Congestion charge for improved mobility faces feasibility question

September 10, 2013

Manish Umbrajkar, TNN

 

PUNE: During his visit to the city last week, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar had said Puneites should be prepared to cough up a congestion charge for better traffic management, in tune with a union government suggestion asking cities to explore imposing a congestion charge to decongest central business areas and improve mobility of people.

But traffic officials in Pune point out that the idea is impractical to implement and one which the municipal corporation has to take a decision on. Civic officials say it’s a “difficult charge” to impose.

 

 The Union ministry of urban development had in January this year urged state governments to consider introducing congestion charges. This month the ministry has once again asked the authorities to get a proper study done on various aspects of congestion charging system as per the city’s requirement. The ministry has even offered to bear 80% of the study’s cost.

“Mobility in medium and big cities is a huge challenge due to congestion during peak hours, which is mainly due to excessive use of private vehicles. There is a need to resolve the congestion issues urgently for improving mobility of people,” secretary of the Union ministry of urban development, Sudhir Krishna, stated in a letter addressed to all chief secretaries.

 

‘Excessive use of private vehicles’ on limited road space available is inefficient use of precious urban land. There is a need to discourage the use of private vehicles in select core areas of the city to increase the mobility of people at large, so that they can reach their workplaces, business centres and shops in time, without losing valuable working man hours, Krishna said in his letter. The congestion charge is premised on a basic concept – “charge a price in order to allocate a scarce resource to its most valuable use”. However, before introducing the congestion charge, the pre-condition is that there should be a good public transport system in place in the concerned city and proper facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, Krishna said.

 

The ministry has also cited case studies of congestion charging in central London and Singapore. “There are several cities the world over where congestion charges in one form or the other area being charged from private vehicles for many years. It is desirable to study the congestion pricing system in these cities in detail, and devise our own method. The results of congestion pricing in foreign cities have been impressive. Traffic in central London went down by about 21% and traffic speeds went up by about 10%,” Krishna wrote.

 

Municipal commissioner Mahesh Pathak wasn’t convinced with the road congestion tax suggestion for Pune. “It would be very difficult to implement. There are multiple entry or exit points. Moreover, there is no city in the country where such a tax is being collected,” said Pathak.

Senior traffic officials say such a tax should be ideally implemented, since it will help reduce traffic congestion. However, it is for the municipal corporation to decide on levying such a tax, the traffic officials said.

 

PMC and traffic police proposals on congestion tax

** In August 2007, the then municipal commissioner Pravinsinh Pardeshi had floated the idea of levying a new vehicle tax to arrest the growth of vehicular traffic. The proposed tax was proposed in addition to the registration charges and taxes paid to the Regional Transport Office, and if implemented, it would have been calculated based on the number of vehicles owned by a family. “We need to discourage the number of personal vehicles in the city, which are growing at an alarming speed,” he had said. The proposal did not work out, with staunch political opposition.

** The comprehensive mobility plan of the Pune Municipal Corporation has suggested introduction of both “physical and fiscal measures to discourage use of personal motor vehicles”

** The Pune traffic police in November 2009 sent a proposal to levy congestion charges on some of the busy city roads passing through the central peth areas of the city for reducing traffic. Besides proposing congestion charges, the traffic police had also stressed on the need to ban four-wheelers and two-wheelers on some busy roads, and turn them into walkways for citizens. The proposal also said that heavy parking charges should be collected from vehicle owners in the congested areas

 

Source- http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

 

Incorrigible expressway firm

September 9, 2013

Siddhartha Rai, Hindustan Times  Gurgaon,

 There’s much hue and cry nowadays about the alleged inefficiency of the concessionaire in operating the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, but the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and a parliamentary committee had two years ago slammed the firm, and pulled up the Centre and its highways body for “favouring” it.

According to the CAG’s performance audit of the expressway and the concessionaire’s functioning that was presented to the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in December, 2009, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the government of India (GoI) worked in a callous way that led to the “unjustified enrichment of the concessionaire”.

  “There are so many violations that the concessionaire has been doing but unfortunately nothing has happened so far. The concessionaire recovered its investment in the very first year of operating the highway in January, 2008. This had been mentioned in the CAG report as well,” said JP Singh, president of NH–8 Highway Welfare Association.

