'First-car scheme snarls traffic'

The government's tax rebate for first-time car buyers has become one of the main causes of worsening traffic congestion in Bangkok, according to survey results released on Saturday by Nida Poll.

  • Published: 26/01/2013 at 04:12 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Pollsters at the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) based the conclusion on interviews with 1,500 people, aged 18 up, from all education levels and occupations in Bangkok’s 50 districts, from Jan 17-19.

When asked about the root causes of traffic jams, 65.73% of the respondents pointed to the substantial increase in the number of new cars, boosted by the first-car programme.

Local car sales reached a record 1.4 million last year, helped by huge sales of small cars and pickups to first-time buyers who are eligible for tax refunds of up to 100,000 baht.

The first-car scheme began in late 2011 and the government originally had expected about 500,000 applications for tax rebates. However, by the time the programme expired on Dec 31, it had 1.25 million applications.

Many of those cars have yet to be delivered, as manufacturers have had trouble keeping up with huge demand for some models. Once they hit the streets, traffic will get even worse in the capital, most people believe.

According to Nida, 18.73% of respondents to its survey said motorists’ failure to comply with traffic laws was also to blame for increased congestion. Another 6.53% blamed the inadequacy of public transport, 3.33% said mismanagement by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and police, 3.2% said city expansion and population growth, and 1.6% pointed to other factors such as road accidents and road repairs.

Asked about solutions to the problem, 43.07% chose expanded public transport systems covering all areas of the city; 33.87% said strictly enforcing traffic laws; 7.6% favoured increased taxes on cars; and 3.6% proposed limitations on car use, particularly older vehicles.

Prapon Sahapattana of Nida said the respondents focused mainly on the short-term causes of traffic congestion because the first-car scheme is a new policy.

Many failed to consider the long-term main causes, which is the inadequacy of public transport, he added.

Ass Prof Prapon suggested that the government invest more in public transport system construction, including electric train networks. Hundreds of billions of baht worth of rail lines are in fact planned but some are years behind schedule.

It was too late to scrap the first-car scheme now, he said, public bus, boat and train services must be improved to encourage people to use these alternative public transport systems.

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