charge of up to $23 a day from next year in a bid to reduce road traffic 

  • Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Pune are among the top-21cities in the global ranking of urban congestion
  • According to World Economic Forum, cities that have implemented congestion charges have witnessed a decline in emissions and pollution caused by road traffic

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Rising traffic congestion is an inescapable condition in large and growing metropolitan areas across the world. While the peak-hour traffic congestion is an inherent result of the way modern societies operate. As a result, New York City is planning to introduce a traffic congestion charge of up to $23 a day from next year in a bid to reduce road traffic. A study claimed that the new congestion charges in New York might reduce the number of cars entering Manhattan by 15% to 20%.

Passenger vehicle drivers could pay $9 to $23 to enter at peak times, while overnight tolls could be as little as $5. New York, which has the most congested US traffic, would become the first major US city to follow London, which began a similar charge in 2003.

In London, the congestion charges are 15 pounds daily. On the other hand, a driver needs to pay $1.30 daily in Singapore as a congestion charge.

In India, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Pune are among the top-21cities in the global ranking of urban congestion. However, there are no congestion charges anywhere in India.

According to World Economic Forum, cities that have implemented congestion charges have witnessed a decline in emissions and pollution caused by road traffic. As per WEF, cities around the world are considering road pricing as part of a multi-pronged suite of solutions to improve their transport systems.

So, India should also implement congestion charges? 

Well, the Delhi government made plan to impose a congestion fee on all trips made by ride-hailing services to and from Delhi in 2020. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced Delhi Electric Vehicles Policy 2020 in which the CM spoke about the congestion fee for cab aggregators. Besides, the new vehicle policy also aimed to disincentivize the use of internal combustion engine vehicles by levying pollution cess, and an extra road tax on petrol and diesel cars, especially luxury vehicles.

At that time, an industry executive said that the congestion fee should not target cab aggregators as taxis comprise around 2% of all the vehicles plying in Delhi.

According to the Delhi Economic Survey, there were 11.4 million vehicles in the national capital, including around 200,000 taxis, in 2018-19. So experts have a common viewpoint that alone cab aggregators should not be charged congestion fees.

In the case of Mumbai, which is said to be the congestion capital of the world, a person spent an average of 85 minutes daily stuck in traffic. A 2019 survey by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) claimed that private motor vehicles (four and two-wheelers as well as OLA/ Uber taxis) that comprise just 19% of the city’s vehicular density, were the chief cause of traffic congestion in the city since they took up almost 82% of the city’s vehicular traffic space. As per the ITBP, congestion pricing could de-clog roads. But critics believe it is kind of a 'trick' or a 'looting fee'.

Originally when agencies like the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), suggested a congestion tax in Mumbai, the comments section saw several critical views.

Meanwhile, Bengaluru Traffic police have partnered with Google to reduce waiting time at traffic junctions. Google Maps will show live road closures and will also suggest alternative roads that can be navigated, Joint Commissioner of Police (traffic) B R Ravikanthe Gowda said.

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