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More city development charges in the making for Bengaluru

So have you been wondering why the updates on this blog have become slower? Well Happy New Year 2008 to all of you and I must say I’m just back from my one week full shutdown vacation. Got my batteries recharged spending time with my family and now ready to take on 2008. And what does Bengaluru have to give you this year? More levies and fees for each and everything that the citizen is involved in. Take a look yourself

This year the whole country seems to be talking big. After the climate change convention in Bali, stricter norms are in the making for all countries including India. Though we may not be immediately affected, India has managed to convince USA to reduce emissions, it being a developed nation. While this might mean more fuel efficient vehicles and lesser dependence for USA on fossil fuels, back home this automatically leads everyone (yes even if he is a politician) to think about the impact of climate change and accordingly self impose stricter rules and penalties to reduce this drastic impact on human life.

Taking one item at a time from the sticky notes above, while congestion tax is a good thing for India (just like in London) it will work out well only if the tax is almost 250 bucks a day. But it also means the government needs to moot and run an efficient transport system which not only uses cleaner greener fuels, but also handles the whole population of cities like Bengaluru. Higher parking fees would work out only if the parking fee is Rs.100 per hour or more, and it will not only discourage people from taking out their cars each time, but also bring in lots of developmental moolah for the government to run an efficient point to point public transport. This brings back the pressure on the government to look into the transport aspect in full detail.While current vehicle registration charges are almost 10% of vehicle value, it will make a lot of sense to make it 25% of the vehicle value. This only means going against the automobile lobby as their sales will drastically drop and indirectly impact many workers in the automobile sector. This however will not only prevent 1 lac cars from clogging roads but also enable only the super rich to flaunt cars and keep most general public out of a traffic jam at all times. What this essentially means is that the public then will learn to use public transport such as buses and trains instead of cars for every single mile they travel (mind you this includes me too!)

The tax on fuel is already as much as the per litre cost and this is already one significant expense for the average indian. The fuel charges alone work out upto Rs.5000 to Rs.10000 per month which on the average is about 5-7% of a person’s monthly income. But there is a negative impact of this tax, as it will push up the commodity prices for those essentials transported by vehicles running on this fuel. Whichever way you look at it, the common man is going to be burdened! So either you pay more for your food or for your fuel or both! Needless to remind you of the already existing food (hotel) tax and entertainment (cinemas) tax that you are paying up. The carbon based road tax is however a good thing as less pollutant vehicles might end up paying lesser tax than those that burn more fossil fuels. On a larger scale the carbon credit system will define future economies as we continue to march ahead with economic progress.

Since diesel vehicles pollute more, the government has already started discouraging diesel vehicles with Delhi announcing banning of diesel vehicles sooner than later. While this is definitely going to help the automobile lobby even more, it also helps oil companies earn more with petrol. But on the brighter side we have automotive companies working on hybrid’s and showing their commitment to ethanol based petrol - like Mahindra and Honda for instance. Diesel vehicles will also be dearer to get and more scarce if there is a cap on diesel vehicles manufactured per year. Already we have 15000 vehicles (of all types) being registered in Bengaluru per day now and you can rightly imagine whats going to be of our city if this continues! Already the fuel economy standards have been much spoken about above so there is no need to reiterate on that again.

The statewise public transport funds is definitely going to help for a city such as Bengaluru as we have dedicated funds to run proper services. But the one thing still is a dire necessity is dedicated lanes/roads for these buses to ply on. Hopefully the governments schemes would surely turn into a reality soon. The dedicated bus lanes on highways is more of a doubt cast with the highways we have in place in Karnataka. If it were to be an expressway one can understand the reasoning (an example of highways in Kuala Lumpur and around), but around Bengaluru all lanes have already turned into truck only lanes leave alone buses and two wheelers/cars to drive on! That requires some really serious planning and most of all enforcement. As long as enforcement is not a regularlity such schemes will die a relatively fast death. Hopefully encouraging private sector to design better public transport systems would bring about the best engineering talent forward to give us an effiicient system for our clogged city.

Lastly the inter city rail links are already a hit, and enhancing this by adding more trains at better frequencies and also for freight is surely going to bring the congestion burden down by a bit if not too much. So hopefully by end 2008 Bengaluru should be on the pathway to lesser congestion unless a new government becomes a stumbling block for economic progress once again. This makes me only wish that the president’s rule lasts the remaining two years more.

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