Traffic big idea: toll on roads

For a police force that struggles with managing the city's chaotic traffic, the department does come up with big ' and often grandiose ' ideas to decongest its roads.

The latest plan, which is still on the drawing board, is to restrict the number of vehicles that can enter key areas of the city of Patna during rush hours.

Far-fetched? Yes.

But if ' and it's a big if ' implemented properly, Patna can well be among the top cities ' such as London, Singapore or Dubai ' where the local administration has successfully restricted entry of vehicles in central business districts during the morning and evening peak traffic hours.

Sources in the city traffic police told The Telegraph that a plan is being chalked out to introduce a toll system on some roads for private vehicles. The aim, according to these sources, is to reduce the pressure of vehicles on the already crowded roads and also encourage the use of public transport alternatives.

It's another matter that unlike Singapore or London, the public transport system in Patna is grossly undeveloped.

The sources conceded that the latest plan could be "unrealistic" as simpler traffic restriction proposals put forth in the past are in slow gear.

"Nothing much can be said about the plan at this moment. A study, with a focus on the toll system for private vehicles on certain roads, is being checked and its feasibility in the context of Patna will be carried out. If it is introduced after proper studies, it will help people realise the importance of public transport and use them more frequently," an officer said on condition of anonymity.

The officer added that a proper and concrete study of different city roads needed to be done first and only then could a decision regarding the selection of roads be taken.

"There are many roads like Ashok Rajpath that remain congested almost round the clock. Some police pickets can be put up on a particular street and an amount as toll tax can be collected from private vehicles taking the road. There needs to be a well-laid infrastructure and plan for this. The road toll needs to be high so that it acts as a deterrent for private vehicle users," he added.

At present, such a system is in use in Singapore, London, Dubai and several other cities.

Under the "Salik" (meaning open or clear) system launched in July 2007, four busy roads in Dubai got electronic gates and an amount of Dirham 4 (around Rs 60) is deducted from any vehicle passing through the gate.

Several police officers said the public transport system needed a major overhaul if this project was to be implemented. "With the dependence on private vehicles decreasing, people opting for public transport should not be a complaining lot," another officer said.

Commuters also rejected the idea. "Why do the police have to think about all these complicated moves? Why cannot they solve simple problems like encroachment of roads by vendors and re-installation of traffic signals?," Girish Kumar, a resident of Kankerbagh, said.

Till now, the police have not been successful in implementing simple steps aimed at streamlining traffic problems.

For almost a year now, the police have been talking about revival of the defunct traffic signals but nothing has been done so far. The simple plan to widen the road around the Income Tax roundabout is yet to see the light of the day.

Similar is the fate of the idea of having separate lanes and designated stands for buses and autorickshaws.

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