Charging Tehran Tunnels

Charging Tehran Tunnels  Charging Tehran Tunnels

C onstruction of roads, tunnels, underground passageways, and highways has peaked in recent years to help meet the needs of the rising population and ease congestion across the almost permanently clogged streets of the capital. Urban planners in Tehran have a long-term plan to gradually impose tolls on the three tunnels as part of a drive to enhance the overstretched intra-city transport network.

The Tehran City Council recently sent a bill to the Majlis proposing congestion pricing in city tunnels.

Ahmad Donyamali, head of council’s civil and transport commission had said early last year that an urgent bill for charging a toll on certain passageways in the capital was under review at the council.

The bill, so far approved by the commission, is awaiting endorsement by the council chairman, Mehdi Chamran, the Young Journalists Club reported.

Congestion pricing is a system of surcharging users of public goods that are subject to congestion through excess demand such as higher peak charges for use of bus services, electricity, subways and railroads to help reduce congestion.

This pricing strategy regulates demand, making it possible to manage congestion without the need to extend road networks. Market economics theory, which encompasses the congestion pricing concept, postulates that users will pay for using public facilities, making them conscious of the costs they impose upon each other when consuming during the peak demand, and more aware of their impact on the environment.

“It is unfair to charge people who are not car owners or do not use them, while spending huge amounts to develop facilities for vehicle users,” Donyamali said in February.

Urban managers were supposed to come up with a system to charge private cars commuting on highways by the end of the fiscal year (ends March 20) as one of the goals to be accomplished in the realm of transportation and protecting the environment. The plan seeks to raise revenues through traffic congestion to improve public transport with new subway lines in the sprawling capital a top priority.

Currently a limited number of cities globally use road pricing on intra-city roads, including London, Stockholm, Singapore, Milan, and Gothenburg, as well as a few smaller towns, such as Durham in the UK, Znojmo in the Czech Republic; Riga, Latvia, and Valletta in Malta.

When implemented, the scheme would exclude all public vehicles including taxis, buses, cabs, ambulances, and fire brigades from paying a fee. The toll will be used for maintenance costs, infrastructure development, and railroad expansion, especially the much-needed subways seen as the most environment-friendly.  

“According to available data, imposing a higher price on the passage permits in Tehran’s restricted traffic zone has decreased traffic during the day, and residents have apparently postponed unnecessary commute to the evenings after the restriction hours are over,” said a deputy at the Tehran Traffic and Transportation Organization, Jafar Tashakori Hashemi. “That means the shift has been successful in managing demand.”

  Sharing the Cost

Implementing congestion pricing will also help manage public commute during rush hours on highways and tunnels, he said, stressing that the plan is not aimed to pressure the people with extra financial burden, and should not be cause for concern.

“By doing so, people will participate in building and maintaining their own city, and the culture will gradually be institutionalized,” he noted.

The Health and Urban Services Commission of the Tehran City Council has suggested the plan be launched as a pilot program for two years, Alireza Dabir, head of Planning and Budget Commission said last week.

“Applying the rule to tunnels of Niayesh, Tohid, and the two-tier Sadr Highway is currently being reviewed,” he said. “However, the rates suggested by Tehran’s Municipality were too high and were rejected by the council.”

According to the councilor, the council members have suggested floating rates for different hours of the day. Head of the Transportation Commission said on Friday that a fee starting at 10 cents (3,000 rials) has been approved.

Explaining the details, Donyamali said a chipset will be installed on automobiles, which while passing through the toll passageways will automatically deduct the fee from the vehicle owner’s prepaid account.

Drivers who refuse to pay the toll will face heavy fines, he said. “They can, however, choose to use alternative routes.”

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Taqi Mehri, head of the Traffic Police Department, and Tehran’s traffic police, General Teymour Hosseini refused to comment on the tunnel toll proposals, saying they were uninformed of such a plan, ISNA reports.

Outlines of the scheme are still not finalized and it remains to be seen which urban passages and auxiliary roads will be condemned to carry the extra burden of cars unwilling to pay to roam the overcrowded and chaotic streets during rush hours.