For Money to the City Center

New York is planning to introduce it. London, Oslo and Stockholm have already done so and in Singapore it has been in use since 1975 – we are talking about the city toll. It is supposed to prevent traffic from getting stuck. Today, the fee is also a means to keep the air quality bearable.

New York is the first major city in the USA to introduce congestion pricing. Photo: Stockfoto Bartolomiej Pietrzyk, Rob van Esch

New York is the first major city in the USA to introduce congestion pricing. Photo: Stockfoto Bartolomiej Pietrzyk, Rob van Esch

The city state of Singapore, which is limited to an area of just over 700 square kilometers, was simply a pioneer in the introduction of a high-priced electronic toll system for reasons of space. In order to further cap the number of cars, the tightly managed republic with its almost six million inhabitants is taking additional drastic measures: Car buyers have to bid for licenses in a bidding process, and imported vehicles are also subject to taxes of sometimes over 200  percent. On the other hand, Singapore also scores with a comparatively inexpensive and well-developed local transport system, closely interlinked subways and buses and a large number of affordable taxis.

Paying Twice in London

Since 2003, a flat-rate congestion charge of 11.50 pounds has been charged from Monday to Friday between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm. Photo: Matthias Rathmann

Since 2003, a flat-rate congestion charge of 11.50 pounds has been charged from Monday to Friday between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm. Photo: Matthias Rathmann

In Europe, London is the largest city with a city toll, which is now levied twice over. Since 2003, a flat-rate congestion charge of 11.50 pounds has been charged from Monday to Friday between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm. Five years later, the world’s largest low-emission zone was introduced in the Greater London area due to persistently poor air quality. In April, the inner city area was upgraded to an “ultra low emission zone”, which means that even fewer pollutants are allowed to enter the air in order to reasonably protect the health of the citizens. If diesel cars do not meet the Euro 6 standard and petrol cars do not meet the Euro 4 standard, a further £12.50 per day is due. Trucks and coaches pay a whopping 100 pounds.

But the Norwegians were faster than the British in Europe. An inner-city toll – initially to finance road construction, but now increasingly for environmental reasons – has been in place in Oslo since 1990, Bergen was already there in 1985, Trondheim, the third largest city in the country, joined in in 1991, and other municipalities followed. The fee is levied electronically with the state system “Autopass”, Norway’s membership in “Easygo”, a joint venture to which Sweden, Denmark and Austria also belong, ensures that only one toll transponder is required in all four countries. Even electric cars that do not cause local emissions often pay a toll. The idea behind this is that an increase in the cost of private transport will encourage residents to switch to public transport.

New York Toll 2021 Earliest

Similar measures are being discussed in many European cities, but politicians are often very afraid of an inner-city toll. For example, in Germany, a land of cars, despite numerous complaints and impending driving bans due to inadmissible air pollution, people have so far been reluctant to pay a toll. The city toll and all discussions about bans are “typically German” and do not a solution, Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer is convinced. The conservative politician prefers to use more pleasing methods such as the approval of electric scooters for pedestrians in order to relieve the burden on urban infrastructures.

In extreme cases, the mayors fear that they will be voted out of office, although not only Ken Livingstone in London has shown that a further term in office is possible despite ambitious traffic regulations. And London is not alone with its environmental zone on the island. Brighton, Glasgow, Norwich, Nottingham and Oxford also charge corresponding fees. They are joined by metropolises such as Rome, where there is a complete ban on cars in the historic centre, or Bologna and Milan, where a city toll has been collected for over ten years.

New York is the first major city in the USA to introduce congestion pricing. The money raised by private vehicles and trucks will be used to expand the partially dilapidated public transportation system. More and more citizens had recently been deterred by late buses and trains and sat in taxis operated by private drivers, thus exacerbating the situation on the roads and air pollution. The toll idea is to be implemented by 2021, and has been discussed since the 1970s.

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