Third Term for Livingstone Looks Unlikely (Updated)

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who introduced congestion charging to the British capital in 2003, has probably been unseated by Tory challenger Boris Johnson, report Reuters and the Evening Standard. Labour lost across the board in UK elections yesterday, and the London mayor’s race appears not to have bucked the trend, although the final tally has not yet been announced.

While foes of the congestion charge are already gloating over the prospect of a Livingstone defeat, the pricing mechanism is not in danger of being revoked. Should he gain the mayoralty, Johnson has pledged to shrink the congestion zone back to its initial, pre-2005 area — before a western expansion that some transportation experts concede was poorly thought out. Livingstone’s plan to increase the charge for the most polluting vehicles would also be off the table. However, the charge itself is there to stay no matter who emerges as the victor. It should also be noted that Livingstone successfully ran for re-election in 2004, after the charge took effect.

For those holding out hope that Livingstone will prevail despite the early returns, the BBC is running regular updates on the status of the vote count.

Update: The BBC reports that Johnson has indeed won the election, garnering 1,168,738 votes to Livingstone’s 1,028,966.

  • Josh

    If I recall what I’ve read correctly, Johnson wants to review the benefits of the congestion charge. So while it’s not being repealed right off the bat (as some candidates had campaigned on), it’s possible that it might be later on.

  • kmc

    Soon the London congestion tax will be repealed.

    NYC pols, be careful what you wish for.

  • Mark

    At least Johnson is an urban cyclist.

  • bureaucrat

    kmc, keep dreaming. first of all johnson said he’s not going to. second of all i’d love to see everyone’s reaction when all the traffic, pollution and slow buses come back. that’s a real political winner.

  • Mark Walker

    A 53% profit dip for independent stores?! Proof if any were needed that there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

    What’s the likelihood that congestion pricing would have killed 53% percent of any store’s profits?

    Fact: A super-majority of people who live in Manhattan are car-free.

    Fact: A super-majority of people who enter Manhattan do so by transit, not car.

    Fact: The congestion charge was $8 for cars and small vans, $21 for trucks. Is that gonna kill 53% of anyone’s profits? Give me a break!

  • kmc

    Do I need to remind everyone of the Bush administrations involvement in congestion pricing? And how the Bush admin and Republicans want to do away with the Federal Highway Trust Fund and have state and local governments find ways to pay for mass transit or privatize it? Congestion pricing not passing in New York was a victory for New Yorkers and Americans. There needs to be solutions to ease congestion that do not involve taxing.

  • Mark Walker

    My post (#5) referred to another that was deleted.

    kmc, dumping the Highway Trust Fund would eliminate a vast subsidy for cars and a pittance for mass transit. We’d be better off without it. NY-area transit users don’t need to pay for gold-plated highways through cornfields, swamps, and deserts. We would be better off if transportation were funded at the state and local level reflecting local priorities.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Do I need to remind everyone of the Bush administrations involvement in congestion pricing?)

    So what? The Bush Administration did a small number of things right and a large number of things wrong. Just because I’m disappointed in the latter doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the former.

    Heck, when the NY State Legislature does something right I say so. I have a barf bag by my side, but I usually manage to get it out.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    5. above: [A 53% profit dip for independent stores?! Proof if any were needed that there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

    What’s the likelihood that congestion pricing would have killed 53% percent of any store’s profits?]

    It seems our blogmaster has a problem with links referring to articles showing factual numbers against CP. Is that what blogs are supposed to do? I thought this blog was a fair exchange of information, opinion and ideas, and not a place for censorship of relevant information.

    To paraphrase the 4/6/2008 Daily News article, 53% of the profitability of independent businesses in London was lost due to CP. I would suggest you google it to confirm since deletions have occured here. This is all according to the London Chamber of Commerce. Higher end businesses do not suffer from CP, including stores like Harrod’s; similarly, the upper class theatre going crowd has had no problem with CP.

    Additionally, London has been a bad example to compare with NYC for CP all along, because London does not have 150,000 govenment sector employees with parking placards.

    Hopefully this information will not be deleted again.

  • Mark Walker

    OK, I’ve found the Daily News story. Let’s start with the part you omitted because it didn’t fit your argument: “‘It has proven you can introduce a major tax on car use and the city’s economy will keep growing,’ said Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics.”

