Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Another Doomed Traffic Scheme

Wasted time. Cars stuck in a traffic jam in La Candelaria. 
The mayor's latest doomed scheme to unsnarl traffic in central Bogotá is to apply the Pico y Placa scheme based on the number of occupants in a vehicle.

The principle is a good one: Encourage visitors to downtown not to do so in space-hogging single-passenger vehicles. Instead, three people are supposed to share a car.

In a city in which only a small minority use private cars, but private cars monopolize 80% of road space, the logic is obvious.

Is anybody paying attention? A banner near the
Hotel Tequendama announces
the upcoming restriction. 
Bizzarely, too, some downtown businesses are protesting the measure, which is supposed to kick in March 4, claiming that they or their customers won't be able to come downtown. Forget that there are lots of other ways to come downtown besides in private cars, including buses, TransMilenio, bicycling and walking.

These cars waiting near the Hotel Tequendama appeared
to contain only one or two passengers.
Their opposition is bizarre and irrational because this measure is actually a relaxation of the despised and failed Pico y Placa law. Cars otherwise prohibited from driving would be able to do so as long as they had three or more occupants, including the driver. (The area affected would extend from the Ave. Comuneros in the south to Calle 26 in the north, and the Ave. Circunvular to the east to Carrera 27 in the west.

However strong its logic, this rule won't be enforceable. Fatigued police transit officers aren't going to take the trouble to count passengers and consider Pico y Placa rules and then write tickets. And, what about all those cars with tinted windows? Those cars tend to belong to the rich, powerful and self-important, who won't likely roll down their windows to let a cop to peek inside.

Altho it would not be easy to implement, Bogotá should also prohibit the unjust, destructive and discriminatory practice of providing free parking to customers, students and employees. Free parking generates huge costs, subsidizes the wealthy at the expense of the poor and promotes wasteful, polluting driving.

The best - and perhaps only - real solution to Bogotá's trarffic congestion is a London-style congestion charge. The Petro administration has talked a lot about this, but not moved ahead on it.

Everybody suffers from too many cars. Here, cars block a TransMilenio bus from advancing. (Someone please tell me why police don't ticket vehicles which stop inside intersections.)

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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