Spotted on the back of a commuter’s Evening Standard last night, an article about Green London mayor candidate Jenny Jones:
“You have to raise the congestion charge by more than £10,” she said. “It’s quite an elastic amount people are prepared to pay it. You have to put it up to a level where people will think hard about paying it. If you put it up to £25, or £50, I’d say you’re starting to get to grips with the problem.” Ms Jones set out plans for a road pricing scheme that would cover the whole of London with a sliding price structure, charging £5 to travel around Zone 6 but up to 10 times that to travel into the city centre.
It’ll never happen…
My taxi driver to the airport this morning can’t use the M4 bus lane because he drives a minicab, not a black cab. This is despite mandatory licensing being introduced for minicabs a couple of years ago. (I am against taxi licensing, incidentally.) Ken Livingstone says that there are too many minicabs to allow them to use bus lanes, but the M4 bus lane is not like other bus lanes.
My taxi was a large Mercedes with a 3.2 litre engine. This is exactly the type of vehicle I want to be driven to the airport in at 7am. The taxi driver is getting ready to trade in his Mercedes because Ken Livingstone is raising the congestion charge for such vehicles to £25. He’s considering a hybrid because there is no congestion charge for these. By playing with the economics of the situation, Livingstone has a huge influence on how I get driven to the airport. He’s also having far more influence over people’s choice of vehicle technology than he deserves.
The folk over at Picking Losers would not approve. They think that markets pick winners, and politicians pick losers.
So many issues in such a short space of time.
There’s an argument going around that charging for parking is a surrogate for a congestion charge. Sounds plausible. And congestion charging is certainly not something I am necessarily against.
But spending the money on trams! Oh Dear Lord, no! It’s another state-funded infrastructure programme and therefore terrible, terrible news.
Further to the silent but deadly electric cars below, check out these funky electric and/or fuel efficient cars in Wired! here as an accompaniment to this article. They’re not your average milk float. Some of them do nought to sixty in about 4 seconds!
I’m well impressed by this/these:
PML Flightlink’s electric wheel motor, which the company calls the Quad Electric Drive, or QED, replaces a car’s brakes as well as its gasoline engine. All braking is done by the motors, which act as electrical generators while slowing the car, returning energy back to the battery. Another plus: Each motor delivers precisely controlled torque to keep its wheel in contact with the pavement, providing skid control during hard acceleration and automatic antilock braking.
What’s Two-Ton Ted going to say about this?
Quite aside from my obsessive fascination with bridges, I regular feature transport matters at my personal blog, often in the form of the peculiar vehicles and transport methods I sometimes observe when wandering around London taking photos. My two most recent recent transport-related postings have been one about people wearing bouncy boots, and one about a freight tricycle. Tricycles to transport tourists around central London are a regular sight, but rarer are trikes used to deliver stuff, in this case, I think, meals. Trikes? Bouncy boots? Does this all reflect the impact of the Congestion Charge?
And did I ever mention an earlier posting I did about a car covered in grass? If I (or somebody else) did, please pardon the repetition.
I have been putting off commenting on the spate of letter bombs apparently aimed at parts of the road-related revenue system. I have done so, because, to be frank, I really don’t know what I think.
I condemn violence. Of course. I am a libertarian. But who started it? It is the state that has demanded money with menaces for owning a car, driving it on certain roads at certain times and driving it at a speed it regards as too fast.
So, on that basis it seems this guy has got a point.
But, if roads were privately owned, as I very much hope they were, wouldn’t we have much the same system? Road owners would want to know who was using their roads, to be able to charge where and when road space was scarce, and to deter dangerous driving.
And more to the point, wouldn’t road owners, especially in residential and commercial districts end up looking very much like the state? Sure, they might be better organised and there would be more of them, but still…
Where this guy is definitely wrong is on the tactical level. Terrorism can work but only in certain very specific circumstances. It needs to be an area where the state is weak, one which can evoke feelings of guilt. Ulster provides a classic example of this and it is the principal reason why the IRA has been so successful. But this does not apply to motoring. Here the state is absolutely convinced of its virtue.
So, this guy is going to lose and, in doing so, queer the pitch for everybody else. To paraphrase Talleyrand: it is worse than a crime - it is a mistake.
After what I said in the post below, here are a couple more dubious surveys:
Now, I have little problem in believing that sprawling* suburbs are good for you in all sorts of ways - after all, I live in one - but fixing congestion? well, that’s quite a different proposition. Central London has been congested for a couple of hundred years. Bearing in mind that in that time its governors have ranged from extreme liberals to extreme socialists you would have thought that if there was an easy solution ie not congestion charging, they would have found it by now.
* Whoops! Banned word (warning: short).
It was a good excuse to link, yet again, to link to this.
“The idea was to take money raised from the Congestion Charge and spend it on improvements to public transport.”
Bob Kiley, former boss of London Underground, said something very like this on his documentary for Channel 4 last week.
I hear this line of argument rather a lot and every time it sets my teeth on edge. It does so because while sounding so terribly reasonable it is, I think, nonsense. It’s just that I’m not quite sure why.
Identify the assumptions:
- That the state should own roads
- That the state should raise revenue from roads
- That the profit should be spent elsewhere
- That mass transport is more deserving than individual transport
- That mass transport should receive subsidy
- That roads are where that subsidy should come from
Well, I’d question state ownership of roads in much the same way that I’d question state ownership of anything, though I think the sorts of roads we find in London would probably have to be owned by some kind of super-landlord.
I suppose my real objection is the idea that mass transport should receive subsidy. First, because I don’t like subsidy. Second, because I find myself asking why it needs subsidy especially since one of its main competitors (car-driving) suddenly got a lot more expensive.
Because it makes losses, perhaps?
Well, why is it making losses? Profit is good (more or less). They show that you are doing the right thing. Therefore, losses are bad. They (losses) suggest you are doing the wrong thing.
Well, what about positive externalities?
Right, well perhaps I should start by explaining what positive externalities are. Typically when someone builds a railway the line doesn’t make that much money, if any, but those who own property near the stations make a killing. A classic example is the Jubilee Line Extension. Capital cost £3bn. Gain to local property owners: £13bn.
So, the argument is that we all gain and so it is worth the state’s while subsidising new railways.
But you object?
Well, first of all, this in no way justifies the subsidy of existing railways. Secondly, there is the assumption that the market will not provide. I think it will.
By buying up the land around proposed stations.
But if everyone knows where the stations are to be built why would anyone sell?
The way you’d do it is by buying options. So, I give you a tenner if you will agree to give me the option to buy your property at a certain price.
So, why aren’t they doing it already?
My guess is it is because people believe the state will intervene and because it is very difficult to get planning permission for a new railway. Another reason to abolish planning.