The report "Lessons Learned from International Experience in Congestion Pricing", prepared in August 2008, provides a summary of selected operational area wide congestion pricing projects outside the United States. This report provides findings and draws lessons from a sample of projects with the richest and most relevant experience, focusing on three comprehensive area wide projects: Singapore, London and Stockholm. Each received in-depth attention during planning, design, implementation and operational phases and have been monitored and evaluated carefully. These projects should be of particular interest now that several U.S. cities are beginning to examine similar area wide pricing strategies to address congestion, environmental, energy and funding problems in heavily congested downtown areas.
Research on acceptability is especially detailed in these international locations and provides valuable lessons for U.S. cities interested in pursuing such policies. The report concludes with overall findings and lessons related to travel, costs and revenues, equity and economic impacts, environmental impacts; and public acceptance. These projects have demonstrated that pricing can be an affective means of managing demand and generating revenues and can be politically and publicly acceptable.
Findings from London
The methodology used in this report involved synthesizing information from a number of different sources. The information relevant to this benefit was taken from the Transport for London annual impact monitoring reports (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007), CURACAO (2007), and Wikipedia (2008). In the Central London Congestion Charging Zone (which includes downtown London and the City of Westminster bordering on the West side) and the surrounding area, traffic adjusted rapidly to the introduction of pricing. This cordon, or areawide, road pricing program was launched in February 2003.
The program entails a flat weekday fee (initially set at £5, the fee was raised to £8 in 2005) for vehicles crossing into, leaving, or traveling within the charging zone. More than 650 closed-circuit cameras set up at the cordon and within the zone and moving vans police the zone, capturing live video images of the license plates of all vehicles. Any applicable daily charge must be paid for a vehicle that is on a public road in the Congestion Charge Zone during the charging period. The charging is effective between 7:00 AM and 6:30PM (modified in 2007 to 7:00-6:00).
After the first year of operation, traffic circulating within the charging zone was reduced by 15 percent during charging hours. The number of vehicles entering the charging zone was reduced by 18 percent. Although there were increases in traffic on the inner ring road (a possible diversionary route around the charging zone), these were less than had been predicted and no operational problems were observed. There was no clear evidence of significantly increased traffic outside the charging hours or in the area surrounding the charging zone. Traffic approaching the charging zone was reduced and no significant change in traffic levels was observed on nearby local roads. According to Transport for London (TfL), the local governmental body responsible for the charging program, "…the balance of evidence was pointing to an overall 'background' decline in traffic in central and inner London."
In addition to reduced traffic inside and outside the zone, traffic delays were cut by 25 percent. Travel speeds increased by 30 percent in the zone. Travel time reliability went up significantly. Bus reliability and journey time improved. Bus use increased by 40 percent. The shift in mode from car to bus was significantly more than the shift of cars to the ring road.
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