Congestion fee a must
Updated: 2015-12-07 08:36
Masses of vehicles move slowly on a highway during a traffic jam in Beijing, China, on January 18, 2014. [Photo/IC]
In the wake of a spell of hazardous smog, Beijing's traffic authority announced on Thursday the city is likely to trial a congestion charge for road users.
Unfortunately, such a statement is little more than cold comfort for local residents, as this is not the first time that a congestion charge has been put on the government's agenda.
As a metropolis with more than 20 million residents and about 6 million cars, Beijing began considering congestion fees in 2010. In its last five-year action plan on controlling vehicle exhaust emissions, the city planned to introduce a congestion charge for the downtown area this year.
Yet, in spite of the fact that the city is so heavily plagued by serious air pollution and endless traffic jams, local policymakers are still only looking into the possibility of a congestion fee.
Although the success of such a policy in many other foreign capitals does not guarantee that it will be a penance for Beijing's traffic and pollution problems, a congestion fee will definitely help improve the traffic situation and reduce the pollution from vehicle exhausts.
Yet for congestion charging to work its magic in the long run, the Beijing municipal government also needs to continue expanding the subway and other public transport systems while gradually redesigning the city so that people can travel less between home and workplace.
There is always opposition to any extra cost for residents. But in order to get a handle on the horrendous traffic and pollution problems in Beijing, local policymakers must be resolved to take drastic measures as soon as possible.
The severity of the city's traffic and pollution problems leaves no time for policymakers to postpone such moves. And even it may be unpopular for now, a congestion fee is a necessary requirement that Beijing can no longer be shy away from.