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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Congestion fee will free up roads, panel tells HC

Acongestion charge to restrict the number of vehicles in Mumbai to tackle its traffic problems is one of the top recommendations of a high-powered committee appointedon theinstructionsof theBombayhighcourt. The panel submitted a 51-point action plan before a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Anoop Mohta on Wednesday. 

    The11-member panel,headedby additionalchief secretary (home)AmitabhRajan,hastwo ideas for imposing the congestion levy. One, a congestion chargeto restrictthe number of vehicles in certain areas, including the city's central business districts, and two, congestion pricing on certain goods in selectzones.Together,thesetwo measures "could be a possible solution for reducing vehicle density on congested roads", the panelsaid,suggesting a twoto-three-year timeframe for the introduction of congestion charges. 
    The panel has also recommended the imposition of "a sizable amount of cess on the consumption of petrol and diesel for cars in Mumbai city or the metropolitan region, and utilizing the proceeds for the improvement and strengthening of the public transport system". 
    Congestion pricing wasfirst introduced in Singapore in 1975, followed by Rome in 2001, London in 2003, Stockholm in 2007 and Milan in 2008. The system has reportedly reduced traffic on the roads of those cities by 10-30% and brought down air pollution. 
    Over a decade ago, another HC-appointed panel—the V M Lal committee—recommended introducing a traffic restraining scheme in Mumbai. The state shot down the idea as impractical; a PIL on the issue is pending before the high court. As of March 2012, Mumbai has over 20 lakh vehicles on its roads, with 450 new vehicles being added every day. The Rajan 
panel has diagnosed a range of contributing factors, including inadequate staffing of the traffic police, a lackof proper equipments, encroachment on roads and pavements, illegal parking, poor signage and marking on roads, pedestrians using the carriageway, improper parking by private andschoolbuses andmovementof BESTbuses. 
    Its recommendations include restricted registration of new vehicles, more traffic police manpower, automated signals, improved driving tests, an e-challan system, clearing roads of encroachment, laying footpaths and reforming the parking policy. 
COMMITTEE'S CONCERNS 
CONGESTION CHARGE | On vehicles entering select areas and business districts. Cess on petrol and diesel 
INTELLIGENT TRANSPORT SYSTEM | Automated traffic signals. Travel time information system near Mantralaya, and on Sion/ Panvel highway, Kandivali Link Road and airport corridors 
RESTRICTED REGISTRATION | 
Of all new vehicles in Mumbai 
HI-TECH MEASURES | 
Getting modern technology like CCTV networks and e-chalan system to bring traffic offenders to task 
ENCROACHMENT REMOVAL | From 165 roads in two phasesPARKING POLICY | Hiking parking charges, crackdown on illegal parking, online booking of parking space, special parking charges in 
congested areas and nighttime parking outside buildings 
LOCAL AREA TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT PLAN | Pedestrian access and new street design guidelines with emphasis on cycling lanes 
INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR BUS PASSENGERS | Real-time information about arrival and departure of buses 
INFRASTRUCTURE | Creating more bus terminals and taxi/ auto stands, improving areas near railway stations, and earmarking spaces below flyovers for utilities 
DRIVING TESTS | Bringing in modern technology for driving tests and refresher training courses for drivers 
TRAFFIC LAWS | 
Raising fines for traffic offences and imposing vicarious liability on owners of vehicles involved in accidents


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