By Mohammad Ali Haqshenas

The hot debate of revising Tehran’s traffic scheme

January 10, 2018

The newly proposed scheme for traffic restricted zones put forward by Tehran Municipality to replace the current traffic scheme has led to a series of debates both among officials and the public.

Currently the city center is closed to all cars except for a certain number of cars which have permits issued by the municipality. The odd-even traffic scheme, a method of rationing in which access to the streets for private vehicles is granted on alternating days, according to whether the last digit on their license plate is even or odd, is being implemented in zones further from the city center.

According to general outlines of the newly proposed scheme, everyone will be able to enter the traffic restricted areas with paying charges depending on the zone they wish to enter. Entering the city center - the most polluted and heavily congested area - is costlier and the farther the zone is from the city center the charge will be lesser.

Although the City Council has not still hammered out and approved the proposed scheme, a wave of comments has been made on the issue by municipal managers, city councilors, police officials and citizens debating the advantages and disadvantages of the issue.

Municipality’s viewpoint

Mohsen Pourseyyed-Aqaei, deputy mayor for traffic and transport affairs, can be regarded as the main figure behind the proposal. In an interview with Fars news agency published on Sunday, he provided further details on the schemes and strongly advocated it.

Pourseyyed-Aqaei argued that reducing traffic requires the implementation of two measures; developing public transportation and increasing the costs of using personal cars. 

Referring to terrible traffic congestion and air pollution as the primary concerns of Tehraners, he highlighted that tackling these issues are a priority for the municipality. Air pollution is linked to traffic but they are not essentially the same; there are some other culprits for the air pollution beside heavy traffic, he added.

The odd-even scheme has lost its initial effects in reducing traffic and easing air pollution, said the deputy mayor.

He went on to say that the municipality doesn’t intend to increase its revenue via this scheme, rather the aim is to control the traffic. “If it wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t eliminate traffic restrictions on Thursdays in the new scheme,” he argued. However, elsewhere in his remarks, he noted that based on estimations, the scheme will raise the revenue of Tehran Municipality by 1.5 trillion rials (nearly $37.5 million) annually.

If earned, he emphasized, this revenue will exclusively be spent on developing public transportation.

Asked if the scheme may increase the number of cars in the traffic zones, he explained that if that happens, the City Council can increase the charges to further restrict the traffic.

“Why the cost of air pollution produced by personal cars must be paid by those who don’t have a car?” Pourseyyed-Aqaei said, adding, the world now believe that the cost of using personal cars should be increased in order to encourage people to use public transportation.

Totally the daily revenue of Tehran Municipality derived from this scheme can add up to some 100 billion rials (nearly $2.45 million). Experts believe that the new scheme will result in a significant increase in the number of cars entering traffic and odd-even zone; hence aggravate air pollution. 

City Council’s green light

It seems Tehran City Council has given the green light for the general outlines of the scheme but there are debates over its details.

The supreme council for traffic (affiliated with the Interior Ministry) has approved the scheme and as the next and final step, it will be submitted to Tehran’s City Council in this week, Fars quoted the head of City Council’s transportation commission Mohammad Alikhani as saying on Sunday.

Tehran City Council Chairman Mohsen Hashemi has also emphasized the need for changing the current traffic scheme, saying that at the first stages of implementing the current traffic scheme, only 20,000 yearly permits were granted for entering traffic zones, comparing to over 120,000 permits which are currently issued.

Police urges further study

Although Pourseyyed-Aqaei claimed that he had received verbal approval of traffic police chief Taqi Mehri for this scheme, Tehran’s police chief Hossein Rahimi said on Monday that the new scheme lacks the required studies and it will aggravate both air pollution and traffic, YJC reported.

Despite what councilor Alikhani says according to another report published by Fars news agency on Tuesday traffic supreme council has not approved the scheme yet. 

Pouria Mohammadian Yazdi traffic supreme council secretary general has said that the scheme has not been discussed and approved in the council. 

What people say

It seems that the new scheme is not generally welcomed by Tehraners due to the increased costs of using their personal cars besides the shortcomings of public transportation which surely doesn’t meet their expectations.

Nonetheless it should be noted that for those who come to the city center for a short stay, the charges will be less than daily permits that are currently being issued.

A simple calculation of increased revenue

In general the city of Tehran is divided into three zones regarding the traffic congestion. Zone A is the city center which is restricted to all vehicles except for those who have a permit (some 120,000 cars) and taxis from 6.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Saturday to Wednesday and until 1 p.m. on Thursdays. 

Zone B is where the odd-even scheme is being implemented. And Zone C is not restricted to anyone. 

According to a report by YJC on Monday, the minimum and maximum fees for entering traffic zone is 96,000 rials (nearly $2.5) and 360,000 rials (nearly $9) per day respectively. Considering the average of these charges which amounts to 22,800 rials (nearly $5.75), and current 123,000 cars that enter the traffic restricted zones on daily basis, the municipality can earn 28 billion rials daily (nearly $700,000).  

The same calculation can be done for Zone B. Here, the charges will be lower but the number of cars count to at least 1 million per day. The estimations show that the municipality can earn some 70 billion rials (nearly $1.75 million) from this zone. Totally the daily revenue of Tehran Municipality derived from this scheme can add up to some 100 billion rials (nearly $2.45 million).

Experts believe that the new scheme will result in a significant increase in the number of cars entering traffic and odd-even zone; which is not being considered in above calculations.

As far as traffic and air pollution is concerned, Tehraners really hope that this new scheme can have tangible effects on both issues and also the increased revenue would only be spent on public transportation development, as promised. 


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