Stockholm congestion tax

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The control point up to Essingeleden.

The Stockholm congestion tax (Swedish: Trängselskatt i Stockholm), also referred to as the Stockholm congestion charge, is a congestion pricing system implemented as a tax levied on most vehicles entering and exiting central Stockholm, Sweden.[1] The congestion tax was implemented on a permanent basis on August 1, 2007,[2][3] after a seven-month trial period between January 3, 2006 and July 31, 2006.[4]

The primary purpose of the congestion tax is to reduce traffic congestion and improve the environmental situation in central Stockholm.[4] The funds collected will be used for new road constructions in and around Stockholm.[5]

A referendum was held in September 2006 a couple months after the end of the trial period. In the referendum the residents of Stockholm municipality voted yes and in 14 other municipalities voted no to implement it permanently. On October 1, 2006, the leaders of the winning parties in the 2006 general election, declared they would implement the Stockholm congestion tax permanently.[5] The Riksdag approved this on June 20, 2007,[6] and the congestion tax came into effect on August 1, 2007.[2][3]

Affected area[edit]

The congestion tax area encompasses essentially the entire Stockholm City Centre, which includes Södermalm, Norrmalm, Östermalm, Vasastaden, Kungsholmen, Stora Essingen, Lilla Essingen and Djurgården.[7]

There are unmanned electronic control points (in Swedish: betalstation, literally payment station)[1] at all entrances to this area. The congestion tax is applied on both entry and exit of the affected area.[7][8]

Amount of tax to pay[edit]

Official Swedish "Road toll" sign

The amount of tax payable depends on what time of the day a motorist enters or exits the congestion tax area. There is no charge on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays or the day before public holidays, nor during nights (18:30 – 06:29), nor during the month of July.[9][10] The maximum amount of tax per vehicle per day is 60 SEK (7.23 EUR, 9.47 USD).

Time of day Tax In other currencies¹
00:00 – 06:29 0 SEK
06:30 – 06:59 10 SEK 1.21 EUR, 1.58 USD
07:00 – 07:29 15 SEK 1.81 EUR, 2.37 USD
07:30 – 08:29 20 SEK 2.41 EUR, 3.16 USD
08:30 – 08:59 15 SEK
09:00 – 15:29 10 SEK
15:30 – 15:59 15 SEK
16:00 – 17:29 20 SEK
17:30 – 17:59 15 SEK
18:00 – 18:29 10 SEK
18:30 – 23:59 0 SEK

1/ Tax amount shown in other currencies for comparative purposes. Currency rates as of March 10, 2013.[11][12]

Method of payment[edit]

Payment of the congestion tax cannot be made at the control points — they merely register which vehicles have passed them. A bill is sent to the vehicle owner at the end of each month, with the tax decisions for the preceding month's control point passages. The bill must be paid before the end of the next month. The vehicle owner is responsible for the payment of the tax, even if the bill does not arrive.[13]

The bill can be delivered in three different ways. By default delivery by mail to the vehicle owner's registered address, or opting for electronic delivery to the vehicle owner's Internet bank, or opting for a direct debit arrangement called Autogiro[14] that allows the tax to be automatically deducted from the vehicle owner's bank account when the bill is due.[13]

Failure to pay the tax within the allotted time results in a reminder bill being sent with an added 500 SEK fee. If the tax along with the reminder fee is still unpaid within 30 days after the reminder bill was sent, the case will be forwarded to the Swedish Enforcement Administration, which adds an additional fee of at least 600 SEK, and the vehicle owner will be noted in the Enforcement Register unless payment is made.[15]

Tax deductibility[edit]

The congestion tax may be deducted from taxable income for both private individuals and businesses. Private individuals may deduct the congestion tax for business journeys, and for traveling between the home and workplace according to the usual rules of car cost deduction (1:80 SEK/km), that is if the distance is at least 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) and the time saved by traveling by own car compared to public transport is at least 2 hours per day. Businesses may deduct all congestion tax expenses, also private driving with company cars (there is a general tax on the right to drive company cars in private).[16]

Exemptions from the congestion tax[edit]

Exempt vehicles[edit]

Some classes of vehicles are exempt from the congestion tax:[17]

  • Emergency services vehicles
  • Buses with a total weight of at least 14 tonnes
  • Diplomatic corps registered vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Foreign-registered vehicles
  • Military vehicles
  • Cars that according to the Swedish Road Administration's vehicle registry are equipped for propulsion with entirely or partially with electricity, or other fuel gas than liquefied petroleum gas, or with a fuel mixture that predominantly consists of alcohol. This exemption is no longer valid for newly purchase vehicles, but will remain valid to vehicles purchased before January 1, 2009 until August 1, 2012.
  • Cars with parking permit for disabled persons, after application to the Swedish National Tax Board. This exemption is not valid if the car is used for professional purposes.[18]

Geographic exemptions[edit]

As the island Lidingö has its only access to the mainland through the congestion tax affected area, all traffic to and from Lidingö to and from the rest of the Stockholm County is exempt from the tax, provided that one passes one of the Ropsten control points (located at Gasverksvägen, Lidingövägen, and Norra Hamnvägen) and some other control point within 30 minutes of each other.[17]

The Essingeleden motorway, part of European route E4, that goes through the congestion tax affected area is also exempt, as it is the main route by-passing central Stockholm with no other viable alternatives present in the vicinity. All exits and entrances of Essingeleden that are within the congestion tax area have control points placed at them.

Technology[edit]

Automatic detection system at Stockholm's first electronic gantry at Lilla Essingen.

The vehicles passing the control points are identified through automatic number plate recognition. The equipment, consisting of cameras, laser detectors, antennas, and information signs are mounted on a set of gantries at each control point.[8] There are no payment booths at the control points, they are all unmanned and payment is done by other means later (see Method of payment above). At a traditional toll booth, a substantial percentage of the toll goes to costs for the staff, which is avoided here.

For those living on the island of Lidingö or otherwise often traveling there, an optional DSRC transponder can be used also to more accurately identify the vehicles, as an incorrect identification results in the Lidingö exemption rule not taking effect (see Geographic exemptions above). The DSRC transponders that were used during the congestion tax trial period are useless now and should be returned to the Swedish Road Administration.[19]

History[edit]

Debate[edit]

The congestion tax was before its inception a highly debated proposition, especially in the peripheral parts of Stockholm county where residents who lived outside of the control points but worked in the city center argued that they should also have a say in whether the proposition was to be accepted. In the time since the control points were put in place, however, the debate has calmed down considerably as the system works smoothly and the actual cost of passing these stations is acceptable to most residents, as well as the fact that central Stockholm has been getting cleaner since the proposition went into action. The debate has instead in many instances shifted toward the political reasons behind the proposition, where some argue that the proposition is simply a way to punish the residents of Stockholm for the centralized Swedish political system, which reportedly many people in rural parts of Sweden feel favours Stockholm above other regions.[citation needed]

Initially this was planned as a congestion fee, not a tax. But the Swedish government ruled that this kind of endeavor was considered a tax and not a fee, and thus this was made a governmental tax, not a local tax, as municipalities in Sweden are not allowed to create new taxes.

Trial period[edit]

A seven-month trial period of the congestion tax, called The Stockholm trials (Stockholmsförsöket),[4] took place between January 3, 2006 and July 31, 2006. In addition to the optical recognition of license plates, DSRC transponders were used to identify vehicles, and opting to use one was a precondition for using direct debit for the payment of the tax.

The Road Administration have claimed that traffic passing in and out of the cordon reduced by between 20 and 25% during the period of the trial, and that air quality improved; after the trial, traffic volumes built up again. 96% complied with paying the tax on time, which raised 399 m SEK during the period.[20]

Referendum[edit]

Local consultative referendums regarding whether to permanently implement the congestion tax were held in Stockholm Municipality and several other municipalities in Stockholm County on September 17, 2006.

It was only the referendum in Stockholm Municipality that the at the time reigning government would use as a basis for the decision. The municipalities surrounding Stockholm in Stockholm County, especially those that are part of the Stockholm urban area, showed discontent with the fact that the people of those municipalities get no say whether the congestion taxes will be implemented permanently. A substantial number of the inhabitants of the nearby municipalities travel to and from work through the congestion tax area. Therefore several of these municipalities decided also to have local referendums. A municipality is allowed to hold a consultative referendum at any time, but as the congestion tax had to be decided at the national parliament level it was unclear how the results would be interpreted if the government there changed after the 2006 general election, which was held the same day as these referendums.

In Stockholm the question asked on the ballots was (translated from Swedish): sv:Trängselskatt i Stockholm#Fördelning och demokrati

Environmental fees/congestion tax means that fees will be charged in road traffic with the purpose to reduce queuing and improve the environment. The income will be returned to the Stockholm region for investments in public transport and roads.

In the other municipalities the question on the ballots were (translated from Swedish):

Do you believe that congestion tax should be permanently introduced in Stockholm ?

Results[edit]

Results from the referendums. The figures and percentages do not include blank and invalid votes.[21][22]

Map showing the results of the referendum in each municipality.
  'Yes'-majority.
  'No'-majority.
  No referendum held.
Municipality Votes
# Yes No
Danderyd 16,962 32.5% 67.5%
Ekerö 13,528 39.9% 60.1%
Haninge 37,548 40.8% 59.2%
Lidingö 24,926 29.6% 70.4%
Nacka 44,785 42.9% 57.1%
Nynäshamn 12,588 41.2% 58.8%
Salem 7,563 39.6% 60.4%
Sollentuna 32,409 40.8% 59.2%
Solna 35,598 43.9% 56.1%
Stockholm 458,786 53.0% 47.0%
Tyresö 22,526 44.3% 55.7%
Täby 35,630 34.2% 65.8%
Vallentuna 14,884 42.5% 57.5%
Vaxholm 5,699 45.9% 54.1%
Österåker 20,140 40.9% 59.1%
Total excluding Stockholm 324,786 39.8% 60.2%
Total 783,572 47.5% 52.5%

Interpretation of the results[edit]

Prior to, and a short while after, the election day it was not clear how big of an effect the results of the municipal referendums would have, especially for the referendums held in the municipalities other than Stockholm.

The Social Democratic government prior to the 2006 general election (cabinet Persson) stated that they would only take into consideration the results of the referendum held in Stockholm Municipality, while the opposition parties (Alliance for Sweden) stated that they would take into consideration the results of referendums the other municipalities as well if they won the election.[citation needed]

The opposition parties won the election and before they formed government (cabinet Reinfeldt) their party leaders announced on October 1, 2006 to implement the congestion tax permanently, and that the revenue would go entirely to new road constructions in and around Stockholm instead of entirely to public transport in Stockholm as it was during the trial period.[5] The Riksdag approved the congestion tax on June 20, 2007, for reintroduction on August 1, 2007.[6]

Effects[edit]

A study of 5 years of operation showed a decrease in congestion, with some motorists turning to public transport. Public attitude had changed from opposed to in favour.[23]

Criticism[edit]

Double-charging Essingeleden–Bromma[edit]

Due to the asymmetric exit and entrance placement on the tax exempt Essingeleden motorway, southbound vehicles exiting from Essingeleden towards Bromma in the west, have to pass through two separate control points (No. 9 Lindhagensgatan Interchange and No. 8 Fredhäll/Drottningholmsvägen Interchange),[7] effectively doubling the charge [1]. It is possible though to avoid the congestion tax entirely in this situation by taking another route instead, e.g. Frösundaleden [2].

Automatic number plate recognition[edit]

The automatic number plate recognition has its shortcomings. Number plates from Finland and Lithuania have a similar format compared to Swedish number plates, with three letters and three digits. The system can't see the difference, and a Swedish owner might falsely be charged.[24] Also stolen and forged plates have caused false payment demand on innocent people. All vehicles are photographed so people who notice the false charging and object will be freed.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Congestion tax in Stockholm from 1 August". Swedish Road Administration. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  2. ^ a b "Trängselskatt i Stockholm". Swedish Road Administration. Retrieved 2007-08-01. 
  3. ^ a b "Odramatisk start för biltullarna". Dagens Nyheter. 2007-08-01. Retrieved 2007-08-01. 
  4. ^ a b c "Stockholmsförsöket". Stockholmsförsöket. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  5. ^ a b c "Vi säger ja till trängselskatten för att finansiera kringfartsleder". Dagens Nyheter. 2006-10-01. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  6. ^ a b "Riksdagen sade ja till trängselskatten". Sveriges Television. 2007-06-20. Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  7. ^ a b c "Control points". Swedish Road Administration. 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  8. ^ a b "Betalstationen - så fungerar den". Swedish Road Administration. Retrieved 2009-05-06. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Times and amounts". Swedish Road Administration. 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  10. ^ "Lag (2004:629) om trängselskatt". The Riksdag. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  11. ^ Google currency rates: "1 SEK in EUR"
  12. ^ Google currency rates: "1 SEK in USD"
  13. ^ a b "Betalning av trängselskatt" (in Swedish). Swedish Road Administration. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2008-08-03. [dead link]
  14. ^ Bankgirot — Autogiro
  15. ^ "Extra avgift vid sen betalning" (in Swedish). Swedish Road Administration. 2008-07-15. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  16. ^ "Trängselskatt införs i Stockholm 1 augusti 2007". Government of Sweden. Archived from the original on 2007-07-08. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  17. ^ a b "Exemption". Swedish Road Administration. 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  18. ^ "Congestion tax in Stockholm - Exemptions". Swedish Road Administration. Retrieved 2012-01-05. 
  19. ^ "Återlämning av transponder". Swedish Road Administration. Retrieved 2007-08-01. 
  20. ^ "Trial implementation of a congestion tax" (WMV video). Vägverket. 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  21. ^ "Resultat från folkomröstningen - hela staden". Stockholms stad. Archived from the original on 2007-02-28. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  22. ^ "Trängselskatt – Resultat av folkomröstningar". Kommunförbundet Stockholms län. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  23. ^ Maria Börjesson, Jonas Eliasson, Muriel B. Hugosson, Karin Brundell-Freij. "The Stockholm congestion charges—5 years on. Effects, acceptability and lessons learnt" DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tranpol.2011.11.001 PowerPoint, Royal Institute of Technology. Published March 2012. Accessed: September 2013.
  24. ^ Trängselskatt - var inte ens i Göteborg

Further reading[edit]

  • Gullberg, Anders; Isaksson, Karolina (editors) (2009). Congestion Taxes in City Traffic: Lessons Learnt from the Stockholm Trial. Nordic Academic Press, Lund, Sweden. ISBN 978-9185509232. 

External links[edit]