This will be fun to watch: the city of Stockholm, Sweden is starting a trial run of a congestion pricing scheme that would make drivers pay about $7.50 per day to drive into downtown. London has a similar, though considerably pricier, system: drivers now have to pay about $14 to get into downtown London. But Londoners have been surprisingly supportive, since the fees have made a considerable dent in congestion, while transit service has been increased to help people get into downtown if they choose not to drive.
Although the London congestion pricing system has been largely successful, the prospects for Stockholm may be murkier. Stockholm apparently faces nowhere near as much congestion as London—and polling shows that despite Stockholm’s green reputation, the tolls are pretty unpopular. Plus, it’s a short-term trial, so city residents may not have as much time to adjust their driving habits—which may mean that they won’t have as much time to see whether travel times really improve as much as they did in London. Both of those factors could make the Stockholm experiment fall flat—and make voters less likely to approve an extension of the system in a fall election.
Of course, even if Stockholm voters reject congestion pricing, it wouldn’t mean that the idea has no merit—London’s experience shows that it can be a popular policy. But if the system does get nixed by Stockholm’s voters, it could make other cities think twice about how (and whether) to use road pricing to ease congestion.