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Posts from the "Ken Livingstone" Category

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London Imposes $50 Guzzler Fee on SUVs and Lux Roadsters

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London Mayor Ken Livingstone is on a tear. Yesterday he announced a £500 million investment in new bicycling infrastructure. Today, he approved a plan to charge the drivers of SUVs, high powered sports cars and other large engine, high emission vehicles a £25 fee ($48.75!) to drive into Central London's congestion charging zone. Simultaneously, low emission vehicles will become exempt from paying the charge. In a press release, Livingstone said,

The CO2 charge will encourage people to switch to cleaner vehicles or public transport and ensure that those who choose to carry on driving the most polluting vehicles help pay for the environmental damage they cause. This is the "polluter pays" principle. At the same time, the 100 per cent discount we are introducing for the lowest CO2 emitting vehicles will give drivers in London an incentive to use the least polluting cars available.

BBC News has more:

The new charges come into force on 27 October this year.

Transport for London (TfL) estimates about 33,000 vehicles that will now fall into the £25 charge sector drive into London each day.

It predicts about two-thirds of these will no longer come into the charge zone once the new fee is introduced.

London's transport commissioner, Peter Hendy, said the new charges were likely to bring in £30m to £50m a year, with most of this money going on new cycling and walking initiatives...

...The National Alliance Against Tolls said: "This move is not based on logic but on the whipping up of prejudices against those who use these particular vehicles."

Photo: Bennet Summers / Flickr.

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This Holiday Season London’s Streets Are “Absolutely Jammed”

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London retailers enjoyed a £100 million spending spree as Oxford, Bond and Regents Streets
were closed to motor vehicle traffic for a day

As New York City government issues its usual series of futile Holiday Season "Gridlock Alerts" (Warning to people stuck in traffic: You are stuck in traffic) while Manhattan shoppers have the life squeezed out of them on crowded sidewalks amidst honking, spewing, pissed off motorists, take a look at how London is handling the holiday crush.

Mayor Ken Livingstone declared Saturday, December 2 "Very Important Pedestrian Day," completely closing three of the city's most famous shopping strips, Oxford, Bond and Regent's Streets to automobile traffic from 10:30am to 8pm. Carol singers, artists, jugglers and other performers provided entertainment, and the day finished off with a massive fireworks display. As per the BBC:

"What it will create for the shoppers is a fantastic freedom to move," said Jace Tyrell, from the New West End Company -- which has organised the event. "Shoppers will be able to take over the streets and have a more festive fun atmosphere to enjoy Christmas shopping in the West End."

News reports say that up to a million people descended on the car-free streets to take part in what amounted to a £100 spending orgy (Said one retailer: "The increase in wealthy Russian, Chinese and Indian shoppers around Bond Street has been phenomenal").

As New York City's mayor struggles to explain to New Yorkers how less congested streets will make their lives better, Mayor Livingstone clearly framed the car-free event as a piece of his Administration's broader environmental, quality of life and economic development agenda. The Evening Standard reported

Mayor Ken Livingstone, who opened the event, said: "It has become a major event in London's calendar in the run-up to Christmas [and] shows us all what the West End will be like in 2013 with traffic removed and the streets turned over to the pedestrian." The success of the event has strengthened the view of many analysts that the West End is heading for a record Christmas even if high streets elsewhere in Britain are experiencing lacklustre sales.

Mr Tyrrell said: "There were no problems with the roads closures, everything went really smoothly."

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Columbia University professor and Streetsblog reader Steve Hammer happened to be in London during the event. Here is his report:

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Livingstone: Businesses Led on Congestion Charge

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Fearing that London's ever-worsening traffic congestion would drive industry to other European cities, business leaders first broached the topic of congestion charging for the British capital, according to plan architect Mayor Ken Livingstone.

At a C40 Climate Summit panel entitled "Beating Congestion & Surviving Your Next Election," Livingstone said Tuesday that the business group London First had estimated the economic cost of congestion to the city at two billion pounds (almost four billion dollars) per year. Contending with bottle-necked auto traffic and "unpredictable" public transportation, Livingstone said, business people could not estimate inner-city travel times to within 40 minutes. It was just a matter of time before industry began packing up for Paris or other urban centers, London employers believed.

Four years after the congestion charge went into effect, automobile traffic is down by 20 percent while commercial traffic has increased, and London's economy is growing at three times the national average. Meanwhile, a proposal to charge the heaviest polluting private vehicles the equivalent of $50 per day is pulling a 78 percent approval rating.

Livingstone referred to London First as a "parallel organization" to the Partnership for New York City, a business group which supports congestion pricing. The Partnership has released a report concluding that gridlock costs New York $13 billion annually.

