Tehran Mulls Modifications to Air Pollution Control Scheme
EghtesadOnline: After prolonged debates over the deficiencies of Air Pollution Control scheme, which is currently underway in the Iranian capital, Tehran Police have urged urban managers to revise the plan.
Proposed by Tehran Municipality's Transportation Council after talks were held among environmentalists and urban planners, the APC scheme was launched on June 22 to curb traffic and air pollution.
In the last couple of months, Tehran City Council and Traffic Police have been scrutinizing the scheme’s performance, and highlighting drawbacks that negatively affect air quality and public transportation, Mehr News Agency reported.
Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi said the consistency of problems listed by both the city council and the traffic police illustrates lack of sufficient preliminary studies in the implementation of APC, according to Financial Tribune.
"The weak points of the scheme have been communicated via an unofficial letter to TM, calling for urgent modifications. Otherwise, the police will further take action," Rahimi said, without elaborating further.
The modifications can take effect after the city council’s verification.
The long duration of daily time limit, no maximum limit for the cars entering the scheme area each day and increased traffic jam in this area are among APC’s flaws highlighted in the letter.
In addition, lack of efficient public means of transportation as an alternative to private cars is the other challenging issue that increases the likelihood of commuters taking rides with motorbikes instead of taxis. This will end up increasing the number of low-quality and smog-inducing motorcycles which, according to the traffic police, are five times more polluting than passengers cars of the same age.
The arguments were in response to the complaints earlier raised by Hojjat Nazari, a member of Tehran City Council, who had censured the APC scheme, calling for its cancellation.
Last month, Nazari told Mehr News Agency that APC has had a harmful effect on air quality.
"People in the capital judge the schemes based on observable results. The grey sky in Tehran and clogged roads are what the general public are struggling with these days," he added.
Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Mehmandar, the head of Tehran Traffic Police, told the media that at first, every scheme is a drafted idea and only its implementation will reveal its deficiencies.
"Urban managers must study APC's positive and negative results, and modify the scheme accordingly; this is a normal and rational process," Mehmandar said.
Narrowing down the case to time limitations defined by the scheme, he suggested that small and sensible changes in APC time restrictions will most probably ease traffic congestion during the rush hours.
In an effort to control motorcyclists repeatedly found breaching the law, the capital's police announced more stringent surveillance over their driving habits as of Tuesday.
Motorcyclists usually commit violations such as wrong-way driving, shifting into bus express lanes, driving in walkways, crossing red lights and having covered or damaged number plates, Rahimi told the media.
"Police will crack down on motorists found violating the traffic regulations and will seize their vehicles," he added.
Pointing to the fact that since March, over 45% of road traffic mortalities were among motorcyclists, Rahimi said mere warning and fining the law-breaking motorists have not helped so far, hence more serious action is needed to curb their lawfulness.
How APC Works
As per APC, each vehicle can enter a "restricted zone" in central Tehran for free for a maximum of 20 days each season, or 80 days a year.
Spread over 88.5 square kilometers in central Tehran, the zone is bounded 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.
Vehicles are barred from entering the area between 6:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on all days, except Fridays and national holidays. On Thursdays, the time limit is between 6:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
If motorists wish to enter the zone more than the number of times allowed in the plan, they need to pay a toll fee.
APC was proposed as an alternative to the odd-even scheme, which was implemented in Tehran in 2005.
As per the odd-even rule, cars entered the designated restricted zone on alternate days, depending on the odd and even number of the license plate.
Soon after its introduction, the odd-even scheme helped curb air pollution. However, as time passed, the scheme lost its usefulness and even gave rise to undesirable results, such as higher levels of pollution and smog.