Overhaul urban transport before e-tolling


EDITOR ? The Ministry of Transport is planning to introduce tollgates in urban areas according to recent press reports.

It is not yet clear whether these tollgates will be manual or electronic, but the electronic road pricing system is preferred as it is efficient and eases congestion as opposed to manual tollgates.

Although tollgates are the best way to ease congestion and raise funds for road construction and maintenance for them to be effective, certain conditions have to be met:

– Public transport provision system needs to be reliable, effective and efficient. This enables the commuting urban population to decide on whether to use private cars or go for public transport.

– Currently, urban public transport provision in Harare requires a major facelift. Let’s talk of mass transit systems before we think of urban e-tolling.

The National Railways of Zimbabwe needs resuscitation as it can provide invaluable services in the provision of urban public transport.

As an example, in India, The Mumbai Suburban Railways carries more than seven million commuters everyday compared to less than 500 passengers ferried by NRZ, in both Harare and Bulawayo every day.

– Urban centres can be decongested now if the government comes up with urban Public Transport Policy that promotes the use of high capacity public passenger vehicles (more than 45 seater-buses) and gradually get rid of kombis. We can then think of tollgates afterwards.

– Effective management of congestion requires a holistic approach. If we introduce electronic road pricing system in our urban areas now, they will be more of cash cows and will not serve the intended purpose of reducing congestion.

The government will be just fleecing the meagre salaries of the taxpayers.

– There is also need to have accountable public transport operators in specified urban geographical areas with agreed economic fares.

– Introducing e-tolling now is more of prescribing a foreign pill to a local ailment, which may require local solutions.  Zimbabwean solutions, rather than  copying controversial systems from other countries can help solve our congestion problems.

Germany for example, where the motor car was invented, has decongested her cities, simply by building first class public transport facilities and they have an electronic road pricing system to discourage private cars from entering the city.

Note the order of the sequence of the measures. Singapore and Japan then followed suit.

– Further, quite a lot of money is collected from the existing tollgates.

Surprisingly, a high percentage of the collected money goes to salaries and administration and commission and not road construction and repairs.

Tackling urban public transport challenges and congestion requires an integrated multi-level approach and therefore a multi-level framework of planning and decision making.

There is no single approach best suited to address congestion.

Long-term congestion and urban public transport challenges outcomes will only be delivered through a well-framed process that addresses congestion in all aspects at the metropolitan level.

Mugwazeni Sithole


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