EghtesadOnline: The Tehran Transportation Council has proposed a new plan for curbing traffic and air pollution in central parts of the metropolis, after an arduous debate among environmentalists and urban planners about one traffic scheme in place for more than a decade that simply failed to deliver.
The new scheme named Air Pollution Control (APC), would replace the odd-even rule which was introduced in 2005. As per a statement by the council, after approval by the Tehran City Council, the APC will be implemented in April, ISNA reported.
As per the odd-even rule, cars can enter the designated ‘restricted zone’ on alternate days depending on the odd and even number of the license plate.
This zone is an 88.5 square kilometer area in central Tehran limited by Imam Ali Expressway in the east, Navvab Expressway and Chamran Highway to the west, Besat Expressway in the south and Hemmat Expressway in the north, Financial Tribune reported.
Saturday is earmarked for cars with the last even digit and Friday, being the weekend, is free for all cars.
As per the APC, the geographical boundary of the area will remain unchanged. But, each vehicle can enter the restricted zone for free for maximum 20 days every season, or 80 days a year.
If motorists want to enter the zone more than the number of times mentioned in the plan, they should pay a toll. The fee has not been finalized yet, however, in the statement, it has been recommended to be lower than 180,000 rials ($1.5) per entry.
Cars arriving in Tehran from the provinces and are not registered in the capital, will be permitted to enter the zone for free on 15 days every season. Many people living in Alborz Province, 20km west of Tehran, come to the capital everyday for work and education.
The TCC statement adds that Tehran Urban Research and Planning Center in collaboration with centers of higher education carried out extensive studies on the effectiveness (or lack of it) of the odd-even scheme to determine what can and should be done to curb the omnipresent air pollution and traffic congestion in the city of 12 million people.
Results of the studies have been drawn upon to devise the APC scheme.
According to the statement the APC is backed by Tehran Municipality, Traffic Police, Interior Ministry and the Tehran Governorate.
During the studies a survey was also been conducted that indicated that car owners whose number plates ended with an odd number drove in the restricted zone for 39 days every season. This is while motorists whose car number plates ended with an even number were in the zone less number of times (26 days).
In addition to the odd-even rule, another scheme has been implemented in the capital to help curb the smog and traffic jams.
The TM launched the Air Pollution Reduction (APR) scheme last November in another bid to improve air quality. As per the plan, old and dilapidated vehicles are banned in the sprawling city and violators are fined.
The APR plan of action so far has forced large numbers of car owners to have their vehicles checked or face consequences. All four and two wheelers are required to go through mandatory inspections and receive technical papers that confirm the vehicles are roadworthy.
Odd-Even Scheme Downside
Mohsen Pour Seyed Aqaei, director of the TM Transport and Traffic Organization earlier told ISNA, “A short time after its introduction, the odd-even scheme helped curb air pollution. However, as time passed by the scheme simply lost its usefulness with undeserving results. Pollution and smog has intensified.”
“The scheme will be discussed in detail at the High Council for Coordination of Urban Traffic and could be revoked by March.”
The TM has reviewed the scheme in detail and its impact on air quality for the past several months. “Results show that mismanagement and improper implementation of the odd-even scheme has had an adverse effect on the air quality. The odd-even rule was initially planned to be a temporary measure to curb air pollution only during crisis.”
Director of Tehran Air Quality Control Company Hossein Shahidzade says, “According to the latest studies and for all practical purposes the odd-even scheme has failed.”
ISNA discussed the scheme and its impact with traffic expert Mardan Heidari. “With cars banned from the restricted zone, many switched to motorcycles,” Heidari notes.
Initially, two-wheelers were not barred from the restricted areas. Even after limits were introduced for their commute in the zone, many bikers were regularly in the area in total disregard for the rules.
Barred from using their own cars in the restricted areas, and given the poor quality of urban transport, many started using “taxi bike services”, Heidari recalled.
An estimated 2.5 million carburetor-equipped motorcycles ply Tehran’s permanently clogged roads. As they are not equipped with catalyst converters and release toxic fumes into the environment, the amount of fumes each motorbike spews into the air equals that of eight vehicles with Euro 3 emission standards. The other problem is that most motorcycles are fuel-intensive.
Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi has often emphasized the need to expand public transportation network as a key to curb air pollution and traffic congestion, which have become a nuisance and rather agonizing for the residents, particularly during rush hours.
"Improving the subway, taxi and bus network along with bicycle docking stations is high on the municipality agenda," he says.
After taking office in December, the mayor joined the ‘Car Free Tuesdays’ campaign that was launched in 2016, which encourages Iranians not to use their personal vehicles on Tuesdays.
According to statistics, almost 3.8 million urban trips, out of 19 million made every day in Tehran, are via public buses. Tehran's Public Transport fleet has 6,200 buses, but at least 10,000 are needed for decent commuting in the capital, Hanachi says.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Taxi Union reports that 80,000 taxis offer services in the city.
Tehran subway, the other key public transport network, has 5 lines and two are under construction (lines 6 and 7), with a total 100 stations.
The good news is that subway commute has increased significantly in recent years and four million people use the trains every day. Tehran Municipality expects the number to climb by 25% after lines 6 and 7 are up and running.
All said, what is indeed available is obviously not enough for Tehran where millions commute every day including large numbers from the surrounding cities and towns.