"The business community does not come forward and recommend a charge on itself unless it recognizes there is a real problem," Livingstone said. He acknowledged that London First was "concerned" about the widening of the charging zone earlier this year, but downplayed the fervor of the opposition. After all, he noted, "Driving in a city like London or New York isn't a life-enhancing experience."

As for the political impact, Livingstone "coasted easily" to a second term. In fact, he said, the congestion charge was more of a problem for his opponent, as many who weren't entirely happy with the plan were even less excited with the prospect of bringing congestion back. If elected to succeed Prime Minister Tony Blair, Livingstone suspects Gordon Brown will move forward with a national road pricing scheme for Britain.

Speaking later at a press conference in Central Park, Mayor Livingstone offered advice for New York as it debates a system modeled on his own.

"There may be one or two people who predict gloom and doom," he said. "Ignore them."

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High-Emission Vehicles to Pay £200 ($400!) to Enter London

London mayor Ken Livingstone, whose congestion-pricing plan has served as a model for Mayor Bloomberg's, is expected to unveil today an even more radical measure aimed at reducing pollution in his city. According to the Guardian, Livingstone's proposal would target high-emission commercial vehicles:

Ken Livingstone is expected to confirm that older, "dirtier" lorries and buses will be charged £200 a day to drive in London. London First, a lobby group for businesses in the capital, has warned that the scheme will hit smaller firms that cannot afford modern vehicles that are exempt. Mr Livingstone also plans to adapt the £8-a-day congestion charge so the most polluting vehicles pay £25 a day to enter.

The LEZ will cover all of London's 33 boroughs, rather than the smaller congestion zone, which straddles central and western areas of the city....Fines will be far more punitive than the congestion scheme, with transgressors facing a bill of up to £1,000.

The LEZ has been earmarked for launch next year and will be extended to vans and buses by 2010, in effect giving businesses two years' notice to overhaul their fleets.

Mr Livingstone has commissioned a report on the LEZ and indicated earlier this year that he would push ahead with it. "London suffers from the worst air quality in the UK and the proposed low-emission zone would target those diesel engine lorries, coaches, buses, heavier vans and minibuses which are pumping out the most harmful pollutants," he said.

Transport for London, the capital's transport body, estimates the LEZ would prevent about 40 deaths a year from pollution-related illnesses and avoid up to 86 hospital admissions. Some businesses have backed the LEZ and called for even more stringent curbs.

The Knightsbridge Association called for a more ambitious scheme. "The LEZ should go much further, much faster," it said. 

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An English Plan in New York


The once traffic-filled street between Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery is now a thriving plaza.

londonplan-mcmullen_1.jpgClimate change is a greater threat to London than terrorism, one of the city's top planners said yesterday.

Debbie McMullen (right), a one-time New Yorker who heads implementation of the "London Plan," made this matter-of-fact announcement at a Tuesday evening forum, sponsored by the Forum for Urban Design and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and held at the Center for Architecture in the East Village. As New York awaits the unveiling of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030, McMullen outlined the "spatial development strategy" that London Mayor Ken Livingstone has spearheaded during his seven years in office.

Like PlaNYC, the London Plan, published in 2004, is designed to help mitigate the environmental impacts of a predicted one million new residents in the coming decades. Backed by the power of the Greater London Authority (GLA) -- a city-wide governmental structure established in 2000 -- the London Plan integrates sustainable development practices with innovative social and economic policies.

As London becomes "younger, more female and less white," said McMullen, the city wants to build 305,000 new housing units over the next 10 years, spread throughout its 32 boroughs. The London Plan calls for 50 percent of those units to be priced for low- and moderate-income citizens. New construction standards cover insulation requirements, building orientation (to make the most of solar power potential), green (or "living") roofs, and renewable on-site energy.

To reduce CO2 from vehicle emissions -- in addition to congestion charging, which McMullen said has reduced car trips by 50,000 per day -- the London Plan prescribes that scattered "town centres" in the boroughs be linked by public transport routes radiating from the city core, along with other light rail and tram service. The city's canals are to be relied upon for ferrying more freight and waste, reducing truck traffic on the streets.

The plan is aimed at nothing less than making London a "zero emission city," said McMullen, with CO2 reduction targets of 30 percent by 2025, and 60 percent by 2050.

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Congestion Pricing: Does New York Have the Will?

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Brad Aaron reports:

Political will, holistic planning, centralized management. That's what Malcolm Murray-Clark says it takes to implement an effective congestion pricing plan.

He should know. The Director of Congestion Charging at Transport for London (TfL) oversees a program that is as ambitious as it is successful -- a program that went from idea to implementation in just 26 months, significantly reducing traffic and pollution while earning approval ratings as high as 59 percent.

As cars and trucks clogged the arteries of lower Manhattan on their way out of the central business district yesterday evening (right), Murray-Clark held forth to a capacity crowd at 7 World Trade Center. Sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences, the lecture also featured Stephen A. Hammer of Columbia University and CUNY's Dr. Robert "Buzz" Paaswell, director of the University Transportation Research Center and former executive director of the Chicago Transit Authority.

