Mayor Ken Livingstone's bold experiment continues to defy its critics, and attract admirers in other cities. Since last February, high-tech cameras have dinged drivers entering a central zone on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. with a fee of £5 ($12.62 Canadian).
Businesses -- and almost every cab driver -- argued at the time that the fee would destroy the economy and simply move traffic jams outside the charge's 21-square-kilometre zone. But one year on, many Londoners are praising the project, and the mayor is even talking about doubling the size of the pay-as-you-go area.
According to numbers from the city's transit agency, Transport for London, the charge has seen traffic inside the zone reduced by 18-per-cent during charging hours. Bus ridership is up by 29,000 passengers a day, a 38 per-cent jump. Traffic delays, measured in the average minutes of delay per kilometre driven, are down 30 per cent, the agency says. Bus delays are down 60 per cent.
"It's the only example I can think of a major urban experiment that has worked," says regular London visitor Joe Berridge, vice-chair of the Toronto Board of Trade and a partner in Urban Strategies Inc., an urban planning and design consultancy.
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Would London's toll strategy work for Toronto?