Wednesday, July 11, 2007

London Calling

"London calling to the faraway towns."

The clash between supporters and opponents of congestion pricing in cities like New York and Chicago (local example here) should shift into neutral for a moment while everyone considers the London example. Transport for London has released its fifth annual report on London's congestion pricing program. The summary is here and the full report is here.

The Report finds that:

Since the Congestion Charge scheme started, London has seen:
  • Traffic entering the zone reduced by 21 per cent
  • In comparison with 2002 conditions, congestion in 2006 was eight per cent lower, but this is increasingly misleading about the scheme’s performance. When compared to conditions without charging, Congestion Charging is continuing to deliver congestion relief that is broadly in line with the 30 per cent reduction achieved in the first year
  • An increase in cycling within the zone of 43 per cent
  • Reductions in accidents and key traffic pollutants in and around the charging area
  • Public transport successfully accommodating displaced car users; and bus services continuing to benefit from reduced congestion and ongoing investment of scheme revenues
  • Retail footfall now outperforming the rest of the UK and returning to a pattern of year-on-year growth
  • No effect on property prices
  • £123 million [approximately $250 million] being raised, in the financial year 2006/07, to invest back into London's transport system
The Illinois Tollway announced recently that it has sold over 3 million I-PASS/E-ZPass toll collection devices. These handy devices presumably are accompanied by electronic accounts and supported by a large customer support infrastructure. Most of these tags are installed on vehicles in the region. They are just waiting to be utilized in congestion pricing and other tolling initiatives throughout the region outside of the Tollway itself.

Where London and Stockholm had to build congestion pricing systems from scratch, this region already has a huge highway tolling infrastructure in place. If the General Assembly and the Governor can't or won't connect these dots, maybe the counties and cities in this region can do so via intergovernmental agreements and use congestion pricing and tolling to help fund regional transportation initiatives. Some local officials, far outside the orbit of the RTA/IDOT/CMAP/CDOT experts, are seeing and seizing upon that potential. Maybe they will lead the way for the rest of us.

"London calling to the imitation zone"

(Yes, I know my Clash references mark me as an old fogey.)


Anonymous said...

Clearly, using the I-Pass system for congestion pricing is a no-brainer, and if the revenues go to transit, all the better, but most likely, politics would probably dictate that such a revenue stream would mostly need to go to Metra/Pace, which is fine, but not fundamentally getting Chicago to where London is or where NYC may go.

If something is needed for downtown Chicago, I suggest a smart, first-step is to first address the pricing issues surrounding parking, particularly the dirt-cheap meters. I believe we can get a good degree of the effects and benefits of congestion pricing by pricing parking first. Again, though, the revenues need to go to the city's transit infrastructure, otherwise it becomes just another pot of money City Hall uses for whatever idea du jour it has.

One problem that possibly has just been created, though, is that the City just sold-off (or is it leased, whatever?) it's Grant/Mill Park parking (is the money going to transit? No. To the parks, nice, but I don't get the connection). The Privates that just bought the parking might balk at any peak-pricing taxes the City would want to impose. This is similar to the issues the private companies that bought the Indiana toll road had when they were told after-the-fact, that they had to offer reciprocal agreements with Illinois. One of the policy pitfalls of these private sell-offs.

On top of this, the City could get rid of the Taxi discount that is offered airport-to-“downtown” cab rides. “Downtown” is defined as Fullerton, Ashland and Cermak Roads—quite a downtown. Next time you’re in a cab, check it out.

By the way, does anyone know how much the City spends on those free trolleys? I think they’re fine for getting tourists around and they serve Metra and CTA rail, but in these times of threatening service cuts at CTA, why aren’t those trolleys on the cutting board? They’re free to ride, so some kind of public dollar is being spent on them—why aren’t those dollars a part of the mix in discussing where the City is going with transit?

Unknown said...

The trolleys are funded via federal CMAQ grants. Also, Chicago has started to move forward with parking pricing in a very limited way with pilot projects in three neighborhoods. I'm watching this very, very closely because it would work very well in my own neighborhood (and would be very easy to set up, it turns out).

Anonymous said...

A great post and great to read about the success of the London program -- or is is programme??

One key difference I see in london is that, across the metro area, there are really no comparable alternatives to the high streets in its center. in chicago, downtown has state street and michigan avenue, but those sets of stores are replicated in suburban shopping centers such as oakbrook, woodfield, old orchard, etc. The competition between city and "exurb" is much more even than in london.
if the congestion pricing program were implemented just on its own, it really wouldn't be fair to downtown merchants since access to the suburban "downtowns" would still be free. in fact, it might be better to encourage more driving downtown because, at the very least, the distances traveled are less. after all, a trip from the lou malnattis to the cubby bear is much shorter than a trip from lou malnattis in oakbrook to the cubby bear in libertyville.
i think congestion pricing is a great idea whose time has come. and its about time the city started looking forward for a change. but it would have to be in conjunction with expanded and variable toll pricing on our highways to stop shoppers from flocking out to the malls. And, as you noted, with all of the Ipasses already in place, a variable toll scheme would be pretty easy to implement.

Tom Bamonte said...


Great post. Thanks.


Do you have a cite to any additional information on the City's parking pilot.


What is the basis for your conclusion that London does have a retail ecosystem that is as spread out as the Chicago retail ecosystem?

JDAntos said...

12:59 - Having lived in both cities, I'm not convinced that London's downtown shopping streets like Oxford St., etc., are more unique than Chicago's. I would echo the moderator's request for evidence of this claim?

Also, care to elaborate on your suggestion that encouraging driving downtown is a good thing?