By Dr. Solmaz Rezaei
Head of research and consulting department
The issue of collecting traffic tolls in urban roads has been a subject of media attention and public opinion for several years and has been addressed by Tehran’s urban managers at different times. Regardless of the marginal issues, it is necessary to look at this issue with a closer look and attention from various aspects. The urban traffic issue is one of the challenges of urban systems around the world. A disaster that causes devastating effects, such as psychological disturbances, waste of time, increased fuel consumption, environmental pollution, and increased accidents, results in financial and psychological damage to the urban community. Also, other issues facing urban managers include the cost of building and maintaining transport infrastructure and developing public transportation. In this context, the implementation of the tolls collection plan on urban roads as a global experience is one of the operational solutions to overcome these urban problems. For the first time in 1920, the British economist Arthur Pico raised the subject of pricing for the use of roads and examined the relationship between optimal tolls and social costs. This issue is also an economic tool for urban transport management, which can be effective in reducing network traffic and encouraging the use of public transport methods, and can also account for most of the network-related financial costs of urban transport, as well as the cost of reducing the environmental impact of urban road traffic. Collecting tolls on urban roads is a policy that can lead to better utilization of transport network capacities and to improve the transport behavior of individuals in such a way to achieve the collective benefits of citizens.
Today, in cities like Singapore, San Diego, Milan, Stockholm, Seoul, Dublin and many other cities, with different traffic or financial priorities, highway tolls are collected in a variety of ways. In this regard, the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in September 2009 presented the plan of successful cities in terms of light traffic to the Tehran municipality, in which capacity development and increased quality of public transport has been mentioned as a solution to traffic problems in the metropolis of the country. In this edition, one of the most important sources of financing was taxes received from personal cars in the form of fuel tax, cost for pollution and traffic tolls on urban roads, and direct spending in the development of public transport was indicated to be the only way to gain trust and accompany the public to pay such a tax on behalf of citizens. This issue is important when it comes to knowing that many of urban managements in the world are not able to finance transport infrastructure such as building and maintaining highways, tunnels and bridges, as well as preventing the violation of the rights of citizens who are not using the facilities and paying for the public transportation system, such recommendations have been considered seriously. In 1999, the World Bank proposed for countries such as Denmark, Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Norway to pay for the construction and exploitation of these infrastructures directly by users. According to the International Financial Institution in 2012, it is economically feasible to determine the tolls on an on-road and off-road network for reasons such as: the creation of new, proven, dedicated funds for investment in the construction and maintenance of roads, payment of external costs by users as one of the sustainable transport approaches, regional equality issues and private sector development can be considered by urban management systems. This issue is of particular importance to our cities, which are always faced with many problems in providing sustainable urban revenue, especially in urban transport. Also, according to a study, traffic and environmental indicators in a number of highway highways in Tehran have been investigated before and after pricing policies for these passages. The results of this study indicate that in the new situation, the total cost of the system (travel time) decreased by 0.77%, distance traveled decreased by 0.76%, consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel decreased by 0.49% and 0.79%, respectively, Carbon monoxide contamination decreased by 1.52% and the overall speed of the network did not change compared to the current situation.
Despite the above, the issue of collecting tolls on urban passages is also noteworthy from other points of view. For example, the question is, if such a plan is implemented, are alternatives choices available for citizens? Or is public transportation infrastructure developed in target cities so that such a plan would encourage more personal car owners to use it? It seems that none of these should be excluded from the calculation in order to achieve a favorable outcome for citizens and urban management. On the other hand, the city and public transport need sustained financial resources, such as highway costs, and, on the other hand, infrastructure is still not prepared to use such a new traffic and financial approach. In this regard, a comprehensive look with a long-term planning is required in a step-by-step process to realize urban justice in such a way to provide sustainable revenues for the urban transport sector as well as an efficient public transport system, available to the public urban society.