Friday, May 31, 2013

Copenhagen’s Failed Congestion Charge

Copenhagen is a city known for its flourishing bike culture. However, as it is succeeding at getting more people biking to work, it is also struggling with increased auto use because of an increase in overall trips into Copenhagen from surrounding towns. In a past post we discussed ways Copenhagen has been dealing with bike congestion. We also touched on a Copenhagen’s investment in rail. In this post, I am going to discuss the rise and fall of Copenhagen’s congestion charge plans.

In 2004, London became the first major city to implement a congestion charge. How it works is that anyone who enters the ring that has been set around downtown in an automobile during the work week is required to pay a fee of 8 pounds for the day, which they can pay online. As of 2012, London’s congestion charge has been wildly successful. Congestion has dropped 30 percent and average driver speeds are at the highest level they have been in 50 years.

In 2006, the Forum of Municipalities (a grouping of 16 municipalities near Copenhagen) released a report studying the implementation of congestion pricing in the greater Copenhagen area. According to the Forum, the average speed of automobiles during rush hour was down to 20 kph. This resulted in more than 130,000 hours of wasted time, or the equivalent of about $1 billion in lost productivity. The Forum suggested implementing a congestion pricing schema to reduce or eliminate congestion and to invest the money earned from fees directly in public transit investment.

There are two ways to do congestion pricing. The first is similar to tolling. Users can either be charged to use uncongested lanes, or all users of the highways can be charged based on the current level of congestion. If a road was very congested, the price to use the road would increase. If the congestion level went down, the price would drop. The second way to do congestion pricing is to use the London model and set up a boundary around the downtown. This is what the Forum recommended. They propose a boundary be set up around Copenhagen’s center and that all those entering the center be charged a daily fee. They suggest charging 25 DKK ($4.35) during morning and evening rush hour, 10 DKK ($1.75) during the rest of the day, and having no charge for entering the city center in the night. The Forum believed congestion pricing could reduce congestion, increase productivity, better air quality, reduce noise pollution, and contribute to reducing climate change overall.

In 2011, a congestion charge in Copenhagen looked all but inevitable. Unfortunately, ministers in Denmark shot down the proposed congestion charge in 2012. Although politically will could change in the future, for now a congestion price in Copenhagen has been shelved.


Edited by: Darwin M

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