Congestion Charge

So London has shown the cojones to do something about the worst traffic congestion problem in Britain: Levy a £5 fee on anyone who wants to drive within the 8-square-mile core of the city during business hours.

Harsh… but the problem isn’t going to clear itself up and medicine can taste pretty nasty. The rest of Great Britain is watching to see how the plan goes, planning to roll out similar plans elsewhere if it makes a difference. Early reports say that downtown London looks “like Christmas day” (i.e. deserted).

It’s such a simple solution, really, but so hard to utter without offending car-centric sensibilities: Car use must be disincentived. Not banned. Not punished. Just made less attractive. Cars have taken over the world and it’s going to be hard work to take it back. But it has to happen, one small step at a time. It’s almost impossible to imagine an American politician risking a plan like this — political suicide. But eventually, I think, similar plans will become a virtual inevitability all over the world.

Update: Ongoing reports on how the first days of the charge are actually going.

Music: Devo :: Secret Agent Man

9 Replies to “Congestion Charge”

  1. seriously, even tho my “Nazis” post above was totally tongue in cheek, didja notice what piece of technology is essential to enforcing the congestion tax?


    Of course acceptance of surveillance is much further along in Europe (esp Britain) than America, but we’re not that far behind either.

  2. A large part of what makes congestion charging schemes work is a network of cameras to record violators.

    Quite a bit has been written in the UK press about these cameras and how they work and the potential impact on individual privacy. However I think the UK is a lot less sensitive to these issues than many in the US (or perhaps the polarization between elements of the privacy debate is not as large or as public).

    Whilst I agree that charging is currently the best solution for congestion relief so long as the existing public transport systems can cope with the increased demand (and revenues from the charges are used to enhance them) I think it’ll be a long time before we see similar schemes implemented in America – not least because of the lack of public transport infrastructure in the first place.

  3. Hey, I’m sure there are lots of ears ready to hear your alternative suggestions ;). You’d probably be rich for life with the right non-surveillance answer to the problem.

  4. Mhm, disincentivising car usage in London might work because the center is relatively small, and they do have decent public transportation. Similar the other english cities (at least those I visited).

    Without having these alternatives (walking, biking, PT), such a charge would be just another tax.

  5. Andrew, always great to see you around! Esp. great to hear you say “whilst” — you’re always good for it ;)

    I believe London has done a lot of work to give incentives for public transportation use, not *just* disincentivizing car usage.

  6. One of the biggest problems in the USA is that development has centered around the assumption that the car is the *only* or main mode of transportation. It’s disheartening to see housing developments a few hundred yards from (gross) strip malls with no other (safe) way to travel between them than the car. Witness Northern Virginia.

  7. London congestion charge, will be more like speeding fines soon, because they will want to charge you up to £60 or over, just for going to into the city centre with your car, and not paying the fine, will result in a £1000 pently cahrge, and being taken to court to try and get more money out of you!

    I say destroy the survanillence camera’s with legal law, or just cover the camera lenses, so they can not see jack squat!

  8. Thanks to Ken, I can’t get out of London now without being charged. They planted a camera right outside my private car park, and because I have to travel 5m (yes, that’s 5 meters only) in Ken’s Congestion Zone to get out of London I have to pay him £8.00 each time for the priviledge.

    Shame there’s no mafia in this country. Where’s a terrorists when you need one? I can’t understand why Londoners are just accepting this with no opposition!

    I’m with Tom Boy, out with the spray paint. They say the cameras are on 24hr because it’s too expensive to turn them off after 6pm. Bet it won’t be too expensive for them to send out someone to uncover the cameras lenses each day though, if we did cover them up.

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