Disincentivise car use to promote public transport

By Conrad Prabhu — MUSCAT: Feb 13 – Authorities must adopt measures to discourage individual car use in order to drive a large-scale shift to public transportation, according to a key urban transport expert. Dario Hildalgo (pictured), Director of Integrated Transport at the World Resource Institute, a Washington DC based think-tank, proposed a two-pronged formula to achieve a wider uptake of public transportation services: To develop, on the one hand, a customer-focused, quality driven, reliable and comfortable integrated public transport system, and on the other, introduce measures that force private car users to opt for mass transport.
“If everyone uses their private cars, you will have a traffic situation characterized by congestion, road accidents, global warming issues, and so on. One solution adopted by many modern cities around the world is to discourage individual car use, through tax levies on private cars, road tax, parking tax, congestion tax, scrapping of subsidy on fuels, and so on.” The expert made the comments at the opening session of the UITP MENA Seminar & Assembly that began at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre yesterday.
In his address, Hidalgo espoused the ‘Avoid – Shift – Improve’ philosophy embraced by major cities in prioritizing public transport over private vehicle use. Through early and effective urban planning of city developments, public transport systems such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and other mass rapid transit systems can help eschew a role for private cars in meeting the commuting needs of the local population, he said.
Further, by improving the quality of transit services, notably through the introduction of integrated public transport services, motorists can be gradually encouraged to make the ‘shift’ or transition to public transport, said the expert. Also, by improving public transport to cover the wider population, people will be encouraged to switch to more economical means of travel, he noted.
Also indispensable to the success of any public transport system is the use of technology to operate the service reliably and safely, to provide information about the services provided to the travelling population, and to integrate the service with other elements of public transport. Besides, innovation is a key factor in meeting the ever-changing demands and expectations of the travelling public, he added.
The session also featured presentations by Ahmed Ali al Bulushi, CEO – ONTC Mwasalat; Khalid Alhogail, Chairman, UITP MENA Division; Alain Flausch, UITP General Secretary; John Lesniewski, Group Chief Commercial Officer – Oman Global Logistics Group; Prof Rakesh Belwal, Associate Profession, Sohar University; and Amna Ali al Saadi, PhD candidate – Oman Post.