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Congestion charging sweeps the world

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  • 2/15 The Observer
    Published Sunday, February 15, 2004, in the Observer (UK) Congestion charging sweeps the world A rash of cities round the globe is set to travel the same road
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2004
      Published Sunday, February 15, 2004, in the Observer (UK)

      Congestion charging sweeps the world
      A rash of cities round the globe is set to travel the same road as
      London

      By Juliette Jowit

      Cities throughout Britain and across the world are poised to introduce
      their own congestion charges after the apparent success of the first
      year of the ground-breaking London scheme.

      Edinburgh and Cardiff are the furthest ahead, with plans for new
      charges on cars to raise money for investment, to be introduced within
      two years. The Scottish and Welsh capitals are both advancing
      proposals to charge drivers to pass a cordon around their city
      centres, explicitly linked to raising money for trams, trains and
      other transport improvements.

      Stockholm is to start a pilot next year and Barcelona and Milan have
      shown interest in the idea. In North America, San Francisco is said
      to be moving close to charging. [This is news to BATN. But see
      below: evidently this refers to HOT freeway lanes, not car-choked SF
      itself.] And the Brazilian city of S�o Paulo is working on a
      proposal as well.

      The surge in studies and consultations has been unleashed by the
      apparent success of the �5-a-day London congestion charge, which
      celebrates its first year this week.

      To mark the milestone, the London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, is likely to
      say latest figures show congestion in the zone is down by up to 30 per
      cent, average speeds are their highest since the 1960s, journey times
      are more reliable and businesses have benefited.

      But research published last weekend by business groups shows they are
      divided on this last issue, and motoring organisations say that the
      results are flattered by a curb on roadworks and that the scheme is
      dogged by uncollected fines and charging errors.

      But, confident of his success, Livingstone is also expected to
      announce a public consultation on a proposal to double the scheme to
      cover the West End as well as the capital's central zone.

      He has already braved the controversial announcement that he plans to
      raise fines by 25 per cent for non-payers of the charge.

      Derek Turner, the man credited with introducing the London scheme, now
      runs his own consultancy and says the London charge is seen as a
      success around the world and has given politicians the confidence to
      start discussing their own schemes.

      "I think most urban areas and suburban areas will have some sort of
      road-pricing regime," he said. "It's a nonsense to suggest we can
      sustain a free-at-the-point-of-delivery congested road network. After
      all, we pay for water in a metered way."

      As well as cutting congestion, the other big incentive to introduce
      road pricing is to raise money. On this count the London charge has
      fallen significantly short of expectations, although Transport for
      London, the Mayor's transport executive, says improved collection of
      fines has improved the financial position.

      Elsewhere, studies by Deloitte consultants claim that 26 out of 34
      cities in 15 European countries showed "significant support" for some
      form of charging. Across 11 countries in Latin America, 47 per cent
      of cities claimed "significant support" and a further 40 per cent were
      "thinking about it" -- although the report does not say how many
      cities responded there.

      In North America, San Francisco is openly talking about a congestion
      charge to complement existing tolls on special "fast" lanes of
      highways into the city to encourage vehicles with one or more
      passengers, and the "twin cities" of Minneapolis and St Paul in
      Minnesota are considering pricing all main roads and freeways. Other
      urban areas are expected to follow suit -- but they are more likely,
      at least at first, to charge cars to drive into the cities, says Peter
      Samuel, editor of the US-based Toll Roads Newsletter.

      "Perhaps with the exception of lower Manhattan and San Francisco,
      American central cities have been developed in the automobile age and
      they aren't the most congested places; the most congested places are
      the freeways."

      The World Bank is also reported to be pressing booming cities in
      developing countries to use charging to curb exploding traffic growth,
      calling for cities in the developing countries to use charges to
      reduce fast-growing car use, raise money for much-needed
      infrastructure and free up congested buses, which are traditionally
      the main form of mass transport.

      In a different type of scheme, Nottingham has proposed taxing parking
      places at work.

      There are reasons for caution. In the past year two proposals have
      been put on hold because of politics -- in Bristol because of change
      in political control of the council, in New York because of wider
      political opposition.

      Technical problems could hold up other, more ambitious schemes to
      charge by satellite technology according to the time of day or level
      of traffic. In Germany, there have already been problems with a
      national lorry charge, and in Britain there is widespread scepticism
      that a similar scheme will be in place on time in 2006.

      However, critics of the London scheme claim that unfair fines have
      soared, speed rises are bolstered by a curb on roadworks, retail and
      leisure businesses are suffering, and that the proposed extension to
      the west will be much harder to implement.





      World cities queue up to charge

      Congestion charging explained

      There are three key types of congestion charging: area charge, as in
      London, where you pay when you drive in a zone; cordon charge, such as
      in Norway, where you pay to drive through an invisible line around an
      area; and wider area, normally national charging

      * Green light zones
      (Schemes already operating)

      Singapore: electronic toll cordon around city centre, based on paper
      scheme introduced in 1975

      London: world's biggest scheme started February 2003

      Durham: tiny city-centre scheme, started October 2002

      Rome: ancient city centre scheme, started late 2001, extension being
      considered

      Norway: up to 20 towns and cities, including Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim,
      have cordon tolls

      Melbourne: tolls on major routes into city

      Austria and Switzerland: national lorry charging


      * Amber light zone
      (planning/seriously considering schemes)

      Edinburgh: referendum on plan to start toll in 2005, linked to train
      and tram improvements

      Cardiff: tendering for toll scheme linked to infrastructure
      improvements

      Stockholm: pilot due to start in 2005 before referendum on keeping
      tolls

      New York: tolls exist on many tunnels and bridges on to Manhattan
      island, but wider charging opposed

      San Francisco: most advanced thinking in US, interest in charge zone
      linked to existing HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes on main roads into
      city

      S�o Paulo: looking at cordon to replace current scheme alternating
      vehicle access according to number plates

      United Kingdom: national lorry charge planned for later this decade
      and consulting on scheme for all cars


      * Red light zones
      (traffic schemes discussed, but not yet approved)

      Bristol: much-talked-of scheme on hold after Labour-controlled council
      lost to Liberal Democrats last year

      Germany: less interest than expected, probably due to good
      infrastructure and public transport

      Shanghai and Beijing: experts predict need for traffic controls soon
      because of explosion in traffic.
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