Stockholm_congestion_tax

Stockholm congestion tax

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

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

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. The parliament approved this on June 20, 2007, and the congestion tax came into effect on August 1, 2007.

Affected area

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

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

Amount of tax to pay

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. The maximum amount of tax per vehicle per day is 60 SEK (6.34 EUR, 9.85 USD).

Time of day Tax In other currencies¹
00:00 – 06:29 0 SEK
06:30 – 06:59 10 SEK 1.06 EUR, 1.64 USD
07:00 – 07:29 15 SEK 1.59 EUR, 2.46 USD
07:30 – 08:29 20 SEK 2.11 EUR, 3.28 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 August 3, 2008.

Method of payment

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 descisions 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.

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 which allows the tax to be automatically deducted from the vehicle owner's bank account when the bill is due.

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.

Tax deductibility

The congestion tax is deductible 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 the distance is at least 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.

Exemptions from the congestion tax

Exempt vehicles

Some classes of vehicles are exempt from the congestion tax:

Geographic exemptions

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.

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

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. 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.

History

Debate

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.

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

A seven-month trial period of the congestion tax , called The Stockholm trials (Stockholmsförsöket), 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.

Referendum

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 which 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 were held.

The question asked on the ballots were in Stockholm (translated from Swedish):

Environmental fees/congestion tax means that fees will be charged in road traffic with the purpose to reduce queuing and improve the environment. The incomes 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

Results from the referendums. The figures and percentages do not include blank and invalid votes.

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

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.

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. The parliament approved the congestion tax on June 20, 2007, for reintroduction on August 1, 2007.

Criticism

Double-charging Essingeleden–Bromma

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), effectively doubling the charge. It is possible though to avoid the congestion tax entirely in this situation by taking another route instead, e.g. Frösundaleden.

References

See also

External links

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