April 01, 2019

Amid Traffic and Air Pollution, Congestion Pricing Gains Momentum in Mumbai

Congestion is an ongoing and well understood problem that plagues many cities India. Today in Mumbai there are more cars than before and due to increased traffic, buses are running slower than they did in previous years. Drops in bus ridership are easy to attribute to the decreased reliability due to increased traffic. While congestion pricing is seen as one solution to address traffic problems growing in Mumbai, very little had been done to move this regulation forward until recently when the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Agency (MMRDA), the agency responsible for urban planning in the Mumbai region, began to hold conversations with ITDP about the possibility of enacting congestion pricing. While congestion pricing studies could be performed in most Indian cities, having the metropolitan support through the MMRDA has made this study significant.

This conversation gained momentum when MMRDA and ITDP convened a stakeholder focus group meeting to understand various perspectives of congestion pricing. The discussion was attended by more than 50 representatives from various public organizations and civil society organizations, including the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Mumbai Metro, Mumbai’s bus service Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST), as well as officials of the toll collection contractor MEP Infrastructure Developers, technology giant Tata Consultancy Services, and a few non-profits. While many participants stressed the importance of providing strong public transport alternatives before implementing congestion pricing, all stakeholders agreed that Mumbai would need to implement various Travel Demand Management measures, with congestion pricing being one of them, to address this challenge.

Congestion pricing is seen as an important tool that will raise revenue that can be invested in other forms of transportation like buses and pedestrian paths. Currently, Mumbai is constructing a second metro corridor and hopes that the opening of this corridor can coincide with the unveiling of the congestion pricing. Ideally, through the right pricing and implementation, this regulation could significantly reduce the number of private vehicles on the roads. However, it is not clear how the pricing will be implemented – such as through zones like in London or based on peak travel times.

Discussions are held regarding congestion pricing

Along with congestion pricing, other solutions like a finite number of license plates or charging for street parking are being discussed. It is possible that two wheeled vehicles and some shared vehicles may be exempt, as many options and ideas are still being discussed.
The goal of this study is to create a toolkit that can be used to create a pricing structure and a plan for congestion pricing that can be used elsewhere. As other Indian cities seek solutions to growing traffic problems, these guidelines could present a universal set of standards.
Regardless of the methodology, the objective remains appropriately ambitious. Through political motivation, congestion pricing can both raise incredibly useful revenue and decrease the throngs of traffic plaguing Mumbai. With decreased traffic public transportation like buses will run faster and emission rates will decrease. The daily lives of Mumbaikars will improve.

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