Stockholm’s successful experiment with congestion pricing

trafficjam.jpgThere’s a lot to like about the idea of congestion pricing to reduce traffic jams and car emissions, but perhaps the most appealing aspect of these schemes is that they appear to work. Experiments in which drivers are required to pay for the right to drive in high-traffic areas at certain times of days suggest that congestion pricing improves public safety, health, and the environment.

Stockholm is the most recent city to give congestion pricing a try. WorldChanging reports on the results:

1. The Trial reduced traffic even more than expected. Planners expected 10-15% reduction, and they got about 22% — nearly a quarter, on average.

2. Mobility improved significantly. The data showed this, and everyone talked about it: it was a lot easier to get around, and you could more reliably predict that you would arrive at your destination on time.

3. Carbon dioxide emissions were reduced 2-3% overall in Stockholm County, just as a result of this one policy. Reductions were around 14% in the inner city, compared to pre-toll levels.

4. Particulates, NOx, and other noxious pollutants were also (rather obviously) reduced, and science-based cost-benefit calculations show the policy would save a number of people from early death with this policy — in fact, it would save about 300 cumulative life-years. Probably about 25 people were spared the agony of a traffic injury, as well, just during the short period of the trial.

5. Public transport use increased by about 6% (but about 1.5% of that is credited to higher fuel prices during this period). And we got new buses.

6. At the start of the trial, 55% of Stockholmers thought the trial was a “bad decision.” That number fell to 41% after just a few months, as people experienced the effects directly, and the number calling it a “good decision” of course rose. Even those whose travel habits forced them to pay the toll showed an increase in approval for it.

The trial has now ended, and Swedes must vote on whether to make the policy permanent. We’ll report back on the results.

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