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The London Congestion Charge

  • Jonathan Leape
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    By the 1990s, the average speed of trips across London was below that at the beginning of the twentieth century -- before the car was introduced -- and by the end of that decade, public concern over levels of traffic congestion was high. In early 2003, London imposed a congestion charge -- a daily charge for driving or parking a vehicle on public roads within central London between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on workdays. Traffic congestion has declined substantially, and the program is largely popular. This article describes the origins of the London congestion charge, how it overcame practical and theoretical difficulties, and what effects it has had. The introduction of the London congestion charge is, in important respects, a triumph of economics. It represents a high-profile public and political recognition of congestion as a distorting externality and of road pricing as an appropriate policy response.

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    Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

    Volume (Year): 20 (2006)
    Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
    Pages: 157-176

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    Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:20:y:2006:i:4:p:157-176
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.20.4.157
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    1. Parry, Ian & Bento, Antonio, 2000. "Estimating the Welfare Effect of Congestion Taxes: The Critical Importance of Other Distortions within the Transport System," Discussion Papers dp-00-51, Resources For the Future.
    2. Small, K.A. & Yan, J., 1999. "The Value of "Value Princing" of Roads: Second-Best Pricing and Product Differentiation," Papers 99-00-02, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
    3. Verhoef, Erik T., 2002. "Second-best congestion pricing in general networks. Heuristic algorithms for finding second-best optimal toll levels and toll points," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 707-729, September.
    4. Newbery, David M, 1990. "Pricing and Congestion: Economic Principles Relevant to Pricing Roads," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 22-38, Summer.
    5. May, A. D. & Liu, R. & Shepherd, S. P. & Sumalee, A., 2002. "The impact of cordon design on the performance of road pricing schemes," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 209-220, July.
    6. Small, Kenneth A., 2001. "Using the Revenues from Congestion Pricing," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt7170x9b0, University of California Transportation Center.
    7. Georgina Santos & David Newbery, 2001. "Urban Congestion Charging: Theory, Practice and Environmental Consequences," CESifo Working Paper Series 568, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Erik T. Verhoef & Kenneth A. Small, 2004. "Product Differentiation on Roads," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, London School of Economics and University of Bath, vol. 38(1), pages 127-156, January.
    9. David M. Newbery & Georgina Santos, 1999. "Road taxes, road user charges and earmarking," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 20(2), pages 103-132, June.
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