Thursday, January 17, 2013

Congestion charge case

Bristol’s horrendous traffic continues to lower our health, wellbeing and quality of life. This will continue to damage present and future generations if we don’t do something soon that is effective. I’m therefore glad that Bristol's Mayor George Ferguson has not ruled out introducing a congestion charge for the city (see here and here).

Bristol’s transport problems are serious: every day too many vehicles are trying to use local roads; there are very limited possibilities for building more roads and in any case more roads bring more traffic and more damage; drivers spend half their time crawling in jammed traffic; congestion is costing business very large amounts of money; traffic congestion generates more air pollution and produces more climate change causing carbon emissions; congestion causes frustration and raises stress levels.

A congestion charge would ideally try to achieve: significantly reduced traffic in the most congested areas; similarly reduced delays; shorter journey times; reliable delivery times; the saving of many hours of journey time; the raising of large sums of money for re-investment in transport, especially public transport; switching to sustainable transport modes; a boost for public transport use; a system that pays for itself over time.

Lessons from London’s congestion charge should encourage us. Boris would have got rid of it altogether if it did not have merit. Congestion and traffic levels there would be worse without it. Numbers of cars and car movements would be even higher. Movements of buses, coaches and taxis would be more resticted. Tens of thousands fewer bus passengers would not enter the charge zone during the morning peak. Bus reliability and journey times would be worse and the time passengers wait at bus stops would be longer. Disruption on bus routes due to traffic would be worse.

We clearly have a serious problem in Bristol. We need to both provide a disincentive to car use and raise money to improve the public transport and other alternatives. If the details of any congestion charge scheme for Bristol are right, the decision making processes are fair and we can implement the scheme properly then I'm strongly in favour.

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