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Stockholm Residents Choke on New Congestion Charge

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  • Eric Britton
    Well, we have decided to open up a Poll on this which you will find in our New Mobility Idea factory. Here is how it looks: Will the Stockholm Congestion
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 4, 2006

      Well, we have decided to open up a Poll on this which you will find in our New Mobility Idea factory. Here is how it looks:

      Will the Stockholm Congestion Pricing succeed in getting majority public support at the time of the next summer’s referendum?




      You are invited to place your vote starting right now.  We also invite commentaries here.  And now the Planet Ark story thanks to the almost Swedish Lee Schipper.





      -----Original Message-----
      From: Lee Schipper [mailto:schipper@...]
      Wednesday, January 04, 2006 11:56 AM

       FEATURE - Stockholm Residents Choke on New Congestion Charge


      SWEDEN: January 4, 2006



      STOCKHOLM - On an overcast winter morning, traffic heading into

      Stockholm on the main route from the north is heavy, but it is moving -

      unlike the rush-hour gridlock typical in some metropolitan centres.


      Yet the capital of Sweden, a country known for its vast, unspoiled

      natural vistas and clean air, will soon have the world's most extensive

      system of traffic congestion charges.


      A test run costing 3.8 billion crowns ($485.2 million) starts on

      Tuesday and will last until July. Stockholmers will vote in September

      2006 on whether to make it permanent.


      Cameras on gantries have sprung up to record the licence numbers of

      vehicles, whose owners have to pay when they enter and leave the zone.


      Most Swedes take pride in their country's environmentalist credentials,

      but this time politicians may be out of touch with public opinion in

      their efforts to impose a tax on traffic.


      The charge is part of a political deal to secure the support of the

      Green Party, the smallest group represented in parliament, for Prime

      Minister Goran Persson's Social Democrat minority government.


      It is being launched despite the fact that Persson's fellow Social

      Democrats on Stockholm city council pledged not to introduce such a

      scheme when they fought and won local elections in 2002.


      The Greens insist the charge is needed because of the growing volume of

      traffic. "The alternative is to sit in traffic jams for the next 10

      years," said Claes Roxbergh, a Green Party member of parliament and

      chairman of its traffic committee.


      Social Democrat mayor Annika Billstrom has also thrown her weight

      behind the scheme, hammering home the message that traffic jams cost

      society between 6 billion and 8 billion crowns a year.


      "This is paid by you and me as consumers in shape of higher prices for

      things like goods and food," she told Reuters.


      The charge will be a maximum 60 crowns ($7.50) a day, slightly less

      than London, the only other European capital with similar fees, which

      charges eight pounds ($14) a day.



      Talk Of The Town


      While Stockholm's traffic problems are a far cry from those of bigger

      cities such as Moscow or London, opinion polls show most Stockholmers

      agree that the Greens have a point.


      However, polls also show they are less convinced that congestion

      charges are the solution. "I think it is crazy to spend so much money on

      something that just won't pay off," said Stockholm resident Eva



      Christmas parties in the city have resounded to heated arguments about

      the charge, fuelled by a few glasses of traditional mulled wine.


      A recent opinion poll showed that nearly 60 percent of those questioned

      opposed the charge while about 30 percent were in favour.


      The Swedish Automobile Association says it receives calls and letters

      every day about the new tolls from angry and distressed Stockholmers.


      "People just feel completely run over." said Maria Spetz, the

      association's chief executive.


      Newspapers have set up "toll ombudsmen" to address readers' concerns

      about the charges and one has appealed for suggestions on how best to

      avoid it.


      One Web site has a humorous but illegal solution, offering stickers

      shaped like number plates bearing the registration of Green Party leader

      Peter Eriksson's car.


      Tough Fight


      Despite the criticism and the opinion polls, advocates of the charge

      may yet win the day.


      Many inner city dwellers do not drive or own a car, partly because of

      the lack of parking spaces, instead using public transport which is

      being beefed up ahead of the experiment.


      The experience of London, set to double the area covered by its

      charging system in 2007, also indicates that a defeat for the Stockholm

      scheme may be far from certain.


      Opposition to the charges was widespread in the British capital before

      their introduction, but three years later polls show Londoners have

      warmed to the system.


      "There was lots of apocalyptic talk before it was introduced about the

      impact it would have," said Transport for London spokesman Richard



      "People said things like public transport will not cope, London will

      become a ghost town, businesses will be driven out and nobody will come

      to central London to shop any more."


      "None of that has turned out to be true."


      The Swedish charge aims to cut traffic on the most heavily congested

      roads by 10-15 percent. In London, which introduced charges in 2001, the

      toll has cut traffic volume by 18 percent.


      The charge is also intended to bring about an overall improvement in

      the urban environment in Stockholm, particularly air quality.


      However, researchers say that seven months may not be enough for the

      Swedish experiment to show any results and, for now, it is the nay

      sayers who are being heard most.


      "I hate those charges," said Stockholmer Ingrid Ohman. "They're

      pointless and a waste of money. It would be better to use the money help

      people fix their teeth."


      (Additional reporting by Jim Stengarn)




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