Sweden’s second city Gothenburg joins the swelling ranks of cities worldwide that have some form of congestion charging. In schemes like this, motorists are made to pay for entering or leaving city centers, especially at rush hour. Gothenburg aims to finance infrastructure, reduce air polution & greenhouse gases, and cut traffic in the city centre by around 15 percent.
Between 06h and 18h30 on weekdays, 8-18 kronor (about one to two euro) will be charged. The exact amount will depend on the time of day. This allows pricing to be adapted to circumstances. Any one vehicle will not be charged more than 60 kronor per day. July, the month in which many Swedes take their holidays, will be free and cars with foreign license plates and emergency vehicles will be exempt. Cameras will register the licence plates of vehicles entering or leaving the city. Not paying incurs a fine of 500 kronor.
As happens often, the scheme was and remains controversial and generates lots of opposition. One reason could be that the costs of congestion charging are upfront, whereas the benefits come later and are less tangible. However, experience proves that schemes like this reduce traffic, congestion as well as noise and air polution in inner cities, thus improving quality of life. According to Eva Rosman, a spokesperson for the Swedish Transport Agency , a similar scheme introduced in Stockholm in 2007 reduced inner city traffic by 15-18%.
In my opinion, congestion charging improves life for inhabitants of city centers, who are more likely to use public transport, cycle or walk, at the expense of visitors and commuters. If cities — and especially Europe’s often compact and crowded historic centres — are to become more attractive places to live, work and play, this is the way to go.