Democrats & Liberals Archives

New Stockholm Syndrome?

Stockholm is adopting a fee aimed at reducing traffic congestion. By charging those entering and leaving the core of the city, Stockholm hopes to reduce traffic jams costing the city between $780 million and $1 billion a year. The current fee structure maxes out at $7.50, which is barely half of what cities like London charge for a similar plan.

These two articles, Stockholm residents choke on new congestion charge and Stockholm road charge reduces traffic by a quarter provide more details on the proposal and its implementation, which won't be made permanent without a vote this coming November.

Not everyone is happy with the idea of course, but in principal it's perfect - increase the cost of driving into congested areas of town such that most people must find an alternative. Granted, this system can only work where a developed public transit system exists but many European cities have just that. Where problems arise is in America, where this type of system is needed most. The Catch-22 is that most American cities don't have a sophisticated transit system but that a plan like this could generate the funds to finance one. Of course which comes first, the fees which reduce car traffic but stress an underdeveloped transit system, or a more developed transit system which needs funds to be built?

I propose a gradual but escalating charge. Even $1 a day for a city with 50,000 daily automobile commuters to the central business brings in $13,000,000, assuming 260 annual working days. This is more than enough of an income stream to justify a bond issuance to pay for additional rail, trolley, or bus lines. The fee can be increased by $1 every year for a few years until it hits a target the market can bear, after which it is increased by a percentage matching the annual increased cost of transportation or some other figure voted on by the city's residents or set by a transit authority. By this time the additional transit infrastructure would be in place and a transition away from cars will be nearly seamless.

Now what to do with those pesky unions and lobbyists . . .

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Posted by Vihar Sheth at January 11, 2006 1:43 PM