February 5, 2003

Congestion Charging

Category: Urban Planning

London: I'm going waaaay out on a limb to call this plan brilliant because it's completely unproven and very unpopular. But I decided to publish it anyway for the reasons below. Time will prove me right or wrong.

Here's the deal: As of February 17th, bringing a car into central London during the weekday will cost you £5, (about $8). When you cross into the city center, a camera will photograph your license plate and throw the numbers into a database. You have until midnight to pay the £5, or they track you down and fine you. The Mayor says this is going to reduce congestion in London by 15%, which anyone can tell you has reached biblical severity.

Critics say it's not going to do a thing to reduce congestion, and it will drive up the costs of commercial deliveries and annoy everyone. Additionally, it cost a fortune to implement and might be a nightmare to enforce. It also might overwhelm the already beleaguered transit system.

So why do I like this plan anyway? Well, first of all, it generates badly needed revenue that (hopefully) will go to improve the public transit system. Second, it's a direct tax on the people using a resource, so other taxes don't go up (like a bridge toll). Third, £5 is really not much for an occasional trip - if you are the kind of person who drives in every day, you can probably afford it. And somehow, I think it might actually work.

However things winds up, this is a fascinating experiment that cities the world over are carefully watching. If it works, watch out, your city might be next...

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Posted by Nick at February 5, 2003 6:28 PM

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