- Congestion pricing plans can be accepted by the general public as long as cities are clear about how revenue will be used and follow through on those promises, Stockholm's Chief of Staff Mikael Sandstrom told Smart Cities Dive at a Bloomberg Harvard Leadership Initiative event in New York City.
- When Stockholm's Social Democratic Party broke a campaign pledge not to pursue congestion pricing, it was seen as a sort of political suicide, according to Sandstrom. But opposition dissipated once benefits became clear, which is a lesson other leaders can learn from, he said.
- "My party, the Conservatives, were strictly against it, but I would like to say we were wrong," he said. Most, if not all, opposition to congestion pricing has now vanished, even from those who were ideologically opposed to it before, according to Sandstrom.
Stockholm is one of the few cities in the world to implement congestion pricing, formally introducing it in 2007 after a pilot program the previous year. In a report issued earlier this month, the National League of Cities (NLC) noted that average traffic volumes across the congestion zone have dropped 22% and remained steady, even as the population of the city and surrounding county has grown. Meanwhile, the money has been invested in road improvements outside the urban core, so everyone can feel the benefits.
There is a need to be bold when it comes to introducing congestion pricing in the face of initial opposition. In a non-binding referendum, residents in the city of Stockholm voted in favor of congestion pricing, while those in Stockholm County were opposed.
It serves as an interesting lesson for New York City, which became the first U.S. city to approve a congestion pricing plan for a section of Manhattan, set to go into effect by early 2021. Meanwhile, Seattle and Los Angeles are in varying stages of studying their own plans and debating how they can be implemented. The shifting attitudes of people in Stockholm toward congestion pricing illustrates how individuals who derided such plans in the past have dropped their opposition, NLC said.
Congestion pricing plans must also evolve over time, according to Sandstrom, an argument that has also been made about London's congestion pricing scheme. Taxi drivers in Stockholm sometimes take a longer route around the city rather than go through the congestion zone to avoid paying the toll, so changing habits need to be taken into account, he said.