Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The London Downtown Congestion Charge After a Decade

Until 18 February 2007 the congestion charge a...
Until 18 February 2007 the congestion charge applied to drivers within the highlighted area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today we review an assessment of the London Downtown Congestion Charge, ten years after it was introduced in one of the world’s largest cities and after it inspired other cities, notably Stockholm and New York City, to emulate the British experiment with mixed results. In fact the London experience was a mixed result with limited success in reducing vehicles from entering the congestion area but no progress in reducing actual congestion because of the removal of road space to free up other transport options such as walking on sidewalks and bike lanes. There was little effect on business or economic activity and collection of revenue costs were relatively high at 40% of gross. Lessons learned from London (and Stockholm and Singapore) and advances in GPS technology suggest that future attempts may do better.

  Key Quotes: 

“congestion is now really no better than it was before it was introduced, despite a 60% increase in price in real terms….Most London car trips don't go near the charging zone during charging periods…Most trips to central London during charging periods are not by car.” 

“Only 60% of London households have private cars, and only 7% of commuter trips into central London are by car drivers and passengers” 

“Has the congestion charge reduced congestion, sustainably?
  • By 2007 there was a 18% reduction in charged vehicle trips ...this congestion reduction has been significantly reversed by "road space reallocation to improve conditions for pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and the urban realm
  • car driver trips in London dropped by 13% …whilst the population increased by 13%, and total trips increased by 13%... the number of cycling trips increased 66.6%, bus by 59.7% and rail (not underground) by 41.9% ...
  • congestion reduction has been overriden by the removal of road capacity… had the road capacity been removed without the charge, the situation would now be worse.”
“Has the congestion charge made a lot of money for Transport for London?
  • The 2012 annual report noted £226.7 million in gross revenue ..with £81.2 million in "toll facilities and traffic management" costs and another £8.7 million in "administration, support services and depreciation", leaving net revenues of £136.8 million. A cost factor of around 40%.
  • the nominal charge has increased from an average £5 to £9.50 (given half of current users pay £9 and the others £10)
“Has the congestion charge positively or negatively affected business in London?
  • given the overall increase of trips in London, albeit not by car, it is fair to say that business, overall has barely noticed the presence of the charge.”
“Did the success of London make it easier for other cities to introduce congestion charging?
  • Stockholm has been a notable success. London no doubt helped pave the way. Yet, no other major European city has followed. Talk of congestion charges for Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Budapest and Helsinki, have all come to nothing so far.
  • The two major cities that have introduced types of congestion charge schemes similar to London are Dubai and Tehran. Across the Atlantic, New York was inspired, but the State legislature thwarted the desires of the City.”
“What’s next?
  • If the congestion charge was expanded, Singapore like .. it could seriously address congestion, but the revenue raised could be spent in ways that improve traffic flow by making more traffic signals dynamic and responsive to traffic conditions, by upgrading intersections and .. being bold about new road tunnels to bypass bottlenecks”
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