[EDITORIALS]Traffic fees and problemsThe Seoul Metropolitan Government is going to levy congestion charges on vehicles entering the central area of the city sometime this year. It intends to reduce traffic congestion by controlling the inward flow of traffic. It is unavoidable that the transportation system of a metropolitan city like Seoul, with a population of over 10 million, should stress mass transportation.
If the city authority intends to impose a congestion fee, similar to a driving penalty, it must consider whether there will be side effects and whether there are alternatives.
First, if the fee is imposed without restructuring the mass transportation system ― streamlining bus routes and establishing transit connections between subways and bus routes ― commuters will suffer in jammed subway trains and buses. The self-employed small businessmen who have to operate a vehicle will have a lot of added costs. Such inconveniences and costs will result in a deterioration of their competitiveness. The city must take into consideration not only the fee’s effect on traffic flow, but its effect on the economy as a whole.
It also matters where the tollgates are installed and how the toll is collected. In London, drivers who want to enter the city’s center between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays must pay a 5-pound congestion fee before midnight of the day before either through the Internet or a telephone call. London has installed more than 200 surveillance cameras on the roads leading to the city’s center and compares license plate numbers with the plate numbers of those who have paid the fee. The database and administrative costs are very high.
If the fee is imposed without preparing an adequate database system and administrative procedures, it could create even more serious traffic congestion. There could be bottlenecks at tollgates and alternate routes could be jammed.
At present, the details of the plan are not known, but it should be preceded by a good study on the possibility of aggravation of traffic congestion after the introduction of the fee system.