    In the process of trying to track down your London Chamber of Commerce stats, I came across this in the Wiki on congestion pricing: “A report in May 2005 stated that the number of shoppers had declined by 7% year-on-year in March, 8% in April and 11% in the first two weeks of May. TfL countered that an economic downturn, the SARS outbreak and threat of terrorism were likely factors. At the same time a London Chamber of Commerce report indicated that 25% of businesses were planning on relocation following the charges introduction.[122] However an independent report six months after the charge was implemented suggested that businesses were then supporting the charge. London First commissioned the study which reported that 49% of businesses felt the scheme was working and only 16% that it was failing.[123] The Fourth Annual Review by TfL in 2004 indicated that business activity within the charge zone had been higher in both productivity and profitability and that the charge had a ‘broadly neutral impact’ on the London wide economy.[109] The Fifth Annual Review continued to show the central congestion zone outperforming the wider London economy.[28]”

    Here’s something from CNN Money: “In London, which instituted congestion pricing in 2003, about 5% of trips into the central business district over a 12-hour peak period were eliminated. Trip speed across central London has increased by 19%. Businesses in the affected areas say that while they haven’t noticed a loss in revenues, they did see a significant change in business patterns. At a garden center in Chelsea, for instance, most of the customers from outside London now drive in on the weekend, when tolls are lower.”

    I continue to maintain that it is preposterous to suggest that statistically significant numbers of London businesses have lost more than half their business due to congestion pricing. The London Underground is one of the best mass transit systems in the world, and between them and the buses, Londoners have plenty of transit options when they go out shopping.

  • Transport for London does extensive analysis of the economic impacts of congestion charging, available for all to see at their web sites and posted here on Streetsblog quite a few times. If someone is looking for a thorough and authoritative source that’s where you’ll find it.

    Economic impacts have been characterized, for the most part, as “broadly neutral.” There have been some losers, like parking garages and there have been some winners like theaters, restaurants and retailers. One also has to acknowledge that other economic factors and forces are at work in Central London, not just congestion charging.

    ManhattanDowntowner, whomever you are, your stuff is being edited because you continue to post the exact same comment, nearly word for word, day after day across multiple stories. It doesn’t advance the conversation, it’s a waste of the editors’ time and it’ll soon get you blacklisted from commenting on Streetsblog altogether. So please cut it out.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    To Aaron above,
    I posted the article here:
    1) Because it is pertinent to the subject, i.e. London’s small businesses currently affected negatively by CP.
    2) I also posted the article because some people did not like second hand hearsay about CP negative effects in London as representing fact, and so the article was offered to further substantiate the point.

    I agree that although there are other factors affecting businesses in London, the article only mentions CP as the culprit. I do find it very strange that you are willing to leave comments regarding the article, but delete the actual link to the article. I have left the link on the Glick thread because it is directly relevant to the first point in her letter which was about small businesses threatened negatively by CP.

    to 10. above, Walker:
    You are citing numbers that start in 2005. The Daily News article that I had posted, and which was deleted, was dated early April 2008. The CURRENT source showing negative effects of CP on independent businesses is the London Chamber of Commerce.

    I believe I am advancing the conversation because I have submitted the most current information on this subject.

  • JF

    The CURRENT source showing negative effects of CP on independent businesses is the London Chamber of Commerce.

    Is that so? I’ve looked all over, but I’ve been unable to find any documentation from them (beyond short statements to the media) that are based on data collected after 2005.

  • Mark Walker

    As Aaron pointed out, Transit for London issues an annual report on the impact of congestion pricing. The most recent one is from July 2007. This is pretty much the definitive document on the subject. You can find the Streetsblog coverage, with links to the report itself, here:

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    So we can pick and choose our sources to make our points. I wonder if the authors of the 2007 study you linked above have had a chance to read the 2008 report from the London Chamber of Commerce. Granted, the article was from the Daily News and not the Times or Associated press, but the source is the London Chamber of Commerce and the year is 2008, and the Daily News is still a major newspaper. In this case, until proven otherwise, the most recent information is more valid.

    I opposed CP because I felt it was a huge threat to small businesses in NYC. When small businsesses suffer, the soul of any large city is lost and we are left with banks, franchise businesses and Duane Reades and Starbucks on every block.

