Drivers may pay a price for passing through Prague


As many as 700,000 vehicles pass through Prague each day. Those who drive through the capital city are by no means strangers to traffic jams. In response to the serious car congestion problem, Prague City Hall is suggesting launching a proposal that would force drivers to pay tolls, a measure introduced or being considered by many major cities across Europe.

There are several reasons why Prague City Hall is considering making drivers delve into their pockets as they cruise through the capital: Prague has the highest air pollution level in the entire country, and inhaling exhaust fumes represents a health hazard for passersby. There are other factors, too, including a financial one, as Deputy Mayor Jiri Paroubek illustrated:

"I think the toll could reduce traffic in the central historic part of Prague: this is the main reason. The second reason is that we need money, a new financial source for the city budget, in order to finance the construction of the northwestern part of a city ring road."

Mr. Paroubek also explained why specifically he and his colleagues are considering taking this measure in the capital city:

"Prague is the capital of the country and a city with a great concentration of cars. I think that we have one car per 1.9 capita in Prague, and it is a great Americanization of the transport system in Prague. Of course, also the relief of the old part of the city is not ideal for traffic, and it is a specific problem for Prague."

Many issues remain under discussion, such as whether or not the toll would be implemented only for cars traveling to the historic center of the city or whether or not it would be put into effect on the northwest ring road that is still under construction and is slated to be completed in approximately four years. The northwest beltway would provide drivers with an alternative to passing through the city center. Deputy Mayor Paroubek went into more detail about the ongoing debate concerning the toll:

"I think that it's still under discussion: for example, my colleague Councilor Steiner prefers to implement a toll on one part of the city ring road, on the northwest part. I think that it would be more practical to have the toll in the centre, in the historic part of the city, but not until we finish the construction of the city ring road. Ideally, it could be completed in three or four years."

What inspired Prague City Hall's proposal? Tolls in London have lessened congestion in that capital, and other major European cities have also enforced a similar plan. Jiri Paroubek again:

"Every experience from a great European city or from a great city in the world is very necessary for us, and it is necessary to learn from experiences from other cities."

Author: Tracy Burns
run audio