SEOUL • Traffic in the central Seoul area will be reduced by 30 per cent by 2030, by restricting the number of road lanes to a maximum of four and introducing a "toxicity tax", the Seoul Metropolitan Government said yesterday.
The goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the area - which includes the famous shopping district of Myeongdong and the picturesque Gyeongbokgung palace - by 40 per cent, from the current 943,000 tonnes to 566,000 tonnes by 2030, the city government added.
South Korea's capital city last year designated the 16.7 sq km of land within the Seoul City Wall as the first green transportation area, comprising some of the most famous tourist attractions in Seoul, including Gyeongbokgung, Jongmyo Shrine and Myeongdong.
As the city government's proposal to implement "green traffic" policies for the area has been approved by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, all major roads in the area, including Eulji-ro and Toegye-ro, will be restricted to a maximum of four lanes by 2030. Roads with bus lanes will be allowed to have a maximum of six lanes.
At the same time, the metropolitan government aims to double the city's bicycle lanes, as well as pedestrian-friendly roads by 2030.
As part of its effort to prevent road fatalities in the area, the city plans to impose a speed limit of 50kmh for all main roads, and 30kmh for all small roads in residential zones, starting later this year.
'GREEN TRAFFIC' POLICIES
• All major roads in the central Seoul area will be restricted to a maximum of four lanes by 2030.
• Roads with bus lanes will be allowed to have a maximum of six lanes.
• Number of bicycle lanes and pedestrian-friendly roads in the city to double by 2030.
• From next year, central Seoul area to be a "low emissions zone", where diesel vehicles with higher greenhouse emissions will be regulated.
• Those with vehicles regarded as the "most polluting" will be banned from entering the area or will be asked to pay what is commonly known as a "toxicity tax".
Starting next year, the city also plans to run the designated central Seoul area as a "low emissions zone", where diesel vehicles with higher greenhouse emissions will be regulated.
Those with vehicles that the Ministry of Environment considers "the most polluting" will either be banned from entering the area or will be asked to pay once in the area. The latter practice is commonly known as "toxicity tax" overseas.
Seoul residents had mixed reactions to the announcement.
"The area is home to the headquarters of banks, conglomerates and tourist destinations. So many people commute to this area on a daily basis," said a 36-year-old professional, who wanted to be identified only by her last name Kim and lives in southern Seoul.
"While I'm very concerned with the air quality in the city, I'm not sure if this will make my morning commute any better than it is now," she said.
"Taking the Seoul Metro every morning is already pretty awful, it is very crowded, and with the new speed limit, I'm not sure what's going to happen with public transportation."
Another Seoul resident said that while riding a bike is good for leisure and the environment, he feels it is not suitable as a means of transportation in the city.
"I'm pretty sure most Seoul residents feel the same way. Korea is not really suitable for bike riding, especially for commuters, as the weather tends to get quite extreme in summer and winter months," said the Seoul resident in his 30s.
"Most employers don't offer showers at the office. Imagine riding a bike to work during this heatwave. Your boss might ask you to go home," he added.
The new traffic measures will impact those who live and work in several areas in Seoul's Jongno-gu district, including Sajik-dong, Samcheong-dong, Gahoe-dong, Ewha-dong, Hyehwa-dong, and Jongno 1-6ga dong.
The new policies will also take effect in these areas in the Jung-gu district: Sogong-dong, Hoehyeon-dong, Myeong-dong, Pil-dong, Jangchung-dong and Euljiro-dong.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK