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Expanding the Scope of Sustainability Planning: Lessons from Stockholm’s Congestion Charging Policy


  • Amy Rader Olsson

    (Swedish Centre for Innovation and Quality in the Built Environment, Sweden)

  • Diane E. Davis

    (Department of Urban Planning and Design, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, USA)


In 2007, after years of unresolved debate, the Swedish parliament approved a congestion charge for Stockholm applied to cars crossing the city’s inner boundary. Since its introduction, congestion charging has led to an even more lasting reduction of car trips to the city center, in part because the policy generates revenues for financing new subway extensions and uses these same resources as the basis for negotiating new transit oriented housing in subway extension areas. As such, congestion charging is arguably as much a sustainable housing solution as it is a narrowly defined transit policy for reducing automobile congestion or pollution. This article investigates how and why Stockholm, despite considerable political conflict, technical complexity and negative public opinion, was able to turn a long-standing and controversial debate over moderating automobile traffic via tolls into widespread support for a national congestion tax, which itself laid the groundwork for a more expansive sustainability agenda. It further suggests that only when congestion charging was strategically reframed and widely recognized as addressing the concerns of multiple and competing constituencies, did efforts for its adoption translate into larger sustainability gains.

Suggested Citation

  • Amy Rader Olsson & Diane E. Davis, 2017. "Expanding the Scope of Sustainability Planning: Lessons from Stockholm’s Congestion Charging Policy," Urban Planning, Cogitatio Press, vol. 2(4), pages 81-92.
  • Handle: RePEc:cog:urbpla:v:2:y:2017:i:4:p:81-92

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Armelius, Hanna & Hultkrantz, Lars, 2006. "The politico-economic link between public transport and road pricing: An ex-ante study of the Stockholm road-pricing trial," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 162-172, March.
    2. Hull, Angela, 2008. "Policy integration: What will it take to achieve more sustainable transport solutions in cities," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 94-103, March.
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