Commentary

Congestion charge to cover more of London

Since February 2003, motorists traveling into central London have had to pay a congestion chargeââ?¬â??which now stands at roughly 16 bucks. Now Mayor Livingstone is planning to extend the congestion zone westward, beginning February 2007. The politics of this have been particularly interesting. Many in the U.S. might see this as a market-based response to congestion, yet a man of the left, “Red Ken,” has been its political champion. After implementing the congestion charge, auto traffic decreased by about a third and Livingstone won reelection in 2004. But now there’s quite a lot of political resistance to his plan to make the zone bigger. Retailers are worried, recently some folks staged a go-slow protest, and a Transport for London survey revealed that 63 percent of residents and 72 percent of firms are against the western extension. Sam Staley and I recently returned from a trip to London where we got an up-close view of the congestion charge. Also plenty of other interesting urban policy stuff going on across the pond. Sam and I are working on a book about improving mobility in American cities, which will be out next year. In other words, prepare for many shameless plugs.

Ted Balaker is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and founding partner of Korchula Productions, a film and new media production company devoted to making important ideas entertaining.