The suggestion of charging a road toll to ease traffic congestion in areas of Hong Kong is not new.
Despite discussions over 30 years, the government has stopped short of adopting such a policy when faced with objections by groups such as the transport sector.
An electronic road toll system, if implemented correctly, could ease traffic problems in heavily congested areas like Central, Wan Chai and Mong Kok.
In the past, district councils of the affected areas have opposed the toll, saying it would represent a tax on local residents as they must drive on the roads to get to and from their homes.
Under a single-toll system, unless vehicles registered in the affected areas were exempted, these residents would have to bear an additional and unfair financial burden.
A comprehensive electronic road toll plan would discourage people from driving into the congested areas unnecessarily.
Many vehicles in the logistics industry, going from Sheung Wan to West Kowloon, or the mainland, avoid a shorter and more direct route. They prefer instead to go through Central, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay on Gloucester Road and use the Cross-Harbour Tunnel because of its lower tolls. And yet it costs them more in petrol and time because of congestion. Also, they create more pollution.
Given the importance accorded to use of rail networks, government traffic policies should consider MTR ridership. Wan Chai District Council has been pressing for a park-and-ride system to be adopted by the MTR Corporation on new [and extended] lines. This would enable residents not living close to public transport to park at the station with a tied-in fare for parking and travelling on the train.
It would eliminate a lot of vehicles from our streets. However, the MTR Corp has not been receptive to the idea which has been implemented and operates successfully in many international cities such as Washington DC and London, as well as Singapore.
Our government should take a lead and look at the whole picture. It should integrate public transport routes with a park-and-ride system to reduce private vehicle usage.
A comprehensive electronic road toll plan should discourage people from driving into congested areas while providing an incentive to use alternative roads, environmentally friendly vehicles, and complimentary transport modes.
David Lai, vice-chair, development, planning and traffic committee, Wan Chai District Council