The Unexpected ?yes!?: Explanatory Factors Behind the Positive Attitudes to Congestion Charges in Stockholm

The Unexpected ?yes!?: Explanatory Factors Behind the Positive Attitudes to Congestion Charges in Stockholm


J Eliasson, Centre for Transport Studies ? KTH, SE; L Jonsson, Centre for Transport Studies ? VTI, SE


The public support for the Stockholm congestion charges has attracted great international interest. Analysing a survey material, we investigate the decisive factors, showing the importance of e.g. environmental awareness and public transit supply.


During the first half 2006, a full-scale trial with congestion charges was conducted in Stockholm. The trial was followed by a referendum, which resulted in a majority in favour of keeping the charges. This was a very unlikely result, given the intensely negative opinion before the start of the trial. Perhaps even more unlikely, the support for the charges has contnued to increase after the reintroduction of the now permanent charges in 2007, and currently lies around 2/3 of the population.

Naturally, the experiences from Stockholm and in particular the change in public opinion has attracted enormous interest from all around the world. Many cities are considering introducing congestion charges as a means of using scarce road space more efficiently, while at the same reducing emissions and raising revenues, but the main obstacle continues to be the problem of obtaining public support. Hence, explaining the uniquely and perhaps unexpectedly positive attitude in Stockholm is an important topic.

In this paper, we investigate what the decisive factors are behind positive and negative attitudes to the congestion charges. We use a survey material collected after the reintroduction of the charges, which contains not only travel habits and opinions of the charges and their effects, but also attitudes, opinions and behaviour related to general environmental issues. Moreover, the survey contains questions about how the respondent?s anticipated and then perceived the effects of the charges, and whether the respondent changed hir or her mind during the trial period. Using ordered logit models, we are able to disentangle the influence on the attitudes to charges and their effects from various explanatory factors, such as car ownership and use, public transport availability, education, residential area and environmental attitudes.

To give an example of the results, it can be noted that earlier studies in Stockholm have indicated that women, inhabitants inside the toll cordon and less educated (perhaps a proxy for low income) are more positive to the charges compared to men, inhabitants outside the cordon and more educated people. This is confirmed by the present study ? but surprisingly, only as long as other explanatory factors are not accounted for. In fact, once travel habits (such as car ownership and use) and environmental attitudes are accounted for, this picture is reversed: controlling for travel habits and environmental attitudes, women, inhabitants inside the toll cordon and less educated are in fact more negative to the charges. In other words, the positive attitudes among inner-city inhabitants as a group, for example, is not due to fact that they live in the inner city, but due to them travelling more by public transport and being more concerned about the environment. This contradicts the popular but erroneous statement that ?the inner-city people like the charges because they gain from the congestion reduction but do not pay the charges?. In fact, the average inner-city resident pay much more in charges and gain much less travel time than the average outside-the-cordon resident.

Further, we analyse the importance of factors such as environmental attitudes, satisfaction with public transport supply, car use and ownership etc. to obtain support for congestion charges. We also identify which key groups were needed to be convinced in order to turn the initially hostile opinion, and discuss the role the media played in the process. Finally, we draw conclusions for other cities: in particular, what prerequisites are need in order to gain public support for congestion charges.


Association for European Transport