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Central London's Congestion Charging Scheme Has It Achieved Its Objectives? Derek Turner, Derek Turner Consulting O n some occasions, a simple question--has the the Smeed commission back in 1964. Some 40 years later, London charging scheme achieved its objec- we have found that congestion charging is one of the few tives?--can produce a simple answer, which in policy proposals that can truly unite the left and the right, this case is yes. Since its implementation on February which in itself makes one of the strongest arguments for 17, 2003, the program has met all expectations, and how essentially correct the proposal must be. the latest figures show that 60,000 fewer car move- The benefits realized thus far are impressive. Journey ments per day are entering the center city charging times to, from, and across the priced zone are down by zone, and about 110,000 people per day pay the 14%. Time spent stationary or traveling at less than 10 congestion-based charge. Interestingly, 1 month after kilometers per hour is down by 25%. Benefits are evident its implementation, Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was on the public transport side as well, with excess bus wait- the program's tireless proponent, was receiving ing times for routes serving the charge zone down by 33%. approval ratings 25 points ahead of his nearest rival. And in a side benefit that few made specific mention of The program was successfully implemented for a early on, we are seeing fewer road accidents. number of reasons, including political commitment, Revenues for 2003 and 2004 are projected at 68 mil- strong public relations, strong project management, and lion, and the mayor is using these revenues to boost invest- an effective procurement strategy. Equally important, the ments in public transport, and especially bus service. In congestion charging scheme was put forth as one element this way, congestion charging creates one of those rare but of a much broader strategy that included signalization delightful virtuous spirals in which the consequences of improvements, public transportation improvements, one action create benefits that continue to build on them- infrastructure repairs, and technological innovations; selves. This stands in stark contrast to capacity expansion, together these worked to demonstrate the government's which serves only to create more demand and an ongoing commitment to the supply side of the transport equation, cry for more and greater investment. as well. Because of the demand-side benefits that are so evident Once it was clear to public officials and the public at in the London program, I believe it is time to stop talking large that these supply-side investments were not sufficient about fees, taxes, and tolls and instead start referring to to combat the choking congestion in central London, demand management, variable pricing, and congestion demand management became an obvious consideration. It charges. Above all, the London experiment has demon- is remarkable that the system, as eventually implemented, strated that enthusiasm and a can-do attitude can deliver is not so different from the proposals that emerged from what is commonly viewed as an impossible project. 17