Stockholm Residents Choke on New Congestion Charge
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.
From: Lee Schipper [mailto:schipper@...]
Sent: 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
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.
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)