 

(The Sirhaul toll plaza near Ambience Mall on the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway witnesses heavy traffic jams during peak office hours. Sanjeev Verma/ HT photo)

Based on the CAG’s audit of the expressway just 20 months after it started commercial operation, a parliamentary committee noted gross irregularities in the entire process through which DGSCL was granted the project and thus cast aspersions on the procedural fairness of the project.

The committee started with its doubts over the change of the mode of execution from one based on a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to the build-operate-transfer model despite it not being viable one. It went on to note that the preferred model had proved to be detrimental to people’s interests and had caused financial losses to the exchequer.

“The whole scenario gives an impression that the government was more interested in fulfilling the commercial interest of the concessionaire instead of serving public interest,” observed the committee. According to the report, NHAI and GoI flouted every norm in the book.

The committee also held RITES equally responsible for the expressway muddle as severe deficiencies were pointed out by the CAG in its detailed project report. It led to change in scope of work orders worth hundreds of crores of rupees.

“This reflects the lack of professional competence on the part of the NHAI in handling the project and points to a defective system of assessment prevailing in the organisation,” observed the committee.

The CAG report also noted that inadequate traffic surveys were used to fix the concession period, which, according to its own estimates, should have been just 14 years instead of 20.

“A logical fallout of this scenario would be that the concessionaire would gain R187 crore during the extended concession period,” said the parliamentary committee. In the first 20 months of operation, the concessionaire had collected R208 crore of the R555-crore that the project was worth.

One of the many other contentions of the CAG was that though this stretch was expected to be an extremely high-traffic corridor, “strangely, the toll rates were fixed on the basis of the worst-case scenario situation”.

The parliamentary committee also noted that “undue haste has been shown in giving the completion certificate to the concessionaire” and it expressed “strong reservation over the manner in which the completion certificate was issued”.

DGSCL was given the final completion certificate in August, 2009 despite the fact that it had not fulfilled the requisite conditions.

The Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, the committee observed, had failed to serve the purpose for which it was conceived and executed — a social welfare measure — and the complicity of all agencies involved stands vindicated in the face of the huge public outcry against them.

 

Source-http://www.hindustantimes.com

Finally, multi-level parking opens at Karol Bagh today

September 5, 2013

  • Ritam Halder , Press Trust of India

NEW DELHI: After a three-year delay, a three-level automated stack parking lot will open in the busy Karol Bagh on Thursday.The facility involves a mechanical lift that stacks vehicle at different levels.

The parking lot, located on Sat Bhirawan Road in Karol Bagh, was to be completed before the Commonwealth Games in 2010. But it missed several deadlines since 2009, when the plan was conceptualised.

The facility is expected to de-congest Karol Bagh — a prominent market area in the Capital — that faces a severe parking problem.

Local councillor Rajesh Bhatia said the new parking lot would help tackle the problem of congestion in Karol Bagh. “This project was being delayed for the past four years because of apathy on the part of civic body officials,” Bhatia said.

The parking rates at the new lot will be R10 for two hours and R10 for every subsequent two hours. The maximum charge for a whole day is R50 per day. The rates are a little higher than other surface parking lots run by the civic bodies. Vehicles at other municipal surface parking lots can be parked for R10 for 10 hours and R20 for 24 hours.

Experts reacted with caution when asked about the efficacy of the new system to address parking woes in the Capital.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director for research and advocacy of the Centre for Science and Environment, said a lot of factors needed to be considered before taking up any innovation. “There are several technologies available. The site and its approach play an important role in the usefulness of a parking innovation. The issue of lack of space is taken care of with this technology but it’s expensive,” Roychowdhury said.

The North Delhi Municipal Corporation has around 120 parking sites under its jurisdiction, of which 62 were tendered a few months back. A survey has been done for 100 other sites, of which 25 have been sent for traffic clearance. It also has four multi-level parking sites.

http://paper.hindustantimes.com

 

Smart traffic system to end gridlock

September 2, 2013

Vandana Keelor, TNN

 

NOIDA: In a first for Uttar Pradesh, Noida Authority is set to launch a project for deployment of a centrally controlled and coordinated traffic signal system. Soon Noida will be the only city in NCR to boast of a traffic control system equipped with geographical information system.

Expected to facilitate urban traffic management, the city’s over 100 traffic signals will be mapped allowing traffic to flow more smoothly. The second phase of the project will implement an intelligent traffic system to examine traffic on vital corridors and junctions and react according to the traffic congestion volume.

