PETALING JAYA: Enduring long hours of traffic is a common experience for many Malaysians, especially those commuting to and from work in Kuala Lumpur.
According to the TomTom Traffic Index, Malaysians spent 75 hours navigating rush hour jams throughout 2022, equivalent to three full days.
Suggestions have been made for the introduction of congestion charges in Kuala Lumpur as a means to alleviate traffic in the city centre, with natural resources and environmental sustainability minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad recently revisiting the idea.
FMT takes a look at the concept of congestion charges, how they operate and their feasibility in Malaysia.
What are congestion charges?
Congestion charges are fees imposed on vehicles travelling within a designated area during certain times, aimed at managing traffic flow and encouraging the use of public transportation.
They are typically collected through an electronic tolling system, through which vehicles entering the designated zone during chargeable hours are identified and fees are automatically deducted.
Transport planner Rosli Azad Khan said congestion charges differ from toll fees, which are imposed based on road usage and/or the distance covered.
“Congestion charges are collected to pay for the provision of public transport and related amenities,” he said, adding that they can also address the city authorities’ need to allocate space for parking.
Congestion charges elsewhere
Singapore was the first city to introduce congestion pricing in 1975. The original scheme involved a manual system of colour-coded paper licences, which was later replaced by an electronic system.
Several other cities around the world have also implemented congestion pricing, including London and Stockholm.
In London, the congestion charge is £15 (RM88.23) per day for driving within the congestion charge zone in Central London. The fee is applicable all week from 7am to 10pm.
Stockholm has also implemented a congestion pricing system that led to a 15% reduction in traffic in the city centre and a 30% reduction in travel delays.
Will congestion charges work in Malaysia?
Ahmad Farhan Sadullah of Universiti Putra Malaysia supported the use of congestion charges as a means to encourage public transportation use, but said its success would rely on the government’s determination and capability to implement the system.
“It will only work if there is the will to solve congestion problems as well as the boldness to introduce the scheme as Singapore and many cities in the world have done for many years.
“The Kejara system can be adapted as a building block of any congestion pricing scheme,” he said, citing the possibility of integrating vehicle and driver information for effective enforcement and deterrence.
Meanwhile, Rosli said certain cities in Malaysia such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bahru would need congestion charges soon.
“They are the leading cities that will need to work out congestion charges soon if they wish to eliminate road congestion, and require the funds to pay for public transport, both for infrastructure and services,” he said.
However, Rosli advised against outsourcing the policy’s management and enforcement to private companies, urging the government to have experts to protect the public’s interest.