Why Karnataka govt will not be imposing congestion tax on vehicles entering Bengaluru anytime soon

Experts said it cannot be implemented since the public transport modalities are incomplete and not integrated.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Oct 05, 2023 | 11:00 AMUpdatedOct 05, 2023 | 11:00 AM

Traffic congestion in Bengaluru - Courtesy Flickr

Expert committees set up under the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) have recommended levying congestion charges on vehicles entering Bengaluru city.

The recommendation was made in a report, $1 Trillion Economy: Karnataka’s Vision, submitted in September to the Additional Chief Secretary, Planning, Programme Monitoring and Statistics Dr Shalini Rajneesh, even as several social media handles — especially pro-BJP — and a section of the media have raised a hue and cry against imposing the congestion tax.

The FICCI panels recommended levying congestion charges from all vehicles — without exception — entering the city during busy hours. The intention is to reduce traffic congestion and to encourage people to use public transport.

The FICCI committees focused on 15 priority sectors, including Urban Development, Agriculture, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Education, Tourism, Human Development, Natural Resource Management, Tech, Research and Innovation. All committees jointly submitted the report.

The report, a roadmap for accelerated growth in the coming decade, recommended the creation of a new “Eight to 80 Bengaluru” where the city caters to the mobility needs of all from an eight-year-old riding a bicycle to school to an 80-year-old walking to a nearby shop. It mooted a comprehensive mobility network by avoiding congestion.

It also compared Bengaluru’s cost of congestion with cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata.

Also read: Multiple reasons led to traffic nightmare in Bengaluru

Why a congestion charge?

The report mentioned congestion charges while dwelling on harnessing transit-oriented development such as the usage of common mobility cards, handling of high-density corridors, and integration of public transport networks like bus and Metro facilities.

The congestion charge could be implemented to reduce traffic congestion and improve journey times for buses, cars, and delivery vehicles. The objective would be to make users conscious of the costs they impose on one another when they hit the road during peak hours, the report said.

Currently, there are nine entry points to the inner city where the congestion charge, according to the report, could be levied. The points are from Bellari Road, Tumukuru Road, Magadi Road, Mysore Road, Kanakapura Road, Bannerghatta Road, Hosur Road, Old Madras Road, and Old Airport Road.

As many as 12 million vehicles now travel into the city of Bengaluru every day. Levying a congestion charge could translate into significant revenue for the city.

FasTAG has been successfully deployed in the city since 2021. The report proposed the same mode to collect congestion charges.

Also read: Traffic junctions to be upgraded with AI-based adaptive signal system

Report’s status

“It is a report submitted to the Karnataka government. Hundreds of committees will come up with hundreds of recommendations. It is up to the government to implement the recommendation after consultations will all the stakeholders, Srinivas Alavilli, Fellow at World Resources Institute (WRI), told South First.

“This is a misleading post – No such thing has been announced by the Government of Karnataka. An expert group made several recommendations, one of them being congestion charge & submitted to govt. Govt did not act on any of them @CitizenKamran please think twice before posting.” he posted on X.

Alavilli further told South First that the imposition of a congestion tax would not be easy.

“It is a penalty which has to be levied by implementing a carrot-and-stick approach. Questions will arise as to whether the public transport in Bengaluru is fully built or is optimally utilised,” he said while supporting the tax.

“Second is the question of whether public transport modalities are integrated, whether common mobility cards are functional everywhere. The answers would be in the negative. Only after addressing the shortcoming could the government think about levying congestion tax on vehicles using high-density corridors,” he added.

Practical difficulties

Alavilli felt the debate on the tax on social media was premature.

That apart, there are practical difficulties as well. As Alavilli pointed out: “How would they collect congestion tax using FasTAG when people can avoid such stretches by taking inner roads. There are also chances of multiple tax collections at various stretches of a single major road.”

Chairman of FICCI Karnataka K Ullas Kamath told South First that the recommendations were made by experts from various fields.

“We have presented it to the government. We are certain that the government will consider and implement them. However, the levying of congestion charge has a long way to go,” he said.

Kamath also categorically said that around 34 recommendations in the report have already featured in the last budget, out of which 10 to 12 are in their implementation stage. It is a process, Kamath reiterated.