According to Authority officials, this new project is expected to rid the city of traffic congestion and gridlock during peak traffic hours. “The goal is to provide the most comfortable ride possible by getting the greatest number of vehicles through the system with the fewest stops,” Rama Raman, chairman and CEO (CCEO), Noida, said. “With the GIS or digital mapping, we intend to make road and traffic improvements besides implementing traffic enforcement,” Raman said.

As part of the project, 106 intersections in Noida have been serially numbered while 225 traffic light posts have been alphabetically configured. The new GIS-backed system will assist traffic authorities in maximizing the efficiency of the signals. “Once operational, a three-tier monitoring system will deal with malfunctioned traffic lights,” Sandeep Chandra, Noida Traffic Cell in-charge and senior project engineer, said.

In the second phase of the project, the traffic posts will be equipped with a full-fledged technology-driven signal system. “This will reduce the burden on traffic cops and make catching violators easy,” Raman said. “The idea is to use GIS and ITS for crime control and traffic monitoring,” he added.

With vehicular population growing at a fast pace, the system will not only ease traffic management but also provide relief to the city’s motorized traffic from congestion, as it will be able to calculate the number of cars at the intersections and accordingly change signals to clear traffic.

The ITS will be managed from a central traffic control centre, which will examine traffic on vital corridors and junctions across the city. It will allow traffic signals to communicate with each other and increase efficiency and lessen delays. CCTV cameras mounted on to the traffic signal will also decide the direction of vehicular flow to be prioritized based on vehicle density.

“The intelligent traffic lights will enable the operation of a green wave on certain corridors at rush hours, which will help vehicles move through successive intersections at a specified speed without stopping,” Chandra explained. “Besides providing streamlined traffic movement, the ITS will also use advanced image recognition, motion detection and vehicle license plate recognition technologies to lower speeding, red-light and parking violations.”

 

Source-http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

 

Guest Editor – Sanjay Mehra

August 29, 2013

sanjaySanjay Mehra is currently working as Professor, Vastu Kala academy, College Of Architecture, Delhi and has a total of twenty six years of professional experience that includes eleven years of academic experience. His work includes Understanding and working in a cultural framework keeping in mind the Socio-economic and physical infrastructure conditions. Working on available resources and their effective utilization for development that suits the context is the main concern. Developing new urban typology for existing cites/towns, that are constantly being invaded by modern infrastructure and technological advancement.

” Transport Corridors – Shaping Fringes”

It primarily skirts around the tolling system of roads along with their construction, operations management and the economics. Along with the materials and technology used in various parts of the world for the same, I believe that it is the prime objective of creating this platform.

I also feel that there are some other pertinent issues that need to be addressed while making a toll road. One of the fundamental issues is how it might affect the Development Process vis a vis accelerate the development process.

It would be interesting to note that most of the tolll roads planned in India are crossing areas that are undergoing changes and transformation that may affect the edges and boundary condition between toll road and the settlement where it is crossing. Here architecture may play an important role as to understand the role that fringes play and the kind of architecture that suits the edges.

This is my area of interest, to look at the edge conditions and define an interface between the settlement and a transport corridor..!!

This may answer larger issues of urbanization and city forms along the transport corridors.

Regards

Sanjay Mehra

Government to scrap slow-moving highway projects

August 23, 2013

 

By YASHODHARA DASGUPTA, ET Bureau
  

 

Government to scrap slow-moving highway projects

(Government to scrap slow-moving highway projects)
NEW DELHI: To revive India’s stuttering highway building efforts, the government may scrap several existing contracts that are making little progress on the ground. The road transport and highway ministry has asked the National Highways Authority of India to review all languishing projects and identify those that can be terminated on contractual grounds, so that they can be bid for all over again.The move comes in light of the fact that several projects awarded in recent years are either stranded midway or have been complete non-starters. The road ministry also wants the same clarity for those stalled projects that could benefit from deferral of premium payments.

It will re-circulate a Cabinet note on its proposal to allow financially stressed developers to defer payments of premia that they had committed to pay to win the highway projects. An additional option of cancelling the projects and re-bidding them would now be included in the note.

Road ministry officials said this note, which has been modified based on the finance minister P Chidambaram’s advice on the matter, will be sent to the Cabinet so that a final call can be taken at the highest level and the projects can finally start moving again.

