The important lesson from London is that what may appear to be an unpopular move — at the time the congestion charge was begun a decade ago, it certainly was one — can turn around opinion by dint of the success of the administration. It is a lesson that India must keep in mind. Delhi need only look at the setback that accrued from its bus rapid transit corridor experiment to know how the most enlightened of objectives can be dashed by the failure to think through the possible fallout. More importantly, even as our initiatives are inspired by London and Singapore, it needs to be kept in mind that those cities had less ambitious tasks at hand. For India, a congestion tax may not be enough. We need to consider other policy interventions. For instance, with the taking over of roadsides, even pavements, for parking, there should be an urgent look at raising parking fees and disallowing the use of so much road space for parking.
But, in the end, all these initiatives could come to little if the public transport and road infrastructure is not upgraded double-quick. In its absence, congestion charges, green cesses on fuel and prohibitory parking tariffs would simply raise the cost of mobility, and not necessarily decongest the roads to the betterment of health and efficiency.