Congestion Charges for Urban Cities : Pros and Cons

Congestion Charges for Urban Cities : Pros and Cons

These are taxing times for urban cities like Pune. While the pollution levels are rising due to excessive use of cars and bikes, public transportation is not able to keep pace with needs of the citizens. So, will the congestion tax proposed by the Centre hit a roadblock or are the objections just a minor bump on the highway to success? Let us examine the pros and cons of congestion charges and what this could mean for the citizens of urban centres.


1. Deterrent for maintaining private vehicles - Including a congestion charge will act as a deterrent for owning and using personal vehicles besides promotion of better parking policies. This will lessen the number of cars owned by a single family. Often, working couples own separate vehicles and this only adds further to the pollution.

2. Will improve the mobility in urban areas - Private vehicles only create congestion and hinder mobility in urban cities. Reliable, affordable and efficient public transport in such areas will reduce the pressure on key infrastructure such as roads.

3. Will motivate car owners to use public transport instead - Car owners should also be taking public transport. This will be one of the benefits of initiating a congestion charge. Public transport remains largely under-utilised in urban areas and this can change if a congestion tax is levied.

4. Lessen the rising motor and bike population - Congestion charges will also ensure that there are lower number of cars and bikes on the roads and this will lead to environmental protection.

5. Reducing the cost of congestion - It has been estimated that traffic congestion in urban cities lowers GDP by as much as 3.50%. Lowering congestion will translate into more pecuniary benefits for the State and the citizens.

6. Lesser accidents - Lower number of cars and bikes on the road means fewer accidents. This has obvious benefits for those looking for safety in road transportation.

7. Increased efficiency in public transportation - With increased usage, public transport will attract more funds through fees levied for services. This will add to its corpus and improve the efficiency and quality of public transportation.

8. Lowering air pollution - Use of less cars and bikes will also mean a lower degree of air pollution. Pollution levels in cities like Delhi and Pune has reached its peak. An intervention is needed to prevent the situation from worsening. Rising air pollution levels in these cities have led to more respiratory diseases and deaths.

9. Improved productivity - Increasing mobility of people to reach work places on time without losing precious working hours will boost the productivity and profits of the Indian economy. Levying a congestion tax will serve as an engine of growth for the economy. Reducing congestion will lower the amount of time wasted and this will help businesses

10. Scarce resource will be put to valuable use - Congestion charge associated with price will lead to allocation of scarce resources to more valuable use.

11. Improved quality of life - Fewer cars and bikes will mean less pollution and make city centres attractive for cyclists and pedestrians thereby improving the quality of life.

12. Raising revenue - Congestion tax will add to the revenue of the State and increase the amount of money available to be spent on public services. By encouraging public transportation and thereby raising revenue, congestion tax will offer dual benefits to citizens and the State.

13. Social cost of driving will be paid - Roads are a public infrastructure as are street lighting and signals. Maintaining these incurs costs. Moreover, the social cost of driving is far higher with congestion, pollution and other external costs. Placing a congestion charge will contribute to social equity. Charging motorists for the use of road space will help the cash strapped authorities to provide better infrastructure and improved public services

14. Reduced journey time - Lowering the congestion will not only be good for business but also help people to traverse long distances in shorter times, especially in the case of emergencies.

15. Congestion pricing has been successful in other cities - Singapore, Stockholm and London are only some of the cities where congestion charges have been successfully introduced using simple cordon systems and sophisticated technologies such as GPS and transponders.

16. Lower the level of maintenance required for public infrastructure - Introducing a congestion tax will lower pressure on roads and eliminate the need to built more highways/roadways or excessive wear and tear of existing ones. There will also be lower requirement for widening roads and this will help in better management of cash resources for the State.

17. Give citizens incentives to live in high density areas - Currently, congested areas have become inhabitable. With the introduction of a congestion charge and lowering of traffic, population will become less skewed and more evenly distributed across high density areas.


1. Congestion tax is vertically inequitable - Those who have higher incomes will pay lower proportion of their income in such charges as compared to those with limited monetary resources.

2. Promotes social inequity - Imposing the same proportion of congestion tax on poor and weaker sections of society will debilitate them and create further hurdles for balanced social growth.

3. Congestion charges offer unfair advantages - Those who can afford to pay the charges will travel faster and further.

4. Tough to administer - It will be very difficult to regulate the levying of the congestion charge. Chasing drivers who do not pay or try to avoid the tax is tough. Nepotism and bribery will rear its ugly head here too.

5. Increased instances of evasions - Much like income tax, congestion tax is also vastly unpopular with people who will look for schemes and techniques such as false number plates or setting up fake cab services to avoid paying the charges.

6. City centres will lose business - Currently, people have the convenience of travelling to shops and urban centres with ease. Imposing a congestion tax will only serve to lowered traffic to city centres and this will impact business adversely.

7. Technologies needed for implementation - Sophisticated technology such as GPS monitors and transponders will be needed for implementing the congestion tax. This will incur additional cost to the State.

8. Anti poor tax - A congestion tax is regressive as it takes a higher percentage of income in tax from the poor

9. How many taxes will citizens pay? - From cleanliness tax to forgoing subsidies, citizens are being placed in a tough monetary position. Adding another tax to the collection will lead to further economic destabilisation.

10. Expensive to implement - Collecting the congestion tax will be a tough task, given that the cost of collection will be high. Even the technologies and manpower needed to administer this tax will be costly.

11. Public transport is not up to the mark - Public transport is not well developed and if congestion tax is imposed, people will not have the alternative to use this form of transportation because it is not timely or well maintained. The citizen will be caught in a problem when it comes to daily commuting needs.

12. Public transport systems will be overburdened and overcrowded - Increasing the burden on public transport systems will create further problems for the State as more people will take this transportation mode and create a burden on already choked systems.


Congestion tax is a positive step in a world where pollution has led to deaths and world leaders are trying to come up with ways to protect the environment from rising emissions. Given that the tax will be implemented only on car and bike owners, this tax ensures people being charged will be able to afford it. It will also boost the revenue of the state and improve the state of public transportation. This tax has more advantages than drawbacks associated with it. To further drive the point home. congestion tax will only serve to unblock the roads and unlock resources of citizens and the State.
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  • RE: Congestion Charges for Urban Cities : Pros and Cons -Deepa Kaushik (12/03/15)
  • Congestion charges is a good initiative towards checking heavy traffic in the busy city roads. We can find a steep increase in the number of private vehicles despite the introduction of metro trains along with the public road transport. The increase in the vehicular traffic is not only due to the increase in population or overflowing of the local transport, but it is also due to the decrease in the costs of private vehicles.

    Gone are the days when people used to avoid buying vehicles for the affordability factor. The culture today has changed to the extent that people prefer to take their own vehicles rather than using public transport. Though it is a fact that public transport is not evenly distributed with respect to frequency round the clock and in all the routes as per the requirement, yet the plying vehicles are found to be moving vacant or very few people inside many a times. The congestion charges may make the people opt for public transport.

    The other point being the ownership of multiple vehicles in single family. When every member owns a vehicle, the number of vehicles would increase and so the per unit space occupied by that single person on the road. Congestion charges might make the family members co-ordinate and travel together, so as to reduce the amount of tax payed. This could help in getting the family members closer when they can give more time to each other.

    Another benefit of levying congestion tax and making people adopt public transport, is the sense of security. In the recent past, we have come across and are receiving some or the other incident of crime in public transport almost everyday. The main reason behind these being the vehicles least occupied, giving the bad elements enough space for the criminal acts. The increase in the utilisation of public transport by the commuters might reduce the number of such crimes.

    It is understandable that the congestion tax would be a added burden on the common man, where the cost of living is continuously increasing without any effective increase in the salary structure. Still, spreading the awareness regarding pollution or making a car-free day as an option hasn’t resolved the concern. When people have a deaf ear towards the environmental hazards, it becomes mandatory to restrict them for the benefit of nature. Hence, the congestion tax should be encouraged with a good motto of environmental protection.