“A clear decision needs to taken. We have asked NHAI to find out how many projects can be terminated. The decision on what to do for projects that fall under the premium restructuring case will be taken at the Cabinet level. But for the rest, we can decide on a course of action now,” said a senior road ministry official familiar with the issue, adding that NHAI has also been asked to determine which of the premium-based highway development project are indeed stressed and thus, deserve a bailout.

“We are studying around 35 highway projects of which 23 are premium-based (with premium of close to 1 lakh crore) and the rest are based on viability grant funding. We will basically divide the projects into four categories – projects where developers are ready to operate under the original parameters as long as we fulfill all our obligations, projects that should be terminated with penalty where the concessionaire has defaulted, projects which should be terminated without penalty where both the concessionaire and NHAI have failed to meet obligations, and those where developers are sitting on the fence and awaiting more clarity from the policy end,” said an NHAI official adding that the NHAI board will deliberate on this list in this in their upcoming board meeting on August 22.

The highway authority is reviewing whether these 35 contracts can be terminated either for developer default, NHAI default or both and the NHAI board will deliberate on this in their meeting later this week, the official said.

NHAI has been batting for the premium restructuring proposal that would allow developers in stalled projects to restructure their premium payment so that the financial stress is relieved. However, in May, the law ministry rejected it on grounds of legal and constitutional feasibility following which the road ministry referred the matter to the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) who did not support the proposal citing the law ministry’s objection. In July, after a fresh request from the road ministry, the law ministry backtracked on their previous advice and instead said the matter should be resolved between the finance and road ministries.

Earlier this month, the FM wrote to road minister Oscar Fernandes cautioning him of the ‘moral hazard’ in renegotiating contracts post-award and that the law ministry’s permission must be taken.

 

Source-http://economictimes.indiatimes.com

Delhi’s World Class IG International Airport -TILL THE RAINS COME!!

August 22, 2013

Why could’nt our expert designers and architects foresee this when they spent hundreds of crores and built this sophisticated airport, which is as functional as a bus station in Ethiopia ? Wading through rain water @ International Airport; dinghy service will start soon till taxi stand and return ………….!

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Economy

August 22, 2013

Cashier counts currency notes inside bank in Lucknow

The government of India has tried to blame the recent depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar on everything but the state of the Indian economy. Rupee has fallen because Indians buy too much gold, we have often been told over the last few moths.

Rupee has fallen because foreign investors have been withdrawing money in response to the decision of the Federal Reserve of United States to go slow on money printing in the time to come, is another explanation which is often offered.

While there is no denying that these factors have been responsible for the fall of the rupee, but the truth is a little more complicated than just that.

Mark Buchanan uses the term disequilibrium thinking in his new book Forecast – What Physics, Meteorology and the Natural Sciences Can Teach Us About Economics. He writes, “one of the key concepts of disequilibrium thinking is the notion of ‘metastability’ which explains how a system can seem stable, yet actually be highly unstable, much like the sulfrous coating on a match, ready to explode if it receives the right kind of spark. Inherently unstable and dangerous situations can persist untroubled for very long periods, yet also guarantee eventual disaster.”

The situation in India was precisely like that. The rupee was more or less stable against the dollar between November 2012 and end of May 2013. It moved in the range of Rs 53.5-Rs 55.5 to a dollar. This stability in no way meant that all was well with the Indian economy.

In a discussion yesterday on NDTV, Ruchir Sharma, Head of Emerging Markets Equity and Global Macro at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, provided a lot of data to show just that. In 2007, the current account deficit of India stood at $8 billion. In technical terms, the current account deficit is the difference between total value of imports and the sum of the total value of its exports and net foreign remittances.

The foreign exchange reserves of India in 2007 stood at $300 billion. So the foreign exchange reserves were 37.5 times the current account deficit. For 2013, the current account deficit is at $90 billion whereas the foreign exchange reserves are down to around $275 billion. So the foreign exchange reserves are now just three times the size of the current account deficit, in comparison to 37.5 times earlier.

Another worrying point is the import cover (foreign exchange reserves/monthly imports). It currently stands at 5.5 months, the lowest in 15 years. This is very low in comparison to other emerging markets (like China has 18 months of import cover, Brazil has 11 months).

Now what does this mean in simple English? It means that the demand for dollars has gone up much faster than their supply. And this did not happen overnight. It did not happen towards the end of May, when the rupee rapidly started losing value against the dollar. The situation has deteriorated over the last five to six years, while the government was busy doing other things.