    Placard abuse has had the same effect on Downtown Manhattan and small businesses have been, and still are suffering, for years – check the long awaited DOT Placard Parking study in Lower Manhattan released at the time CP was being shot down. There is plenty of confirmatory information there.
    This is the actual Parking Survey of Lower Manhattan
    Parking Survey of Lower Manhattan – Big file – maps/graphs

  • JF

    I wonder if the authors of the 2007 study you linked above have had a chance to read the 2008 report from the London Chamber of Commerce. Granted, the article was from the Daily News and not the Times or Associated press, but the source is the London Chamber of Commerce and the year is 2008, and the Daily News is still a major newspaper. In this case, until proven otherwise, the most recent information is more valid.

    As I said, I’ve found no 2008 report from the London Chamber of Commerce. It’s perfectly possible that your friend Ford was quoting his own 2005 data. I’m not trusting any information from the LCCI without a detailed description of the methodology, so until they post a recent survey that gives us some idea of why their claims differ so much from TfL’s, you can stop citing that Daily News article.

  • Mark Walker

    MD, either post a link to the 2008 report from the London Chamber of Commerce or stop citing it. Put up or shut up.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    This is what I found on a quick search. It substantiates Ford’s words in the Daily News article:

    Again, granted this info is not 2008, but it portends what would occur in NYC if CP were to be enacted.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    TO Walker and JF: If you are using this 2007 London Chamber of Commerce report, it seems to me that CP has been dismal for businesses in London.

  • Mark Walker

    MD, I give you credit for finding some valid information. Having looked over it, I see two pertinent points:

    1) This document’s critique of congestion pricing in London relates specifically to the extension of CP into the Western Extension Zone, i.e. previously uncovered parts of west London. It has nothing to do with CP in the central London business district.

    2) While the interviews of the directors of 201 companies is a significant piece of information, it relates entirely to what they think would happen when the Western Extension Zone comes under CP. There’s a world of difference between what someone thinks will happen, and what actually happened. As you note, the information is from 2006, so it remains to be seen if the company directors’ fears were realized.

    3) You didn’t mention the sidebar on ways that CP might be improved. This seems to indicate a willingness to live with it under the right circumstances.

  • Marty Barfowitz


    Did you even bother to read either of those documents?

    Neither substantiate your claim that retail business has been hurt by London’s congestion charge. Both documents refer to a London Chamber of Commerce survey that took place prior to the Feb. 2007 western extension of London’s congestion charging zone.

    In the LCCI survey, retailers said they “expect to have to lay off staff as a result of the extension of the congestion charge” after the western extension. Neither document you refer to says anything about what actually happened to London retail business after the western extension.

    Not that I imagine you’ll bother to actually read it, but you can find a treasure trove of the latest economic analysis on London’s congestion charge in the report attached to this link. London’s economy and retail businesses have boomed since the charge was introduced:

    Here’s the bullet point summary since you seem to have a reading comprehension problem:

    Further analysis of economic trend data continues to demonstrate that there have been no significant impacts from the original scheme on the London economy. Indeed, the London economy has been particularly strong over recent years, with recent retail growth at roughly twice the national growth rate.

    Also, for the record, despite their opposition to the western extension, the London Chamber of Commerce was highly supportive of the initial congestion charging zone and fully acknowledged its benefits. Here’s a statement from the LCC from 2005:

    The LCCI fully accepts that traffic congestion has an adverse effect on business, and we welcome attempts to tackle the problem. We recognise that the congestion charge scheme has significantly reduced congestion in Central London, and this has benefited many who live and work in the capital. We therefore applaud the Mayor’s objectives and his boldness in introducing the charge. In fact, the Chamber did not oppose the introduction of the original congestion charging scheme in February 2003.

    Finally, it should be noted that there were quite a few people at Transport for London who thought that Mayor Ken allowed his socialist tendencies to get the best of him with the western extension, that it didn’t make all that much sense from a traffic reduction or transport policy perspective. Still, it’s just impossible to argue that London retail has suffered these last five years. It’s just not a credible argument. Downtown London is absolutely booming. Get a plane ticket and see for yourself. Oh, wait, you probably can’t afford it because the British pound and Euro absolutely crush our idiotic, sprawl-creating, oil-dependent dollar. Well… you live downtown. You can go breathe the fumes and buy a fake Rolex on that traffic sewer, Canal Street, I suppose. Enjoy!

