To start, the whole project has been very expensive to implement, and has generated less revenue than anticipated. Setup costs were about $600 million (U.S.). The charge promised to raise $400 million per year for public transportation projects, but the estimate quickly dropped to $140 million. In the first two years, nearly $200 million was "lost" in running costs.Still, it's worth a shot, right?
The lower-than-expected collections should not distract us from a far bigger problem: business in London has been hurt, and working families have been stretched. On one of the busiest streets in Europe, centrally located Oxford St., stores such as Selfridges and John Lewis reported a 10% decline in sales in the first 18 months. Overall, 84% of businesses said their income was down - and 62% blamed the congestion charge.
Residents in poorer parts of London complained of less visits by family and friends, and around a third were having difficulty paying the charge.
All these results are culled from an official government survey.
Moreover, what started as a supposedly modest charge has been hiked beyond what many can afford. The £5 ($10) initial fee was not to be raised for 10 years; it has already gone up to around $16. Bus fares are still rising despite a £500 million ($1 billion) subsidy.
Well, at least traffic is down and travel through London is causing fewer headaches, right? Not exactly. Recently, Transport for London's head of traffic management admitted that traffic was creeping back up -- and was 5% higher on boundary roads than before the scheme began. And because it's buses, trucks and taxis - which operate unfettered -- that cause the worst pollution, air quality has not improved.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Mayor Bloomberg's pitch to tax the poor off of Manhattan streets appears to be picking up steam. So what better time to check in on London, where a similar experiment is three years deep. Paul Biggs of the British Drivers Association offers this analysis: