Ken's Loss is London's Gain

Paris (20080502): The Evening Standard reports that Ken Livingstone is history as mayor of London. Boris Johnson, the Conservative (Tory) candidate is reported to have won the election convincingly .

This is an important victory for rational transport policy. Johnson is a “somewhat” critic of Livingstone’s radical congestion charging plan (implemented in 2003), which requires a payment of ₤8.00 ($16.00) for each car entry to central London between 07:00 and 18:00 on work days. Livingstone had announced plans for much higher tolls to be levied later in the year based upon the pollution rating of car models.

The congestion charging zone was expanded to the west in 2007 and has proven relatively ineffective. Johnson has promised to dismantle the expansion, returning the congestion charging zone to its original, smaller geographical definition. He would also reduce the charge, cancel the planned increases and charge based upon time of day and length of stay. No longer would it cost $16 to “pop” across the cordon to buy Al Gore’s proverbial quart of milk.

Remy Prud’homme and colleagues from the University of Paris have shown than the social cost of operating London’s congestion charge system exceeds the benefits.

The Daily Telegraph published my commentary expressing concerns about the congestion charge scheme the morning it was implemented. Those concerns remain and it would appear that a Johnson mayoralty will begin to round the rough edges of what has to be one of the most arbitrary transport policies in history (Commentary 2003.02.16.

Finally, Johnson would phase out the “bendy-buses” (articulated buses) that Livingstone had used to replace double deck buses. One problem with the bendy-buses is that their length makes boarding difficult at bus stops where many buses often line up. Of course, this also increases traffic congestion.