To combat congestion or generate new revenue, road pricing projects have been implemented in several countries outside the United States, including Germany, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. A scan team from the United States traveled to Europe and Asia to meet with transportation officials involved in implementation of road pricing programs and to learn firsthand about their approaches and practices. The scan tour was sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NHCRP). The 10 members of the multidisciplinary scan team included transportation professionals from four State departments of transportation (DOT), one regional transportation agency, FHWA, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and private industry. Based on observations made by the scan team, key project elements and benefits realized in the form of increased mobility and reduced emissions are reported below.
In 2003, London launched a bold initiative to designate a congestion charging zone in central London and charge vehicles to travel within the 8-square-mile (20.7-square-kilometer) area. In 2007, the charging area was doubled in size with a western extension. However, because of changes in mayoral leadership in 2008 and public consultation, the western extension was scheduled to be repealed in 2010. Charging on the Western extension ended in late December 2010.
Before implementation of the London congestion charge, it was estimated that 40 percent of England’s congestion was in greater London, with central London being the most congested. Average all-day speeds were less than 9 miles per hour (mi/h) (14.4 kilometers per hour (km/h)) in central London. Delays were costing people and businesses £4 million to £6 million (US$7 million to US$10 million) per week in time and money. Thus, the objective of the congestion charge was to reduce traffic, improve travel times for buses, generate new revenues for public transit, and enhance the quality of life in central London.
The flat weekday charge was set at £5 (US$10.50) initially and raised to £8 (US$13) in August 2005. The charge is in effect on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Various exemptions and discounts are allowed, including a 90 percent discount for residents living in the pricing zone. Buses, taxis, emergency vehicles, hybrid cars, and motorcycles are exempt as well.
- After implementation of the London congestion charge, the number of vehicles (four or more wheels) entering the charging zone decreased by 25 percent, or 70,000 fewer vehicles per day, and has remained constant.
- The amount of circulating traffic fell by 15 percent after the first year of implementation.
- Travel speeds increased by 30 percent,
- Trip times decreased by 14 percent
- Traffic delays plummeted by 25 percent in the charging zone.
- Transport for London (TfL) reported an average of 70,000 fewer daily vehicle trips than in the year before the congestion charge. Of those reduced trips, an estimated 50 to 60 percent shifted to transit, 20 to 30 percent of the trips were eliminated, and 15 to 25 percent involved carpooling.