In February 2003, London began to charge drivers five pounds (about $8) to enter a 21 square mile core area in its downtown. The fee was meant to reduce traffic congestion.
Richard Bourn and Stephen Joseph report (in Australian Policy Online) on the congestion charging program introduced in central London last year. They say its working: "London's Successful Drive Against Congestion" :
"EIGHTEEN months after its introduction, London�s congestion charge has largely ceased to be controversial. The transport and environmental benefits are beyond doubt and the predicted social drawbacks have not materialised. A few concerns remain about the effects of the charge on some businesses in central London but these have been inflamed by the business interests that always opposed it. Meanwhile the success of the charge has been such that it has carried Ken Livingstone back for a second term as London�s mayor, after forcing the Labour party to readmit him and admit that its concerns about the charge were ill-founded.
The aim of the congestion charge was honest and explicit: to reduce traffic congestion by reducing traffic volume by 10 to 15 per cent. To achieve this, drivers are required to pay �5 per day if they enter central London between 7am and 6.30pm, Monday to Friday. In the event the reduction in traffic has been greater than anticipated. Overall traffic entering the zone is down 18 per cent during charging hours, with a reduction in car traffic of 30 per cent and a similar reduction in congestion. There has been little displacement of traffic into areas round the zone or additional congestion on the ring road. Motorists themselves have benefited; for those who still drive in the zone, journeys are quicker and more reliable..."
Read the rest; it's a nice column.
I've been following the story here intermittently. Previous posts include: January 2003: "
Using a fee to control externalities"; February 2003: "London's Congestion Pricing Scheme"; February 2003: "Follow-up on London congestion pricing"; August 2003: "Bad news from London (about traffic)"; September 2003: "Congestion pricing in London";
These last two are not really about London, but about proposals for a national road pricing scheme in great Britain: July, 2004 "Britain's road-pricing proposal "; August 2004 "The cost of one more driver".