By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Tehran traffic schemes: Does anyone think twice about air pollution?

December 25, 2017

TEHRAN — Tehran Municipality has resumed talks over the past few days concentrating on altering traffic schemes to ease congestion and abating air pollutions.

Tehran, similar to many other metropolises worldwide, is struggling with many challenges of which air pollution and torturous traffic congestion stand out conspicuously. 

To ease the congestion and fighting the suffocating air pollution which are clearly interrelated the responsible organizations have tried to come up with various plans and schemes.  

Odd-even traffic scheme is a method of rationing in which access to the streets for private vehicles is granted on alternating days, according to whether the last digit in their license plate is even or odd. Although it has certainly undergone changes the scheme is being carried out in the capital for almost four decades. 

The efficacy of odd-even rationing is highly debated. Despite the fact that the ultimate purpose of the scheme is to restrict access to the streets in order to diminish air pollution exacerbated by cars the municipality is at the liberty to grant permission to all vehicles to enter the zone by paying $10 a day.

On the other hand, many rich people who have more than one car can use either of the cars on all weekdays without paying anything. 

While the scheme is designed to encourage the use of public transport the inadequate, old, high-emission transit system is also one of the main culprits of increasing the pollutant levels in the capital. 

Nevertheless, it has been some years that by the end of autumn or the beginning of winter those who are eligible to get annual permission would apply on municipality website. The number of those who can apply in the website is limited as only 98,000 can actually obtain the permit out of some 4 to 5 million car owners. 

People with disabilities, war-veterans, journalists or some officials are among the minorities who can actually obtain the permit by paying a small charge. 

However, as announced by Mohsen Pour Seyed Aqaei, deputy of transport fleet and traffic of Tehran municipality, the odd-even traffic scheme will be revised for the next year and that everyone can enter the restricted areas depending on their need and by paying charges being decided by the municipality. 

As per the newly proposed scheme the city will be divided into three zines: zones A, B, and C depending on the restrictions imposed in each area. So everyone can enter all three zones by using specific reloadable prepaid debit cards, councilor Afshin Habibzadeh explained.  

But the charges for each zone is varying as accessing zone A, which is closer to city center and accordingly more affected by air pollution and traffic, would cost more. In addition to the zones the time and the day also matter in working out the charges, Habibzadeh added.

Is air pollution a priority?

So far, once air pollution hit the city, the odd-even scheme will be conducted all over the city and restrict a greater number of cars from plying the cities on the off-chance that the pollution minimizes.

Even though the current scheme is not efficient enough the new scheme will authorize everyone to enter the city center regardless of their license plate. 

No one has mentioned anything about the air pollution and the possible effects of the scheme on worsening or mitigating the predicament. For now, it sounds like an undeveloped, immature, moneymaking scheme for the municipality. 

The scheme is being hammered out and is not approved yet, we should wait and see if the scheme will succeed or fail. 

MQ/MG

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