Good for S'Pore, Therefore Good for India?

Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy has re-opened the “congestion tax” debate. Congestion tax is a concept followed in several “modern cities” the world over, including London and Singapore. It is a charge that is levied whenever you drive into the “central business district” of the city – or in short – the “heart of the city”. It works well to discourage people from driving – and use public transport instead.

Now, our honourable minister wants to follow the same model in Indian cities. Dear Ministerji,

* How about we first start a pilot phase for this initiative where the netas and babus start paying congestion charge? They either pay hefty taxes or leave their caravans and motorcades back home and take public transport. Deal?

* You say that such a model is implemented in Singapore, and hence, it should be in Indian cities too. Do you have the remotest idea how good the public transport system in Singapore is? Show me one city in India which is anywhere close to Singapore in terms of buses and metro and what not.


This is not to say that I am opposed to the imposition of congestion charge. On the contrary. However, before doing that, we need to get other things in order. It is common sense that when you tell people not to drive, you need to provide them a viable alternative.

* Improve the public transportation system, make it attractive to people from all sub-strata of the middle and lower classes. Case in point – Bangalore's BMTC, which has in its fleet, the entire range of buses right from the “ordinary” to the“luxury” (Volvos, Tata Marcopolos).

* Metro and mono-rails are good for high density corridors but will definitely fail if the last mile connectivity is not good. Also, nothing can replace the bus as the ubiquitous, reach-all-corners-of-the-city means of transportation. Hence, these must be improved (especially places like residential sectors in Gurgaon where buses are practically non-existent, forcing people to use cars)

Okay, so far I have been stating the obvious. Next is an idea that I heard as a rumour – but I think will be very effective. I heard whispers that some companies in Bangalore are mulling introducing parking charges, i.e., employees will need to pay to park on campus. This comes across to me as a pretty good idea. A few extensions to this come to mind:

1) Governments or city corporations can enforce rules that a company having more than a stipulated number of employees must provide transport facilities.

2) Industrial estates, technology parks and even large residential townships should be required by law to provide public transport. This has dual advantages
a> It shifts the onus of providing transport from the companies to the builders
b> It enables even smaller companies, which might otherwise be unable to participate in the process, to jump onto the bandwagon too.

3) Once these means of mass transportation are in place, the companies/builders can go ahead and charge parking fees/entry tolls etc.

In conclusion – borrowing successful ideas from elsewhere is a good thing, but we need to be that wee bit more innovative in giving it a Desi twist, in-line with our very unique conditions. Improve public transport, mandate companies/builders to provide transport to huge campuses. And then, introduce congestion taxes and parking charges.

4 comments to Good for S'Pore, Therefore Good for India?

  • Very well said.

  • Yes I agree with you and also where is the guarantee that the VIPs in India will pay this?They have passed a law and they will not pay the toll any where in India.Am I suppose to pay from my pocket for these undeserving fellows

  • Well said Kiran. Borrowing ideas from other countries is good idea only if it’s viable. Something which might work very well in one state might not serve any purpose at all in other.

    The next important thing is the mindset of the people. Eventually they are the one who contribute to success or failure of a system. If we all decide one day that we will take public transportation 3 out of 5 days in a week, 50% of our traffic problem is already resolved. But how many of us are ready for this ?

  • Hi Kiran,

    Agreed that it is unfair to impose congestion tax without providing a viable alternative.

    However, I have seen people drive their cars even while a bus stops right in front of their house. I think something must be done to pull these bummers out of the comforts of their cars.

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