Tehran's Air Pollution Control Scheme’s Effectiveness Under Scrutiny
EghtesadOnline: Tehran’s Traffic Police announced that the Air Pollution Control scheme, currently underway in the capital, will most probably undergo some modifications in the new Iranian year (starting March 20, 2020).
After prolonged debates over the advantages and disadvantages of APC, the traffic police held meetings with urban experts and authorities to remove its deficiencies and recommend modifications to the scheme for the next fiscal year, ISNA reported.
Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi added that the modifications will be implemented after Tehran Municipality approves and finalizes the recommendations, according to Financial Tribune.
To curb traffic and air pollution, TM's Transportation Council held talks with environmentalists and urban planners, before launching the APC scheme on June 22, 2019.
In the past several months, Tehran City Council and Traffic Police scrutinized the scheme’s performance and identified drawbacks that adversely affect air quality and public transportation.
Rahimi said the consistency of problems listed by both the city council and the traffic police indicates a lack of sufficient preliminary studies before launching APC.
"The weaknesses of the scheme were communicated via an unofficial letter to TM, calling for urgent modifications. Fortunately, work is underway to streamline the plan, hoping that it will deliver," he added.
The long duration of the daily time limit, no maximum limit for cars entering the scheme zone each day and increased traffic jam in this area are among APC’s flaws highlighted by the letter.
In addition, lack of efficient public means of transportation as an alternative to private cars is the other challenging issue that has increased the prospects of commuters taking a ride with motorbikes instead of taxis. This will ultimately increase the number of low-quality and smog-inducing motorcycles which, according to the traffic police, are five times more polluting than passenger cars of the same age.
Arguments against the APC scheme were first raised by Hojjat Nazari, a member of TCC, calling for the plan's cancellation. Nazari told reporters 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," he added.
He suggested that small and sensible changes in APC’s time restrictions will most probably ease traffic congestion during the rush hours.
How APC Works
As per the APC scheme, 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.
The APC scheme was proposed as an alternative to the odd-even scheme 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.
Other Traffic Rules
Besides the APC scheme, two more traffic schemes are underway in the capital, namely Air Pollution Reduction, and the so-called Traffic Scheme.
Each of these schemes enforces different rules and restrictions on vehicles plying the capital’s streets to ease air pollution and traffic congestions, and fines drivers guilty of violating these rules.
TM launched the scheme called Air Pollution Reduction in the capital in November 2018.
APR bars dilapidated two- and four-wheelers from plying the city’s roads. All the vehicles in the metropolis are required to undergo automotive inspections and receive a technical certificate showing the vehicle meets automotive and emission standards. Those who are found in breach are fined.
The more stringent “Traffic Scheme” in central Tehran was enforced in an area limited by Motahari Street in the north, Shariati Street in east, Kargar (west) and Shoosh (south) where cars, except public transportation vehicles, are barred from entering the area between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Entering the zone costs up to 414,000 rials ($3) for private vehicles.
It seems that only more trials and errors in the future will determine the effectiveness of these schemes in curbing air pollution and easing traffic congestion.