Some cities are working to quell city air pollution faster than others. UK cities are beginning to charge higher-polluting vehicles to drive into their center. As one big example, London’s “T-Charge” is increasing the cost of a journey by up to £21.50 for the highest polluting cars and vans. This charge is shifting more drivers to rail and bus services. EVs, especially small ones such as an electric smart car, provide some relief for people who need to drive — but transit is a key.
Photo by Luca Micheli
In an email to CleanTechnica, BuyaCar.co.uk notes, “Evidence has emerged that London’s ‘T-Charge’ bumping up the cost of a journey by up to £21.50 extra for the highest polluting cars and vans is pushing significantly more drivers onto already stretched rail and bus services in the heart of the capital.” In other words, maybe now’s a good time to invest in more transit.
Air pollution and city traffic congestion will not be solved solely by more Teslas. I love electric vehicles. I love public transit. I wish for public transit to be fully electric ASAP. The liveliness of pedestrian-friendly transit can be stimulating. I’ve found a beautiful and even an occasional poetic experience on metros, trams, and buses (in Mexico City, NYC, San Francisco, Carrboro, Paris, Wrocław, Tacoma, and Philadelphia as far back as last century’s bicentennial to name a few places). Overcrowded transit is another experience — not quite as pleasant.
“The online motor retail specialist BuyaCar.co.uk asked over 1,300 motorists how they are responding to the new anti-pollution charge and discovered that – of those who regularly enter central London – many are already switching to public transport. While around one in three drivers remain willing to suck up the extra costs of driving into central London a small but almost one in five say they will simply visit the heart of the city less.
“But the most common reaction to London’s T-Charge among those who have changed their behaviour in response is to use public transport more often.”
And it seems more cities around the UK (as well as in other parts of Europe and around the globe) are considering similar measures. In the UK alone, Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Derby, and Nottingham are considering the same. The shift will put more pressure to increase and improve public transport networks in those areas.
“BuyaCar.co.uk also broke down the data to see which types of motorist were most reactive to London’s T-Charge and found that younger people and women were most likely to switch to public transport as a result. Older drivers and men, in general, were least likely to abandon their cars but were also more inclined to reduce visits to the centre of London.”
We are at a keen “tipping point” when more drivers do know more about electric cars, electric benefits, and all the money and air they save. As more and more competitive electric cars come onto the market (and move onto the used car market), we’ll see how such pollution charges affect transportation behavior and car choice. “The T-Charge also looks set to prompt around 10% of affected drivers to consider changing their vehicle for a less polluting one.”
It is also a matter of pure affordability. Drivers of older, air-polluting vehicles who don’t have decent access to public transit need support from all areas to make a change with a smaller pocketbook. Apparently, some are considering the need for this support. Austin Collins, Managing Director of London-based BuyaCar.co.uk, said: “We also hope that those people without easy access to public transport are not forgotten. ‘Scrappage schemes have proved successful in the past for helping remove the dirtiest vehicles from our roads. A comprehensive approach to tackling pollution should perhaps also ensure that drivers of older vehicles, who may not have the funds for a replacement, receive support so that they can upgrade to a newer and cleaner model.’”
Collins also address the impact on businesses in the city centres:
“Everyone wants to enjoy cleaner air in our cities but our findings show that financial penalties on the drivers of higher polluting vehicles potentially spell problems elsewhere.
“For example, it looks as if the concerns expressed ahead of the T-Charge’s introduction that some people might visit the centre of London less, or even stop coming altogether, are coming true.
“And with public transport already under a lot of strain at the best of times, the prospect of more drivers switching onto buses and trains spells more pressure still. ‘It is to be hoped that other UK cities considering similar anti-pollution measures will be learning from the results of London’s T-charge to avoid negative consequences for residents and city centre businesses.’”
Enjoy the faces of diversity, short conversations with others, and an increasing sense of relationship (and actual relationship) with humanity in buses, trams, and subways. Or go electric. Or both.
A deeper immersion into the culture and the soft brushing of others as we pass in currents of travel can be very pleasant. Without the heavy weight of metal all around you, and with less expenditure of polluting sources, feel how it is to be in that movement, not stasis. Environmental friendly transportation users enjoy health benefits. [How could it not be!] Many more in the UK are benefiting from this now, whether they are paying attention to the benefits or now.
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