By Shafaat Ahmed www.khaleejtimes.com
The 59th UITP Congress concluded on Thursday in Dubai with the call to the world to double the market share of public transport or face the negative consequences of environment, health and finance.
The five-day event participated by over 2,000 delegates and 9,700 visitors from 85 countries came to a conclusion at a glittering awards ceremony held in the honour of the authorities who took bold and innovative decisions to popularise public transport in their region. The awards were handed over by Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.
As much as $30 trillion worth of investment has been sought by UITP officials in their attempt to convert the dream of doubling the public transport into a reality in the next 15 years.
However, experts feel that money alone will not solve the problem.
“What is required is political will, capacity building, accessibility of public transport as well as regulations that discourage private cars and make public transport attractive,” said Hans Rat, Secretary General of UITP, outlining some of the points that help achieve the lofty target.
One of the popular suggestions by experts throughout the last four days of the congress was the imposition of congestion charges as well as restriction of private cars, which is already in practice in some cities like Singapore. “The world needs to take bold decisions to help save the environment as well as to avoid other problems by not promoting public transport. I personally advocate imposing traffic tax and earmarking the revenue generated from it towards the development of public transport. This would work as a two way solution such as helping reduce congestion as well help cover transport operation costs,” opined Brian Simpson, Member of European Parliament and Chairman of Transport Committee.
At the regional level, an investment of at least $80b would be required to develop public transport, with the UAE aiming to invest nearly half of the amount by 2025.
Though, there are no decisions as yet at the local level to raise funds through taxation, apart from the Salik toll that is currently operational, a senior RTA official admitted that surveys are underway to study various options to help tackle congestion and promote public transport in Dubai.
“We are studying various options and one of the suggestions is to increase the car registration fee and have some restriction on buying cars. This would discourage private cars and help promote public transport. We hope to see some legislations soon in this regard,” said Mohammed Obaid Al Mulla, Member of RTA board and Chairman of UITP organizing committee.
He hinted that the expansion of the toll system like Salik, which has to a large extent helped reduce traffic on key roads, could also be one of the options.