* This post is written by Nikola Medimorec, one of the Korea Blog’s Worldwide Korea Bloggers 2013.
Some days ago I came across an article about how Seoul was able to reduce their CO2 emissions by 10% annually. Of course, it was through a policy which aimed at individual transport. The really unique thing is that the reduction wasn’t made by force or through investing billions into structural measures. A program with certain benefits made it attractive for car drivers to participate voluntarily. The only thing they had to do is to leave their car at home once a week and use public transport to get to work. Even greater is how Seoul monitors this activity: through a sticker. Yes, a sticker saves around 2 million tons of CO2. You don’t believe me?
The name of this program is “No Driving Day” (in Korean: 승용차요일제). This summary by C40 Cities shows the outcome of the “No Driving Day” program:
Seoul’s Weekly No Driving Day program is improving air quality, congestion and saving energy. Every year, two million cars stay off the road – decreasing traffic volume by 3.7%. CO2 vehicle emissions are being reduced by 10% – a total of 2 million tons of CO2, delivering annual savings of $50 million USD in fuel costs. The improved air quality is also improving the health of residents, saving the City millions annually. The program works because it is applied during weekdays, which encourages people to use alternate modes of transport to and from work.
The measure was proposed in 2003 and it started on January 19, 2006. A participant registers his car at the official page or a service center. Then he gets stickers, which contain a unique ID for his car. The participant puts one of the following sticker on the front window:
As you can see, the participant can choose on what weekday he doesn’t want to use his car. Inside the city there are control units which can detect the stickers through “Radio Frequency Identification”. On this way Seoul checks if they are using the car only on the other weekdays. After registration it’s very important that the participant uploads a picture of his car with the sticker to their web service. That’s some kind of evidence that they really own a car.
It’s a simple and very creative measure. It was proven to be successful as you could see. Therefore, over the years it was expanded to Gyeonggido, Daejeon and Daegu. According to this article at Korea4expats, even Non-Koreans can participate in this program. What is the key to the success? Of course, there are benefits for participants:
The benefits are divided into two groups: benefits for usage of public services (blue color icons) and benefits from private entities (purple).
To the first group belongs that you have to pay 5 % less car-taxes and that you get a 50 % discount on the Namsan Car-Tunnel (instead of 2,000 KRW, it costs only 1,000 KRW). On certain parking places this sticker also guarantees 20 to 30 % discount and Seoul will grant you priorities on car-parking lots near your house (something for people, who doesn’t live in apartment complexes). The next benefit is something like a congestion tax (교통유발부담금), which retail has to pay because they attract all the traffic. There are between 10 to 30 % discount on these taxes but I couldn’t understand this tax fully, so I don’t know who benefits from that and who actually pays this congestion tax (shop owners?).
*Editor’s note 1: Congestion tax is usually given to the owners of large buildings that cause increased traffic, like department stores, shopping complexes, and other large buildings in the downtown area, where due to a comparatively small number of parking spaces cars form long lines around the building causing congestion in nearby streets.
**Editor’s note 2: Some buildings with small parking capacities in the downtown area would have employees and sometimes visitors participate in a mandatory ‘leave your car at home if the license plate’s last digit is a certain number’ usually ranging from odd/even number days to zero to nine days. For example if your car has the number seven as the last digit you would leave your car at home on the 7th, 17th, 27th of each month or on even dates like the 2nd, 4th, 6th and so forth. This custom is older than the decade old “No Driving Day” (in Korean: 승용차요일제) and when the two are effectively combined can lead to tax cuts to the building owner’s congestion tax.
The benefits in the private sector are: discount at gas station for petrol and repair services and even a free car wash. Your insurance company may also decrease your monthly insurance fee for around 8-9 %. Then there are a couple of other discounts for restaurants, bike rentals, bookstores and so on. You see that there’s a wide variety of benefits and almost all of them aim at the wallet of the car driver.