Toll charge cuts Stockholm traffic

Traffic in central Stockholm has fallen by 18 per cent since a congestion charge was introduced in August last year and the proportion of green, tax-exempt vehicles has risen to 9 per cent.

Access to the city has improved significantly, according to the latest study of the scheme by the Stockholm City Traffic authorities, with a reduction in travel times on inner city streets and approach roads.

IBM, as prime contractor responsible for solution design, development and operation, worked closely with the Swedish Road Administration and the city of Stockholm to develop the congestion charging system. The project involved collaboration between IBM consulting, research and technology specialists to achieve an accurate and effective technical solution.

The system, which covers a 24-square kilometre area of the inner city, was introduced after the Swedish National Parliament voted to permanently adopt the road charging scheme trialled by IBM and the Swedish Road Administration in Stockholm in 2006. During the 2006 pilot, traffic was reduced by an overall 22 per cent over seven months and has not returned to previous levels. This is viewed by the Swedish Traffic authorities as a positive residual effect of the trial.

Although road traffic in Stockholm county has increased overall, traffic to the inner city has not risen at the same rate, in spite of an increase in the number of residents and jobs.

"Traffic has remained substantially lower since the pilot, which has brought significant benefits to Stockholm residents. The scheme is meeting the objectives set by the city of reducing traffic volumes, improving accessibility for buses and cars and improving the environment," said Birger Hook, director of the Swedish Road Administration's traffic registry.

The Stockholm system is the largest of its kind in Europe, with 18 barrier-free control points around the charging zone equipped with cameras and a beacon system to identify vehicles and provide evidence to support enforcement measures against non-payers.

Payment channels include automatic direct debit, a Giro system at banks, over the Internet and at retail stores such as 7-11.

The congestion charge is a national tax, with revenues returned to the Stockholm region for investment in road infrastructure.

Image: One of the 18 control points [Vägverket/Mikael Ullén]

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