Lakhs of people travel to work and back in their cars every day in the city. Ask them to speak of their daily commute experience and the reply will be: bumper-to-bumper traffic, constant honking, and lack of parking space.
In order to ease road travel woes in Mumbai, the authorities are in the process of formulating a solution a congestion tax. Congestion tax would be levied on private vehicles in the city to reduce traffic jams, especially during peak hours. This would mainly act as a deterrent against owners using private vehicles.
The first step
The implementation of plans to reduce the clutter on the streets will begin with a hike in parking rates in the island city, western suburbs and eastern suburbs, to Rs 60 per hour, Rs 40 per hour and Rs 20 per hour respectively. Transport experts claim that this is the beginning of the introduction of ‘congestion tax’, which has been a topic of vociferous debates. “Parking is one of the biggest issues faced by this city. The very plan of revising parking fees based on the demand at a particular area, is what ‘congestion tax’ is about. Let’s see if the civic body can implement it to its fullest,” said a transport expert on condition of anonymity.
As part of its latest parking policy, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has graded pay-and-park schemes for the suburbs and the island city, with rates going up drastically. The body has further banned paid parking within 100 metres of any educational institution. Special permits have been introduced for residents’ parking on roads. This is being done to deter people from parking for long hours.
Sources said that in the second stage, the authorities plan to introduce steep parking rates in business districts like Nariman Point, Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) and other localities with commercial buildings. “Ideally, this is what should be done. We have been making presentations to the government authorities for a long time now,” said AV Shenoy, Mumbai Transport Forum (MTF), a think tank on transportation and infrastructure. MTF had earlier made presentations to the BMC in mid-November on parking spaces.
Members of the forum also claimed that parking fees were very low in Mumbai, as compared to other metropolitan cities across the world, like Hong Kong, Singapore, London and New York. MTF has further asserted in its case studies of Linking Road (Bandra), Mantralaya and other areas, the problem of double and haphazard parking. “At least 20 per cent of the public should migrate to public transport after hike in parking rates,” stated the presentation. The policy also aims to utilise malls and movie theatres for parking cars owned by residents of the surrounding areas at a minimal charge.
However, all these suggestions have received flak from certain sections of the government that feel congestion tax as a policy would be tough to execute. “There are no demarcated areas for us where we can charge private vehicles extra for parking. Should we construct a toll booth to indicate these areas? If no boundaries are defined, there are chances that private contractors will fleece people,” said a senior government official.
Even if areas are specified where vehicles will be charged extra, officials claim there are issues there are chances that motorists would park right up to the area where congestion tax isn’t levied, and from there on use public transport buses. This may cause congestion again. It remains to be seen how and when the measures to decrease congestion are actually put into action.
Rs 60/hour: Proposed parking rate per hour in the island city
Rs 40/hour: Proposed parking rate per hour in the western suburbs
Rs 20/hour: Proposed parking rate per hour in the eastern suburbs