Heavy levySeoul is preparing to levy a traffic congestion fee on vehicles that enter large buildings, such as department stores in downtown Seoul, as a way of easing traffic jams.
However, we see this move as an example of opportunism in public administration and misuse of administrative power.
Traffic congestion in Seoul is serious. Added to that, we have high oil prices, more vehicles in the city, seemingly constant traffic congestion in central Seoul and concerns about global warming and emissions.
A variety of measures have been enacted to regulate vehicles in central Seoul.
They include congestion fees in central Seoul, fees imposed on owners of large buildings that cause busy traffic and a campaign for private car owners to abstain from driving once a week or so.
But Seoul is hastily pushing another measure to control large buildings that cause traffic congestion. We think the measure is unlikely to succeed.
The measure might change the patterns of transport use by citizens significantly, but the municipal office hasn’t even run a computer simulation.
The city is targeting 10 buildings for the new fees and so it should have surveyed visitors to at least one of those buildings. As this large-scale project is based simply on academic research, transport studies conducted by civic groups and polls on some citizens, it is unlikely to be effective.
The estimated cut in traffic is also far from accurate.
Seoul estimates that if 290 large buildings reduce the number of vehicles that enter its premises by 30 percent, total traffic volume will fall by 15 percent.
Major cities that suffer from heavy traffic are very careful when levying traffic fees on citizens.
London, New York and Singapore have enacted such measures and many other cities and countries understand that a traffic fee might result in the misuse of administrative power and could also interfere with personal freedom.
Korea plans to impose a fee on large building owners and, as if this is not enough, Seoul plans to levy fees on people who drive into the buildings.
Seoul must abandon its autocratic thinking and belief that it can solve all its problems with the power with which it is endowed.
It must prepare a measure to encourage citizens to take part in a campaign to refrain from driving regularly and use public transport more often.