The question I am trying to answer is ‘Are Congestion Zones a Good Idea? ‘. Congestion Zones were first introduced in the UK in London in the Central District in 2003. The idea of the Congestion Zone was to charge a fixed rate to travel around within this zone during a certain time frame, in London’s case between 7. 00am and 6. 30pm.
The Congestion Zone was set up in order to try and lower the amount of harmful pollutants in the air around the city centre, because (before the Zone was implemented) there would be a large volume of traffic passing through the area at a slow speed which meant cars were producing more pollution, but with the Zone cars could travel faster as there were fewer cars as they would want to try and avoid the charge and would mean less pollution was being produced.
The Congestion Zone directly affects pollution levels, the public and businesses, the flow of vehicles and the type of vehicles traveling in the area. I have looked at a report form the Association of British Drivers and I have found out that from 2002 to 2006 there have been 36% fewer cars in the area and 13% fewer vans, both of these vehicle types fall into the chargeable category of the Congestion Zone, however, the report also states that the number of ‘taxis’ and ‘buses and coaches’ have increased by 13% and 25% respectively.
This data from the report shows that although the number of chargeable vehicles has gone down the number of exempt vehicles has increased by up to a quarter! Taxis, buses and coaches are all more heavily polluting vehicles compared to cars and vans as they run on diesel and are often considered ‘dirty’ when compared to modern cars with catalytic converters fitted as standard. I think the information from the Association of British Drivers is valid, because it was taken over a 4 year period from 2002 to 2006, which was when the Zone was introduced and when the information would be relevant.
On the other hand, there is an element to the source which could make it debatable to whether is valid, because no figures for a sample size are given and the bigger the sample size the more valid the source would be. I think the data from this source might be biased, because it comes from the Association of British Drivers and they are obviously going to favour the vehicle owners and drivers, so the results may be skewed to help forward their argument. I think the information from the Association of British Drivers (ABD) is more likely to be reliable, because another source I studied for my report, from airquality. co. k, seems to highlight the same trend in data in vehicle flow.
Airquality. co. uk say that the cars have decreased from 390000 to 240000 per year passing through the zone, which is a 39% reduction. I think the most reliable source is the report from Airquality. co. uk, because it is not bias towards one side of the argument (as the report from the ABD is, towards the drivers in and around the zone) and gives balanced views throughout its report on the subject. I have plotted a bar graph (see next page), from data given in the Stimulus Material, which show the levels of Nitrogen Oxides by a roadside in the Congestion Zone.
The graph shows an obvious trend; the results before the implementation of the scheme are almost exclusively higher than after the scheme had been introduced, which suggests there was less pollution which leads to the conclusion that less traffic was flowing through the area, which backs up what both of my researched sources say too, increasing reliability of all three sets of data. However, in the data on my graph there were two anomalies, on both Saturday and Sunday the amount of Nitrogen Oxides increased after the scheme was introduced.
This could be because there was an increased use of exempt vehicles, such as taxis or buses, which cause more pollution than modern cars, as they are usually older vehicles, which do not come equipped with catalytic converters, which convert pollutants (carbon monoxide and nitrogen monoxide) into less harmful gases (nitrogen and carbon dioxide), and as a result could increase pollution levels in certain areas. The line graph, also data from stimulus material, shows the same trend, as data from all 5 station suggests a large reduction in the level of pollution.
People could be affected by this information, because if there are fewer cars and the ones that are present are traveling faster, which has the positive of less pollution could also have the negative of being more dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians as cars that are traveling faster increase the likelihood and severity of accidents involving pedestrians. Another social effect could be that people will have to pay large amounts of money for necessary trips, for example, if someone worked in the area they would have to pay to travel to work or pay to drop children off at school, which is almost verging on exploitation.
It may also have an impact on the economy, because the money generated from the Congestion Zone Charge is being used to improve transport in London, which is also linked to being a social effect by helping society have improved traffic facilities in London and therefore encouraging them to use the services more frequently and as a result more money will be generated by public transport.
Another economic effect is that people will have to spend money on the congestion charge which they otherwise might spend on other things for their entertainment, so the Congestion Charge could be taking potential profit away from the Entertainment Industry and other areas of the national economy.
The environment could be affected because levels of pollution in the congestion zone will decrease, but the traffic that now avoid that area have to travel elsewhere increasing traffic and congestion in another area; they may have solved the problem in one area, but they have just transferred the problem to other areas increasing pollution levels there as cars are traveling more slowly. I think that congestion zones are a good idea.
I have made this decision based on the information provided by three, reliable different sources stating that vehicle flow of cars has decreased which was one of the main aims of the Congestion Zone to begin with and also from information that pollution has been dramatically reduced as shown by data from the line graph. I think the most important piece of information is the report provided by airquality. co. uk, because it gives a broad perspective on all the issues and gives data which is shows the success of the scheme, in particular the table showing average traffic flows within the charging zone before and after implementation.