In this infographic put together by Car Finance 24/7 we inspect the most controversial topic in transport: the congestion charge.
Typically Congestion Charging aims for 3 main goals:
The first one being the reduction of congestion in busy urban areas. The aim is to encourage motorists to reconsider their travel habits.
The second goal is to raise money to help maintain and improve transport structures.
The final goal is to reduce the amount of air pollution that is caused by high volumes of traffic, and thus help to promote public health.
Congestion Charging In Place
Congestion charging schemes are already in place in some major cities: London, Stockholm, Milan and Singapore.
Singapore introduced the Area License System, which was the world’s first congestion charging scheme! It was replaced in 1998 by “electronic road pricing” the world’s first digital congestion charging system.
London implemented the congestion charge, which began in 2003 as a £5 charge for entering central London. It was then increased up to £8 in 2005 and £10 in 2011.
Stockholm applied the Congestion Tax, the charge is levied both on entering and leaving the city per day, and is up to a maximum of 6 euros.
Milan trialled the Ecopass in January 2008 which was then extended until the end of 2009, then again until the end of 2011. In 2012 the Ecopass was replaced with “Area C”.
What did the public think?
Congestion charging has definitely proved to be an extremely controversial measure. In London in 2000, 3 years before the charge, a poll found that 40% supported it, whilst 55% were against it.
In Milan prior to the introduction of the charge 44% of people supported it whilst 48% of people opposed it.
In Stockholm in 2005, just before the introduction the the congestion tax, only 36% of those asked supported the measure.
What were people worried about?
There were a number of concerns voiced:
People said that there was insufficient evidence that congestion charging would produce long term benefits.
That it could hurt businesses in the affected area.
It would constitute an “unfair tax” on motorists.
So, what really happened?
Once congestion charging schemes came into effect, many critics changed their tune.
A 2004 Transport for London report showed that after the first year of the scheme congestion was down 30%, journey times were 14% faster, and traffic related co2 was 9% down.
In Singapore a report by their Land Transport Authority claimed that by 1988 traffic was down 31% in comparison with pre-charging levels.
In Stockholm traffic was down 22% across the cordon – meaning 99,000 fewer trips.
In Milan vehicles entering the zone were 20.8% down, and between January 2008 and September 2009 the scheme raised 19.5 million euros.
Was business impacted?
Transport for London reported that there was “no discernible impact on overall business performance” that could be attributed to the congestion charge.
However, BMW claimed that parking and congestion charge fees cost their West End dealership £1 million in 2005.
What problems have been faced?
One of the main problems surrounding congestion charging is its long-term impact. In London, by 2007 congestion levels had returned to pre-charging levels.
In Milan, after the initial decrease in the number of cars on the road congestion began to rise again starting in 2009.
How does the public feel now?
As we know public opinion on the topic has been mixed, however since the introduction of congestion charging opinion has generally shifted towards approval.
In London in 2005 34% of people supported congestion charging. In 2013 the AA reported that 45% of people were in favour of the charge, whereas 41% of people opposed it.
Will it catch on?
So far, congestion charge plans have been rejected by a number of cities.
New York city planned to introduce a charging scheme, but it was shelved in 2007.
As we have seen the evidence suggests that congestion charging can provide real benefits in terms of reducing traffic and pollution, at least in the short term. But it’s important to remember that a huge number of variables affect traffic levels, and attributing any effect to congestion charging alone is very difficult.