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Chapter 3 | Congestion charging as an alternative strategy

organisation pointed out, ‘more congestion would result in cars moving more slowly,

increasing the amount of emissions’ (Wright 2008).

The success of congestion charging

schemes in meeting their stated aims

requires precision in purpose and a

clearly articulated system for adjusting

both the operating rules and charges.

Thus, aims need to be clear. This is

the case whether congestion charges

are introduced to achieve social

When schemes mutate over time,

with the addition of supplementary

objectives, conflicting objectives are

more likely.

engineering objectives, to efficiently fund infrastructure investment (as in the

Norwegian schemes), to recover infrastructure costs (as with SR91 in California), to

raise revenue for funding public transport or simply to reduce congestion.

3.9 Case study: is the London scheme successful

Thus far we have considered the goals of congestion charging schemes and the

criteria for assessing the merits of schemes. The London Congestion Charging

Scheme illustrates the impact of using different criteria for success.

London’s area-charging scheme is widely heralded as a success and consequently

created a great deal of interest in other major cities struggling to deal with congestion,

such as New York. It is generally regarded as a political success since the Mayor was

re-elected, a financial success because it generates net revenue for funding public

transport and a technical success due to its reliability. However the question of its

economic success has been the subject of debate.

The economic definition of a successful scheme is one where the benefits exceed

the costs. Transport for London estimate benefit– cost ratios of around 2.0 and 2.5

with £5 and £8 charges (TfL 2007, p. 137).

However, different assumptions have produced conflicting results. In their tentative

economic appraisal, Prud’homme and Bocarejo concluded that the London scheme

is an economic failure with the benefits being between 40 and 60 per cent of the

costs, as illustrated in Figure 3.3. In their words, the scheme ‘could be described as a

mini or micro Concord’ (Prud’homme and Bocarejo 2005).

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