Lessons from the Stockholm Congestion Charges

Lessons from the Stockholm Congestion Charges


J Eliasson, WSP, SE; A Karlstrom, KTH, SE


The Stockholm congestion charges were in effect during the spring of 2006 and will be reintroduced in July 2007. We discuss the general lessons that can be drawn in terms of e.g. traffic management and sustainable transport planning.


The Stockholm congestion charging system was in place between Jan 3rd ? 31st July 2006, being the third dedicated urban congestion charging system in the world (after Singapore and London). What initially set it apart wass that the system wass only a ?trial? ? albeit a full-scale one, with essentially no compromises compared to what a permanent system would look like. From a traffic management point of view, the charging scheme was essentially a success: traffic over the charging cordon has dropped around 25%, queueing times in and around the inner scity dropped 30-50% during rush hours, emissions in the inner city dropped 10-15%, and the negative impact on ring roads and public transit congestion were much less than feared. The attitude towards the charges changed during the trial, from hostile to a majority being positive towards them.

The trial was followed by a referendum on the future of the charges. In the city of Stockholm, a majority voted in favor of continuing the charges. But since some surrounding municipalities (accounting for around half of the rest of the population in the county) also arranged referendums resulting in majorities against the charges, the result was difficult to interpret for the (newly elected) national government, which had the legal responsibility. After pondering how to interpret the outcome of the referendums for a few weeks, the new national government decided that congestion charges should be reintroduced July 2007. At the time of writing (Jan 2007), a negotiator appointed by the national government is trying to strike a deal between the municipalities and the county of Stockholm. The deal is meant to produce a ?package? where the charge revenues is used for a number of road investments.

This paper discusses what lessons can be learned from the experiences in Stockholm ? from a traffic management perspective, from a planning perspective and from a political perspective. Questions that are discussed are for example:

- Why did the public attitudes change from negative to positive?
- What legal and institutional constraints are most necessary to change? What legal and institutional prerequisites are needed for charges to work efficiently?
- Was it necessary to ?force? the charges through against public opposition ? or should one have waited for public acceptance?
- What were the effects on traffic, travel and environment?
- Could the design of the charges be improved?
- Did the traffic forecasts work? What role did they have when designing the system?
- What is the general role of congestion charges in planning a sustainable transport system?

The discussion draws from my experience as being responsible for the design of the system, forecasting its effects and chairing the scientific committee evaluating the effects.


Association for European Transport