Monday, June 6, 2011

Western Congestion Zone Increased Traffic

It used to be the Congestion Charge Western Extension Zone (WEZ), but now it's the Western Congestion Zone, after Boris's abolition of the charge in this area. "Business starts to boom after C-Charge zone axe", is the Standard headline. Traffic is up 8%, and small businesses report increased takings. Boris said: "I am glad I gave the people a say and thrilled that the initial results suggest there has been no significant downside in removing the zone".

No significant downside to increased traffic? Maybe its because no-one's measured the downsides yet. I bet Boris Johnson's neighbours wouldn't thank him if he increased traffic levels in his street. That's in part because they paid good money for their homes and don't want local house values being dragged down by increased traffic volumes. Anyone who has their journey disrupted by increased or more frequent congestion is experiencing a "downside". Increased congestion will also mean increased rat-running, and a less pleasant environment for the residents of the "rat-run" streets and a less pleasant environment for walking and cycling.

The Standard's assertion that "business is up" is not based on anything more scientific than hearsay. Maybe it's only a few business owners who've felt a boost. Maybe the change is due to general economic factors rather than the congestion charge abolition. Maybe the boost to businesses in the zone has been offset by a decline in sales outside the zone, as drivers change their shopping habits but not their overall spend.

I'm not convinced that the WEZ was without its problems, but I'm a lot less convinced that increasing traffic is a good thing.

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