Vehicle congestion charge for KL a good solution to reduce traffic, but needs to be studied, say academics


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Unless you’ve not been driving for the past few weeks, you’re surely to have noticed the increased level of traffic congestion in the Klang Valley, with traffic reportedly seeing a two-fold increase compared to pre-pandemic times in 2019 as the result of more people returning to work.

Much has been said about the issue of jams becoming more pronounced and frequent – politicians have waded in, as expected. Former transport minister Anthony Loke said the government needs to address the issue immediately, while his DAP colleague Liew Chin Tong stated that driving private cars here should be made a luxury and not a necessity and that the way forward was to have expanded coverage of public transport.

Nothing wrong with opinions, but coming up with solutions to alleviate the problem is what’s needed. One of the prongs that has been proposed in the approach to combat traffic congestion has been that of imposing a charge on vehicles entering into the city, the idea being to reduce volume.

A congestion charge for vehicles entering city centres is not a new concept, having been implemented in cities such as London, Singapore, Stockholm and Milan. The idea has been considered before, with the latest being from transport minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, who said that the government is looking into imposing a fee on vehicles entering the city after the MRT 3 Circle Line project has been completed in 2030.

The introduction of a vehicle congestion charge is something experts agree with, as it is viewed as among the best ways to reduce traffic congestion especially in the federal capital. However, it alone won’t provide the solution, and that alternative modes of transportation will have to be developed alongside the approach. Public awareness of the issue is also paramount, as Bernama reports.

Universiti Teknologi Mara’s (UiTM) Malaysia institute of transport (MITRANDS) director associate professor Dr Harlina Suzana Jaafar said although it is more comfortable for individuals to drive their own car, society must be aware that the major cause leading to traffic congestion is the high number of private vehicles on the road.

She said measures such as widening roads only had a limited impact in solving traffic congestion as it would only contribute to the increase in the number of private vehicles on the road and worsen the situation. She suggested a low carbon zone be introduced and proper infrastructure be provided in city or housing areas for pedestrians, scooter and bicycle riders to walk and ride safely.

“Improvements should be made to achieve a balanced use of all modes of transportation,” she explained. “Although many are of the view that it is not suitable to be implemented in our country due to its hot weather, with creativity we can create a proper and comfortable infrastructure (for pedestrians, scooter and bicycle riders),” she added.

Her views were echoed by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) faculty of Built Environment and Surveying senior lecturer Dr Safizahanin Mokhtar, who said that a comprehensive study must be conducted and a pilot project be implemented for the imposition of congestion charges in the country.

“For example, in implementing the congestion charges in London, it took a 10-year detailed study including in terms of users’ movements from certain locations to another in several selected areas before the trial project was implemented,” she explained.

In the meantime, the situation isn’t likely to improve. Safizahanin said based on the 2018 Road Traffic Volume Malaysia (RTVM) report prepared by the works ministry, the quality of the main roads in the federal capital was between D (moderate) and F (fail) due to a high number of vehicles, which also resulted in extreme traffic congestion.

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