Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Welcome to Gridlock

Much more of this to come. Cars in a jam on Carrera 30. 
In a grim move for a liveable Bogotá, the City Council voted down a proposed traffic congestion charge.

A daily traffic jam in La Candelaria.
Look forward to a future of ever-worsening traffic jams, noise and pollution. It's a future which will hurt everybody - except for those who sell cars, gasoline and parking lots.

In opposing the charge, a city councilwoman opined that 'Bogotá was not ready for a congestion charge.'

Does that mean that Bogotá IS READY for tens of thousands of additional cars, which will compound traffic jams?

When will Bogotá be ready for a congestion charge? Perhaps a decade or more from now, when a first subway line is finally working? By then, the number of private cars in Bogotá may have doubled, strangling the city.

But congestion charges, which have reduced traffic jams and pollution in London, Singapore and other cities, can do particular good exactly because a city lacks a subway system. The income generated by such a charge would help finance Bogotá's mass transit.

Why did the council dump the congestion charge after months of discussion, despite the support of both Mayor Petro and his temporary replacement Rafael Pardo and two studies which concluded that a charge would work?

I bet that those who profit from traffic jams and air pollution, including car sellers, gasoline vendors and the car parking industry, with their deep pockets, lobbied hard against the congestion charge. Who backed it? Perhaps a few NGOs.

Meanwhile, Colombia continues taking public money away from schools, hospitals and parks to subsidize the diesel and gasoline fuels which are poisoning us and turning our streets into parking lots.

Do those sound like rational priorities? Of course not.

The brilliant cynic Ambrose Bierce defined democracy as 'Three wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.'

With powerful economic interests ready to attack it, a congestion charge won't have much chance until a popular and charismatic leader, who's willing to take short-term political costs, champions the idea. Mayor Gustavo Petro, who seems obsessed with fighting to hold onto power for the sake of holding onto power, isn't that man.

In a May 7 editorial, El Tiempo suggests that the City Council's vote was 'political' and argues that a congestion charge is a necessity for Bogotá. City Hall will introduce the measure again, El Tiempo says. Hopefully, I don't expect much from the Petro administration.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: