London: The Price of Traffic

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Objective: To compare and contrast the relative success of congestion charging in London with the failed attempt to institute a similar policy in New York City.

TIMING: One to three class periods (not including episode discussion); students will have two to three weeks to complete the assignment.


1) Follow the teacher’s guide for discussion of e˛ transport episode London: The Price of Traffic.

2) Each pair or small group of students will conduct research to compare and contrast the London congestion charging policy and the attempted New York congestion charging policy. The final product should include:

a. An analysis of the congestion charging policy in London including:

i. Contributing factors to the creation of the policy
ii. The public opinion leading up to its implementation
iii. The expected benefits vs. actual results of the policy
iv. An analysis of its success or failure in achieving its intended goals

b. An analysis of the proposed policy in New York City including:

i. Contributing factors to the creation of the policy
ii. The public opinion leading up to its attempted implementation
iii. The expected costs and benefits to the people of New York City

c. A comparison between the two situations, which should include:

i. An examination of the similarities and differences between the policies in New York City and London
ii. An examination of the similarities and differences between the situations in New York City and London leading up to the policy being implemented in London but abandoned in New York City
iii. An analysis using those similarities and differences to examine why the policy failed to be implemented in New York City and whether its eventual failure was a benefit or detriment to the people of New York City

d. Recommendations for future policymakers, which should include:

i. Who the main stakeholders are likely to be and how their interests should be taken into account when planning the policy.
ii. An examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal in New York to make recommendations for what types of research would be helpful in the planning process.
iii. An examination of what worked well and what didn’t work as well in London to make recommendations about the logistics of implementing a similar policy to yield the best results.


1) How are the people who drive into London daily different from those who drive into Manhattan daily? How are they similar? Think about socio-economic status, purpose of the trip, accessibility of acceptable transportation alternatives, feasibility of re-routing the trip to avoid the congestion zone, etc.

2) What were the political implications of implementing each policy? Were the politicians involved in the beginning or end of their terms? In their first term or second term? Popular or unpopular? Was re-election a factor?

3) In what ways did public opinion shape the political decisions? How was public opinion voiced? What effect did it have on the final decision to implement or not implement the policy?



Callaway, Ewen. "London congestion charge did not improve air quality." 30 Apr. 2008. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

Cardwell, Diane, and Charles V. Bagli. "Bloomberg to Unveil Long-Term Vision for City." New York Times 20 Apr. 2007. New York Times. 20 Apr. 2007. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

"In praise of ... London's congestion charge." The Guardian 7 Aug. 2008: 32. Guardian - Editorial. 7 Aug. 2008. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

Kollock, Paige. "New Yorkers mostly hostile to suggested congestion charge." City Mayors. 11 June 2007. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

Milmo, Dan. "Transport:London mayor unveils congestion charge rethink." The Guardian 2 July 2008: 5. The Guardian. 2 July 2008. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

Monaghan, James. "London’s congestion charge cuts traffic jams by 30 per cent." City Mayors. Mar. 2004. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

Page, Lewis. "London Congestion Charge becomes CO2 tax." The Register. 12 Feb. 2008. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

Web sites

City of London - Transport - New Initiatives - Congestion Charging. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

The City of New York - Transportation Initiatives - Pilot Congestion Pricing. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

New York City Department of Records - Publications - Transportation. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].

Transport For London. 10 Aug. 2008 [Link].


Due to the complexity of the individual situations in each city and the comparison between the two, each group of students should be required to hand in an outline before they start writing the first draft. Below are a few suggestions for interim class periods to help students focus their analyses.


• Students can come to class with research that they have done to use in formulating their outlines. Students can work on their outlines or conduct more research (if computers are available) while the teacher circulates and provides individual feedback on the outlines.

• Students can be given a period to go to the library or online to do research or work on writing the first draft.

• Students can spend a class period doing peer editing, either just before the first draft is due or between the first and final drafts.