From the start, Murray-Clark said, London Mayor Ken Livingstone pulled no punches regarding his intention to reduce auto traffic. In fact, Livingstone ran on a platform that included congestion pricing. And upon taking office in 2000, he got to work. Today, London is one of two major world cities experiencing a reduction in car trips (Paris is the other).

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Mayor Livingstone: $50 to Drive an SUV into Central London

ken_livingstone.jpgLondon Mayor Ken Livingstone said yesterday that he wants to introduce an emissions-based congestion charging fee in an attempt to reduce his city's carbon dioxide output and to encourage cleaner transportation. The mayor's proposal is to charge the heaviest polluting vehicles emitting 225 grams of CO2 per kilometer, a £25 fee to drive into London's Central Business District. At today's exchange rate that is the equivalent of $47.50 in US dollars. Livingstone said:

Most vehicles that will be charged £25 are high priced models. Those who buy them can afford to choose from pretty much the whole of the mainstream car market but have chosen to buy one of the most polluting vehicles. By making these changes to the congestion charging scheme we are encouraging people to take into account the impact of their choice of new car on the environment and the planet.

Also under the Mayor's proposal, owners of the least polluting vehicles, like the microscopic G-Wiz electric car, would not be charged any fee for driving into the Congestion Zone. And in further blow to the owners of "Chelsea Tractors," known as SUV's here in New York City, the 90 per cent resident's discount for car owners living inside the congestion charging zone would be eliminated for owners of big polluting vehicles. Livingstone's announcement comes three weeks after Richmond Council, south west London, became the first local authority in the country to announce plans for emissions-based residents' parking charges.

An how about this quote from Geoff Pope, the Liberal Democrat chairman of the London Assembly Transport Committee. What would you give to hear a New York City elected official say something like this?

Urgent action is needed to tackle the growing number of Chelsea tractors (SUV's) coming into central London. They are damaging and unnecessary vehicles in a densely urbanised, twenty-first century city.

Related:

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London Calling. Are New York’s Leaders Really Listening?

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London officials closed the northern side of Trafalgar Square to traffic creating a vibrant new public space.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Chuck Schumer argue that New York City risks losing its place of global pre-eminence in a Wall Street Journal editorial yesterday. The editorial is a response to growing conventional wisdom that says London is overtaking New York as the world's leading financial capitol. In the editorial, available online only to subscribers, Bloomberg and Schumer say that there is much the city can learn from its British counterpart.

One lesson not mentioned in the editorial, which reads mainly as a push to reform the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, is the role that long-term urban planning, quality of life improvements and agressive traffic reduction measures have played in London's ascent.

For London's Mayor Ken Livingstone, projects like congestion charging, banning cars from Trafalgar Square and the creation of the London Climate Change Agency, aren't just about altruistic environmentalism. "Ken's a very savvy marketer. He knows that these initiatives make London a more attractive place for big companies to set up shop and attract employees," an official at Transport for London told me.

Today's Guardian reports that macro environmental issues now inform everything that London's Mayor does:

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, is these days possessed of one great idea. Climate change, and how to avert it, consumes him. It now informs all his decisions on transport. It is top of his agenda for social housing and new building developments. He reads about it in his spare time. He talks about it to anyone who will bend an ear and he will travel to the ends of the earth if necessary to cut deals with other politicians, to steal the best ideas from other cities and to communicate with anyone the urgency and scale of the problem.

Though Livable Streets issues weren't mentioned in the Bloomberg-Schumer editorial, New York City's business community is increasingly aware of their importance. As Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City has said, "The gridlock on New York City's streets has become a brake on the city's economy. She warns, "It is going to be increasingly difficult for New York to market itself as a place where you can get the most done in the least period of time with the best workforce if we're not able to solve the congestion problem."

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, a possible 2009 Democratic mayoral candidate, is off to visit the World Travel Market expo in England to sell UK travel groups on package tours that include a trip to Brooklyn. Marty told the Daily News, "Tourism is one of Brooklyn's biggest and most vital growth sectors, and I'll do whatever it takes to show the world the beauty of our borough."

marty_suv.jpgThere are a couple of things, of course, that Marty won't do to enhance the beauty of his borough. He won't support London-style traffic reduction measures. He won't stop parking his SUV and about a dozen other vehicles on the pedestrian plaza, technically park land, outside of historic Borough Hall. And he won't push the city, state and developer Forest City Enterprises to do smart, thoughtful, long-term planning around the massive "Atlantic Yards" project.

Welcome to Brooklyn, Brits. Perhaps the traffic congestion will remind you of what it used to be like in London. Don't forget to look to your left when you step out into the street.