THERE is still some time to go before what promises to be a fascinating contest between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson (he's a shoo-in for the Conservative candidacy, surely) for the job of Mayor of London. In the meantime Mr Livingstone will hope that people have noticed a decision taken by the US federal government this week. It has promised a 350 million dollar grant to New York City to develop plans for the introduction of traffic congestion charges in Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg has been working on this plan for two or three years and acknowledges that it is inspired by what he sees as the success of Mr Livingstone's London congestion charging scheme.

Broadly, Mr Bloomberg envisages blocking an area of central Manhattan, roughly from the north end of Central Park to the financial district where charging will be introduced on weekdays.

The federal government in Washington has been interested in schemes for alleviating inner city gridlock for some time and thinks that New York City is the right place to try it; charges would be about eight dollars a day for cars and twenty–one dollars for trucks.

New York is not the only city thinking along these lines. Stockholm recently conducted a six-month trial which was such a success that it is to be made permanent. Ken Livingstone deserves credit for pioneering congestion charging despite the often bitter criticism directed at him for doing so. Would Boris have done it?


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