Sharma gave out some other numbers as well. In 2007,the short term debt (or debt that needs to be repaid during the course of the year) stood at $80 billion. Currently it stands at around $170 billion. As and when this debt matures, it will have to repaid (unless its rolled over) and that would mean more demand for dollars and a greater pressure on the rupee. Given this, its not surprising that analysts are now predicting that the rupee soon touch 70 to a dollar.

What remains to be seen is whether companies which need to repay this debt are allowed to roll it over. The situation is very tricky given that 25% of Indian companies do not have sufficient cash flow to repay interest on their loans. The amount of loans to be repaid by top 10 Indian corporates has gone up from Rs 1000 billion in 2007 to Rs 6000 billion in 2013. This makes the Indian economy very vulnerable.

Politicians like to compare the current situation to 1991 and tell us that the current situation is not a repeat of 1991. In 1991, the import cover was down to less than a month. Currently it is around 5-6 months (depending on whose calculation you refer to). Hence, the situation is not as bad as 1991.

But the import cover is just one parameter that one can look at. The current account deficit in 1991, stood at 2.5% of the gross domestic product. Currently its around 4.8% of the GDP. Hence, the situation is much worse on this front than in 1991.

The government has tried to control the fall of the rupee against the dollar by making it difficult for Indian companies as well as individuals to take dollars abroad. But that was already happening. The amount of money Indian corporates invested abroad in 2008, stood at $21 billion. It has since come down to $7 billion. The amount of money taken abroad by individuals through legal channels remains minuscule.

The point is that the Indian economy has been extremely vulnerable for sometime, “much like the sulfrous coating on a match, ready to explode if it receives the right kind of spark.” It is just that where the spark will come from leading to explosion of the match, is hard to predict in advance.

As Buchnan puts it “the disequilibrium view….explains in simple terms why the moment of collapse is hard to predict: the arrival of the key triggering event is typically a matter of chance.” And this matter of chance in the Indian context came when Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of United States, the American Central Bank, addressed the Joint Economic Committee of the American Congress ,on May 23, 2013.

As he said “if we see continued improvement and we have confidence that that is going to be sustained, then we could in – in the next few meetings – we could take a step down in our pace of purchases.”

Over the last few years, the Federal Reserve has been pumping money into the American financial system by printing money and using it to buy bonds. This ensures that there is no shortage of money in the system, which in turn ensures low interest rates. The hope is that at lower interest rates people will borrow and spend more, and this in turn will revive economic growth.

After nearly 5 years, some sort of economic growth has started to comeback in the United States. And given this, the expectation is that the Federal Reserve will start going slow on money printing in the months to come. This has pushed interest rates up in the United States making it more interesting for big international investors to invest their money in the United States than India.

This has led to them withdrawing money from India. Since the end of May nearly $10 billion of foreign money has been withdrawn from the Indian bond market. When these bonds are sold, foreign investors get paid in rupees. They need to convert these rupees into dollars, in order to repatriate their money abroad. This puts pressure on the rupee.

And this is how the decision of the Federal Reserve to go slow on money printing in the days to come has led to the fall of the rupee. This is the story that the government officials and ministers have been trying to sell to us. But the point to remember is that the decision of the Federal Reserve of United States to go slow on money printing was just the ‘spark’ that was needed to explode the ‘sulfrous coating on the match’ that the Indian economy had become. The spark could have come from somewhere else and the ‘sulfrous coating on the match’ would have still exploded leading to a crash of the rupee. Also, it is important to remember that foreign investors have not abandoned India lock, stock and barrel. When it comes to the bond market they have pulled out money to the tune of $10 billion. But they are still largely invested in the equity market. Since late May around $2 billion has been pulled out of the Indian equity market by the foreign investors. This when they have more than $200 billion invested in it.

Ruchir Sharma’s panelist in the NDTV discussion referred to earlier was Arun Shourie. He called the current rupee crisis a swadeshi crisis. It is time that the government realised this as well because the first step in solving any problem is recognising that it exists.

source: Mr. Vivek Kaul

 

Fear of Fed Retreat Roils India

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Fear of Fed Retreat Roils India

August 22, 2013

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Announcing Project Management Real Estate Conference- 17-18th October ’13

August 19, 2013

Real Estate Conference-page-0

Real Estate Conference-page-1

 

 

 

 

Contact Ms. Kalpita Dighe
                          conferences-india@ubm.com.

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