Stockholm Testing Traffic Tolls

From ENN, news that Stockholm, Sweden is trying out a traffic toll like those in London and Oslo:

Drivers had to pay a fee to enter Stockholm on Tuesday as the city started a seven-month trial of a contentious program designed to reduce traffic and cut pollution in the Swedish capital.

Stockholm is the latest capital to experiment with congestion fees, which have already been introduced in London and Singapore. Oslo, Norway, has a flat fee for cars entering the city.

Depending on the time of day, Stockholm drivers have to pay between 10 kronor and 20 kronor, or about euro1-euro2, when they enter or exit the city’s center. The toll is in effect from 6:30 a.m. to 6:29 p.m. every weekday. There is no fee on weekends, holidays or at night.

City officials hope the initiative will cut traffic on the busiest streets by up to 15 percent, but critics say the toll is too expensive and that low-income commuters living in the suburbs will be hardest hit. Some local politicians have also complained that the national government is collecting the revenue and not the city.

Tomas Nilson, a spokesman for the Swedish Automobile Association, called the congestion tax a “violent attack on democracy,” noting that recent polls have shown a majority of Stockholm residents oppose it.

The group staged protests at entry points to the city, where it loaded cars onto trucks so that they could evade the congestion charge. Cars being towed or carried on a trailer are exempt from the fee.

I’ve spoken favorably of raising taxes as a way of passing the costs of driving back to drivers, and gotten roundly spanked for it… I think this is good idea, though, and I’d love to see US cities (other than San Francisco) try this out along with more toll roads. At the same time, I’m certainly aware that these kinds of taxes hit the poor the hardest. Any ideas out there for kinder, gentler ways to encourage people to leave the car at home?

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