Public Transport Woes

Public Transport Woes
Public Transport Woes

Tehran’s woefully underdeveloped public transport sector is hampering efforts aimed at curbing the air pollution plight, according to the chairman of the environment committee at the Tehran City Council.

Home to 12 million people, Tehran needs an estimated 12,000 buses but is currently making do with half the number, 500 of which are grounded.

“Nearly half of our buses are substandard and major contributors to the air pollution,” Mohammad Haqqani said, adding that the entire 1,100-vehicle fleet of minibuses and vans are also highly polluting with terribly poor fuel economies.

“We can’t tell the people to stop using their private cars when we are unable to offer them viable alternatives,” Mehr News Agency quoted him as saying.

Officials at Tehran Municipality (TM) have said that adding hybrid and electric buses to the public transportation fleet is on the agenda.

According to the city’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan, approved by the city council in 2009, the public transport infrastructure was supposed to have been expanded by 75% by the time the city’s population reached 10 million.

“We’re now way past the 10 million mark and the infrastructure has not even progressed 25%,” Haqqani complained.

The councilor said selling high quality gasoline and expanding public transportation, especially the metro, are essential to improving Tehran’s air quality.

“Half the city’s budget must be spent on expanding the subway system,” he opined, likening the expansion of the subway to “a vaccine against health problems that arise from air pollution.”

This “preventive measure” will help cut health-related costs and improve air quality, Haqqani stressed.

  Making a Living

Tehran’s streets are littered with highly polluting motorcycles whose emissions are five times greater than the average car.

“Roughly two million highly-polluting motorcycles ply the streets of Tehran, used by many people to make a living,” Haqqani said.

The air pollution committee at the DOE approved a measure earlier this month that would finally put an end to the production of substandard motorcycles equipped with outdated carburetors. If approved by the Cabinet, the ban will go into effect in mid-September.

Furthermore, the TM has reportedly secured funding for a soft-loan scheme to encourage people to replace their old motorcycles with modern, ecofriendly electric two-wheelers.

The mayor’s office claims to have proposed two bills to the city council: One to scrap the annual road tax for electric motorcycles, and the other to ban old motorcycles from the city center.

 Evading Responsibility

Highly critical of the authorities’ tendency to “pass the buck,” Haqqani said those in charge should strive to uphold Article 50 of the Constitution, which prohibits environmentally destructive acts and calls on officials to encourage public participation in tackling environmental ills.

He censured lawmakers for failing to study the Clean Bill Act, submitted to the Majlis by the Department of Environment over a year ago, and said they need to be held accountable for all the air pollution-related deaths that could have been avoided had they reviewed and passed the bill.

“They need to answer tough questions, like why a bill of such importance has been put on hold for so long, and why domestically-produced cars are not up to standard.”