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Delhi choked by its car mania

Making driving and parking cars heavy on pockets is the only solution. Congestion tax in central business districts, exorbitant parking rates and better public transport will go a long way. Atul Mathur reports. Here parking is a luxury | Now pay to park in apartment complex |Vehicles in town

india Updated: May 08, 2013 02:05 IST
Atul Mathur
Atul Mathur
Hindustan Times

Frequent fights with neighbours over parking under that tree, constant haggling with parking attendants over a better spot and poor traffic situation has not deterred Delhiites from buying car after car or travelling in their newest hot wheels to buy milk from the nearby booth.

Every day, 1,400 new vehicles hit the roads. And their number is rising at 7-8% every year.

Going by these troubling statistics, experts say making driving and parking cars heavy on pockets is the only way out. "Auto suppression is one of the pillars of a good transport policy. Limit parking space, ration the automobile, tax driving to encourage people to use public transport," said Mark Gorton, a New York-based transport expert and founder of Rethink the Auto.

Several cities across the globe - Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai in Asia, Oslo and London in Europe, New York in North America and Bogota in South America - have adopted measures such as congestion pricing, heavy tax and limited permits for new cars and strict parking policies. And the results have been more than encouraging.

According to 'Megacity Challenges', a research project conducted by international consultants GlobeScan and MRC McLean Hazel, congestion went down by nearly 30% in London and Stockholm due to congestion pricing. There has been a reduction of 10-20% in fuel emissions and road accidents. Annual vehicle growth in Singapore is just about 0.5%.

The poor traffic situation in the city has not deterred people from buying new cars. (HT photo)

In its report submitted earlier this year, the High Court-appointed special task force on traffic too suggested levying congestion pricing in central business districts such as CP, Karol Bagh, Chandni Chowk, Nehru Place and South Extension. Interestingly, Delhiites too responded positively when the task force invited objections and suggestions on the issue.

"The urban development ministry too has asked every state to levy congestion tax in business districts. But the political bosses are least interested. Their suggestions are pro-automobile - widen roads, build flyovers," said a senior Delhi government official.

This is exactly what experts caution against though they believe that unless Delhi has a sustainable transport system, such measures should be avoided. "The government should start preparing a robust integrated walking, non-motorised transport and public transport system while developing a congestion pricing policy. Prepare the people for the new arrangement in the next 5-10 years," said Nalin Sinha, a transport expert.

The task force has also proposed levying parking charges on vehicles parked in residential colonies. "Land is a premium commodity and people cannot use it for free. A little hike in parking charges won't deter them," said Ashok Bhattacharya, director Unified Traffic and Transportation (Planning and Engineering) Centre.

Case Studies:
Here parking is a luxury | Now pay to park in apartment complex

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