Can congestion tax help clear roads?

Even as pessimism is weighing down public policy on challenging topics such as congestion tax, independent think-tanks in the city have kick-started a study on congestion tax, offering innovative solutions to traffic congestion. While the government is yet to make a decision, concerns about resistance to congestion tax by residents in Chennai being valid, the first study by a city-based think tank has recently proposed a model that might work in Chennai. According to the study by the Mylapore Institute of Policy Research(MIPR), the “traffic profile of Chennai is strikingly similar to London,” with heavy traffic throughout the day.

Two zones in the city have such high levels of traffic volumes.

Based on the results of the study, congestion tax could be restricted to a central zone extending from Purasawalkam to Thiruvanmiyur and a super zone in T. Nagar, placing signs at 66 entry and exit points and up to 15 km on the main roads into the relevant area. Free parking spaces outside the zones with public transport connectivity have also been suggested.

The study has recommended a programme to update motor vehicle ownership records at the Regional Transport Office, before implementation of a congestion charge. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (the RTO equivalent) in the U.K. went through a similar upgrade a few years ago, resulting in more effective enforcement in London.

Residents of T. Nagar covered in the proposed super zone said the commercial outlets in the area are likely to pay the congestion tax of visitors in cars to attract more people. “The congestion tax model should focus only on reducing cars on roads. Traffic congestion will continue if commercial outlets pay the tax without developing adequate planned parking spaces. People who cause traffic congestion should pay more tax. The government should not collect congestion tax from local residents,” said B. Kannan, a resident of T. Nagar.

“The government should offer the entire carriageway to traffic, free from all encroachments. You can think about taxing only after removing all bottlenecks to traffic, including transformers and garbage bins,” said S.S anthanam, former Member-Chief Urban Planner, CMDA.  

“Local bottlenecks also have to be removed. For example, the traffic congestion in Perungulathur on GST Road is caused due to parking of government buses along the stretch. Vehicles take more than one hour to cross the stretch,” he said.  

London’s success in implementing such a scheme were due to careful preliminary research into a specific, practical and reliable design and a radical, strong and independent politician,” said Shiv Kumar, president of MIPR.

“MIPR has also held discussions with IBM in Chennai on exploring the issues surrounding the likely implementation of the project as part of the study,” said V. Balasubramanian, secretary of MIPR.

The congestion charge initiative is in line with TN Govt’s Vision 2023, which aims at a strategic plan for infrastructure development to move the State to a higher growth plane. Based on the proposed pricing in Chennai, the gross revenues after the initial 18-month build-up period will be in the region of Rs. 190 crore per year, and after deducting operating costs of Rs. 20 crore per year, will produce steady state net revenues of Rs.170 crore per year.

MIPR is an urban policy think tank launched with the initial support of The India Cements Ltd.

What is congestion pricing?

Collection of a surcharge from motorists visiting congested neighbourhoods in a bid to promote public transport

A study on congestion tax suggests:

1) Congestion pricing could be implemented in one Central zone and one Super zone in T. Nagar

2) The study however recommended that Mylapore be dropped owing to the heritage value and multiple entry points. The move is expected to reduce traffic congestion in most of the areas of the city by promoting public transport

3) Primary investment required for congestion pricing by commissioning a network of cameras – Rs.100-150 crore

The investment will be recouped from the surplus revenue generated within a 2-3 year period after funding essential reinvestment programmes

Central Zone entry points

Moolakkadai, Purasawalkam, Nungambakkam, Thirumangalam, Vadapalani, St.Thomas Mount, Velachery, Thiruvanmiyur, Poonamalle and Vandalur

Super Zone entry points

G.N. Chetty Road, Pondy Bazar Road, Venkatnarayana Road in T Nagar.


An additional congestion charge be considered for a Super Zone (T. Nagar)  with a 90 percent discount for residents of the Super Zone. This will tackle traffic.

The charges will apply to both Central and Super zones from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Saturday

The charges will apply once daily. No charges for multiple entry.

Payment channels: Pre-paid cash cards, mobile, automatic payment by direct bank settlement

Current scenario

The total volume of traffic flow is spread across the 10 entry points for the Central Zone and three entry points in T. Nagar.

The city is ideally suited for the implementation of a congestion charging scheme, with a traffic profile strikingly similar to London

Nearly 2 lakh vehicles enter the Central and Super zones of Chennai each day. The volume excludes motorcycles, autos, government buses, military and emergency service vehicles.

London  model

London successfully implemented congestion charging scheme on February 17, 2003. After over a decade of operation, the scheme is an unqualified success.


Rise in population and total trips


Decline in car trip


Rise in Rail trips


Rise in bus trips


Rise in cycling trips:


Net revenues for public transport from scheme: over £ 1 billion. This has been reinvested, especially in bus services.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 4:35:29 AM |

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