Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Even London's cabbies are pleased

Expand Messages
  • Robert J. Matter
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/printedition/chi-0305050182may05,1,3307773.story?coll=chi%2Dprintnews%2Dhed Even London s cabbies are pleased The
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/printedition/chi-0305050182may05,1,3307773.story?coll=chi%2Dprintnews%2Dhed

      Even London's cabbies are pleased
      The `congestion charge' has had the desired effect: Fewer jams

      By Jill Lawless
      Associated Press
      Published May 5, 2003

      LONDON -- Nearly three months after the city
      started charging motorists to drive into central
      London, traffic jams have been reduced, taxis are
      unusually abundant and red double-decker buses zip along at 7.5 m.p.h.

      In traffic-clogged London, this is progress.

      Things are going so well that supporters and earlier critics alike agree that the
      ambitious and contentious "congestion charge" is working--at least so far.

      With 20 percent fewer private cars clogging the narrow, twisting streets of
      central London, even the capital's notoriously complaining cabbies are
      impressed. While they grumble that faster journeys are cutting individual fares,
      they are happy to spend less time in traffic jams.

      "It's made things a lot easier, definitely," taxi driver Barry Gold said. "A lot of
      cabbies complain because fares are down. But I think it'll bring people back
      to cabs."

      Since Feb. 17, motorists have had to pay 5 pounds--about $8--on weekdays
      to enter an 8-square-mile zone that includes the financial district and the
      entertainment heartland of the West End.

      Mayor Ken Livingstone argued that the toll would cut congestion significantly
      in the zone, where car traffic was crawling along at horse-and-cart speeds
      during the day. He also hopes to net $205 million a year to spend on public
      transportation.

      Opponents predicted the charge would hurt business, create gridlock around
      the perimeter of the zone and enmesh motorists in bureaucratic chaos.

      Yet the results have been largely positive, most people agree.

      "In the terms that were set out for it--reducing traffic within the zone--it has
      been a success, and there has been no public revolution," said Tony Travers, a
      local-government expert at the London School of Economics.

      "It was a brave decision for a politician to make. The long-term judgment on
      its effect will have to wait."

      Transport for London, the agency overseeing the charge, says traffic in the
      zone is down by close to the target of 20 percent, with 100,000 people a day
      paying the toll. Residents of the zone get a 90 percent discount. Disabled
      people, taxis, emergency vehicles, mo-ped riders and cars powered by
      alternative fuels are exempt.

      More people are taking buses, trains and the subway, known as the Tube. A
      month into the toll, the average rush hour bus speed had risen to 7.5 m.p.h.
      from 6.5 m.p.h., Transport for London said.

      Still, the agency said it will take at least six months to determine whether the
      plan meets all its targets.

      But opponents' worst fears have not come true. The elaborate technology for
      checking toll compliance, which relies on 700 cameras to read license plates
      as cars enter the zone from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, did not
      overload. There was no mass rebellion by angry drivers.

      Campaigns against the charge have died down, and the war in Iraq pushed it
      off the front page of London's vehemently anti-toll newspaper, The Evening
      Standard.

      Many questions remain, however. Some retailers in the zone say sales are off.
      But a sagging global economy, a decline in tourism and the two-month
      shutdown of a major subway line may have contributed to that.

      Some analysts believe traffic will creep back up once people get used to
      paying the toll.

      "It's like cigarettes," said Gold, the cabbie. "When they went up to a pound
      [$1.60] a packet, a lot of people said they'd quit. And sales did slump. But as
      soon as the habit kicked back in, sales went back up.

      Copyright © 2003, Chicago Tribune
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.