Gothenburg 2nd city in Sweden gets central area cordon toll
By Peter Samuel
2013-01-22: Gothenburg, second city of Sweden (metro pop 900k) began a central area cordon toll January 2. The toll is levied for motor vehicles entering and exiting the city center between 6am and 6:30pm workdays, the charges being 8Kr, 13Kr or 18Kr (@15c/Krona this is $1.20, $1.95 and $2.70. There's a maximum of 60Kr, $9.00 in tolls a day. No vehicle classification is made so all sizes of vehicles face these tolls.
There are 36 toll points (betalstation in Swedish,) single mast arms or gantries over the roadways with laser vehicle detectors and cameras. All tolls are levied with cameras using optical character recognition or manual review as a fallback, as in central area cordon toll schemes in Stockholm and London UK.
97% read rates are claimed.
Some of the toll points are on the north-south E6 expressway on approaches from the north an along the cordon zone's eastern edge and there is one toll point on a belt expressway bridge (Alvsborg Bridge) to the east of the cordon area.
The central area encompassed by the cordon toll is about 2 miles 3.2km east-west and about 3 miles 5km north-south or about 6 square miles,16km2.
The peak toll of 18Kr $2.70 is levied for an hour in the morning rush, and 90 minutes in the evening, with the low toll 8Kr $1.20 during the middle of workdays and the 12Kr $1.95 as a transition period charge. (see table nearby)
Toll bills are being sent out to motorists monthly by email or paper mail, and there is a 500 Krona $75 penalty for non-payment. Most cars regularly using the toll zone are expected to have their license plates registered with the vehicle owner details and a payment arrangement. Toll revenues have been projected to begin at about $50m/year and over 25 years some $2+ billion.
The major projects being funded are a new car tunnel and a replacement bridge crossing of the Gota Alv River that splits the city. Also smaller bus lanes, free road improvements and rail projects.
Ingmar Andreasson a transport policy consultant with LogistikCentrum based in the Gothenburg area told us recently that the cordon toll there was implemented primarily to provide a revenue stream for the widely supported list of transport improvement projects in the Gothenburg area, and that congestion relief is seen as a secondary benefit. This, he said is the reverse of the priorities in the Stockholm cordon toll.
Traffic inside the cordon is down about 15% since the tolls went into effect according to local reports, slightly more than expected (10 to 15%) and 4% on the main highways through the cordon area. Traffic is expected to grow again over time unless toll rates are raised.
Gothenburg is only 53 miles, 85km by car-ferry from Denmark and 100 miles, 160km by the E6 south from Norway, and it is not far Germany either. For now no attempt is being made to collect tolls from foreign motorists but methods to do this are being investigated.
Toll system supplier was Q-Free, the Trondheim Norway based international toll systems company. Cost of the installation was about $30m.
The Gothenburg project is run by the national government's Swedish Transport Agency.
Stockholm, Sweden's largest city and the capital saw a cordon toll introduced for a trial of 6 months at the beginning of 2006 (Jan 3 to July 31.) After a positive vote at a popular ballot in the city the toll system was restarted on a permanent basis in August 2007.
Stockholm's tolls are arranged at three rates by time of day, like the Gothenburg tolls but are slightly higher at 10Kr, 15Kr and 20Kr, $1.50, $2.25 and $3.00.
IBM head-officed in Armonk NY installed and operated the original cordon toll project in Stockholm. Q-Free was in charge of the permanent operation.
Cordon tolls were pioneered in Singapore and several Norwegian cities and operate in London and in small portion of central Milan Italy. In the US a few years ago they were sponsored by mayors of New York City for Manhattan south of Central Park and in central San Francisco, but both failed to gain political support. In Britain proposals for cordon tolls in Manchester, Edinburgh and Cambridge have stalled.
The Swedes use incorrect english in calling their cordon toll a tax. A tax is the government's take of income, sales, inheritance or the value of property and it is expressed as a percentage of a base private sector number. Taxes piggyback on a private sector transaction.
No specific good or service is directly provided in return for a tax.
Correct english calls this cordon payment a road use fee, a road charge, or - most specific - a road toll, or simply a toll. It is a payment for access to the road.
In english the term 'congestion charge' is sometimes used but it makes little sense either. It is not congestion which is being charged but travel on a road without congestion. It is an decongestion charge, a charge for being rid of congestion.
NOTE: a reader with Scandinavian conenctions tells us that the toll is called a tax in Swedish because the authorizing legislation was an amendment to the tax code, and that calling it anything else might open it up to legal challenge.