London Shares Some Lessons as NYC Nears Congestion Pricing Launch

News of the nearing launch of the city’s toll program recently reached London, which debuted a similar program back in 2003. According to the op-ed article in Crain’s New York, upon London’s launch, the congestion charge (or C-charge) had a daily fee of $13 (£8) payable by vehicles entering an area of around eight square miles — roughly the size of the New York scheme. However, unlike the New York scheme, “residents inside the congestion zone receive a discount of 90%, irrespective of their assessed income.” Presently, the C-charge is about $19 during the weekday and weekend hours; and has been “supplemented by the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) levy of $16 for older, more polluting cars which is payable across the whole of Greater London” and in addition to the C-charge, with trucks and buses paying more. London’s scheme has largely been successful in improving air quality and along with other measures, contributed to a long-term dramatic decline in central London traffic volumes. Op-ed contributor Alexander Jan shares a few lessons to learn from London’s experience:

  • Despite initial opposition, the C-charge has gained public support. It is worth persevering!
  • It is crucial to ensure the benefits of the charge continue to be felt by those paying it. A big increase in roadwork along with road space that has been reallocated, especially to cyclists, has reduced road capacity in London for everyone else resulting in congestion continuing to remain a significant problem creating a cause of resentment amongst some C-charge payers.
  • Continued monitoring is important to allow the charging regime [MTA] to be improved. In London, detailed reports were stopped after six years, making it harder to understand the longer-term impacts of the scheme such as during the COVID pandemic.
  • Ensure that other sources of transport funding are not cut. Given anticipated revenues from the Manhattan scheme, there might be a temptation on the part of future state governors to cut MTA resources or move them upstate.