Government eyes traffic card

Government plans aimed at reducing the number of cars that enter the center of Athens may include requiring all vehicles to pay for the right to access the capital’s central district, according to a Transport Ministry official. Yiannis Golias, general secretary at the Transport Ministry, told Kathimerini that the government is examining the option of requiring all cars that drive into the city center to have an «entrance card.» The card, which would be valid on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, will be sold at different points across the city and would need to be visible on the vehicle’s windscreen, Golias said. The cost of the card has yet to be determined and certain vehicles, such as taxis, would be exempt. The government has been looking into different ways recently of reducing the number of cars that clog the city’s streets and which are seen as the main culprit behind Athens’s pollution woes. A few months after the conservative government was elected in March last year, Transport Minister Michalis Liapis said that the state aims at getting one in two Athenians to rely on public transport on a daily basis by 2008. According to data released in June, of the 6.6 million journeys that are made each day into the city by commuters, 41 percent of them are made using public transport. Government officials admit that in order for the plan to work, there needs to be an improvement in the public transport services offered and a friendlier attitude by the public toward state transport services. «The next stage is to convince the public that the situation has reached a critical point. The roads are saturated, while the rate of car purchases is growing alarmingly,» said Golias.