Mumbai being primarily a commuter city, it is not surprising that the concept of ‘congestion tax’ evokes so much debate and dissension. Of late, we have seen the civic authorities in meetings and discussions about hiking parking rates in business hubs in the city north and south Mumbai, which is a spin off on congestion tax.
Congestion tax, simply put, is a charge for bringing your vehicle into commercial hubs in cities. It has worked in London, as fewer drivers bring their cars to commercial areas where congestion tax is levied. They use public transport instead, which was the aim of the exercise, to decongest places.
While hiking parking rates in certain places in Mumbai is not the same as congestion tax, its aim is similar to decongest certain roads of vehicles and encourage owners to use public transport. The intention is certainly noble but civic authorities may be warned that it may not give the desired decongestion results, as our public transport is not designed to withstand more influx.
Already strained to the limits, especially the railway network, car owners may still prefer to pay those charges rather than use public transport, which is impossibly crowded at peak hours. Even when in business hubs, people may still need their cars to get to points within the commercial area, as several cabbies turn down requests to ply to certain places or short distances and waiting for buses is not an option.
While authorities may have their reasons to hike parking rates and look at it as a possible solution to encourage car pooling, public transport and less traffic on certain arterial roads, there has to be a concerted effort to see that public transport keeps pace with demands.
Better trains (where are the air-conditioned trains?), more bus frequency, though the AC buses are a good introduction, whatever their problems, public transport projects need to get off the ground and see completion for decongestion to succeed.
For example, the monorail and the metro need to be completed in time and better maintenance of public transport can see more persons gravitate towards public transport. Till then, motorists will continue to struggle through traffic and endure high parking charges.