At the ASI.
In which I present conclusive proof that the London Congestion Charge works.
Tags: Timmy Elsewhere
// Dec 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm
Congestion charging works; but it’s just one possible solution. The other, generally more popular solution, is to increase capacity. This may not apply in central London: driving a multi-lane motorway through the centre won’t be popular, and even tunnels are hard to build given the existing complex of underground structures. But in many other situations, increased capacity is the preferred option.
When considering e.g. Heathrow’s capacity, many people would prefer building a new runway over a £50/person congestion tax (or however much it works out to). In New York the number of yellow cabs is restricted by law (the “medallion” system). This makes taxis more expensive than they otherwise would be. Or look at the UK’s biggest bête noire, the housing market: by failing to increase capacity we’ve generated an artificial shortage, pushing up prices. Here the “housing congestion charge” is collected privately rather than by government, but it’s all the same if you’re the one paying it.
So yes the congestion charge works in London; but please let’s not have variable road pricing in the rest of the country, or we’ll end up with local councils deliberately causing congestion so as to raise the amount of tax collected.
The problem is that governments like to artificially create shortages, then tax them.
// Dec 8, 2012 at 9:07 pm
Some drivers may be driven off the roads, but as someone who does sometimes drive in central London during congestion charging hours, I see no evidence that journeys are better for the remaining plutocrats. That, however, might just be because the charge is currently too low significantly to reduce traffic volumes.
In short, the disincentive may work in theory, but I’m unconvinced congestion is reduced in practice.
// Dec 8, 2012 at 9:51 pm
@Edward Lud – I think the reason for congestion not seeming to have reduced is because most bus lanes seem to be blocked by lorries making deliveries, taxis suddenly stopping to deposit or pick up passengers, the extensive road-repairs that are a constant feature in london, and all the construction work going on – eg Crossrail etc. The bad synchronisation of traffic lights probably also plays a role – why it is beyond the wit of man to use sensors to determine whether to switch to red is beyond me. How often do you sit at a light at an intersection without any vehicles crossing?
And then there is the ultimate irony. The collection system cost a fortune to set up and maintain – probably more than it will ever recoup. And if the charge did reduce congestion, then it would even less efficient as an investment.
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