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    I’ve been as factual as possible. You can deny it as much as you want but the numbers don’t lie. London’s CP has wrecked small businesses and is a poor example to use to show the merits of CP.

    Fact update:
    Found it – London Chamber of Commerce concludes that congestion taxing is bad for small businesses – the actual report.

    More update >>> March 2008

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    You missed my point again, in trying to say that retail business is flourishing in London.

    You have obviously not noticed that I have consistently referred ONLY to SMALL businesses in any comment I’ve made regarding CP in London.

    Sure, in London the crusty theatre district and high end department stores like Harrod’s are doing fine because rich people really don’t care about CP – this factoid was brought out in an article I had submitted to this blog that was deleted. This is the flourishing London retail that YOU are referring to. It’s the SMALL and INDEPENDENT businesses that are suffering from CP in London.

    By advocating CP for NYC, you are contributing to the downfall of small businesses, and what would remain would be banks, franchises and upperend retail businesses. Are you going to call that the good life?

  • Marty Barfowitz


    Do you actually read this stuff that you link to? Your material doesn’t substantiate your claims. You simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Do the world a favor and treat yourself to a vacation. Buy a plane ticket to London, walk around the center city for a few hours and see it for yourself. You’ll find jam-packed pedestrian- and bus-only streets, thriving businesses, small and large, and a street life that is far more vibrant, pleasant, environmentally sound and economically productive than anything we have in Lower Manhattan.

    I suspect you’ll return to Lower Manhattan with a whole new perspective on the traffic-clogged sewer that we’ve turned Canal, Prince and Broadway into.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    Marty –

    I can’t tell if you are blind or just making up stories.
    Below is a cut and paste from the London Chamber of Commerce report. This is about the London English people – and we are communicating in English, last I recall. This report does not lie, the numbers don’t lie, and you are in some fantasy country where the language below and the numbers below mean the opposite. In 2005 the damage from CP was already done as shown by the stats – and this report reflects the fact that the London Chamber of Commerce is fearful that increasing the CP charge will cause even more damage!!!

    “Impact of the scheme on business

    Our Findings

    The LCCI firmly believes that any system to address congestion within London should not have an adverse effect on London’s businesses. In order to ascertain the impact of the scheme on the capital’s key retail sector, we carried out three surveys of retailers, after six, twelve and eighteen months of the scheme’s operation. Our results have shown that congestion charging has created many problems for businesses. The findings of our most recent survey12 show that:

    • 84.2% of retail businesses have reported that their takings are down year on year

    • 62.7% of retailers recorded a fall in customer numbers since the introduction of the charge

    • 37% of respondents stated they had laid off staff specifically because of the effects of the charge

    • 33% of retail businesses within the zone say they are planning to re-locate because of reduced takings while 28% said they were considering closing their business

    • 92% of retail businesses do not believe the congestion charge has benefited their business

    The London Chamber is very concerned that the current congestion charging scheme is damaging businesses, and is, therefore, extremely worried that to increase the charge by 60% will only serve to increase the difficulties encountered by business.”

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    I’ve been to London a couple times, and I’ll take my diverse NYC neighborhood over that lot anytime. If you love it so much, I suggest you do us a favor and get yourself a plane ticket and move there.

  • Marty Barfowitz


    During the period when these LCCI surveys were done Central London retailers were struggling for three main reasons. First, the entire British economy was emerging from a major economic slow-down. Second, at the start of the congestion charge, repair work had shut down an entire Tube line serving the center city causing all kinds of problems for businesses and commuters. Third, there was a major terrorist attack on the city’s transit system in July 2005. Additionally, as in NYC, a gentrification is taking place in parts of Central London, pushing out older retailers serving a less well-heeled market, many of whom are represented by the LCCI. None of these economic factors have anything to do with the congestion charge (just like the new bike lane on 8th avenue has nothing to do with gay businesses vacating Chelsea).

    LCCI has been advocating against the congestion charge since it’s inception and their surveys measure retailers feelings and opinions, not actual economic data. If you look at the data that the City of London has put out in extensive annual reports, you find that the economic impacts of the charge are broadly neutral to slightly positive. You also find that the congestion charge has been slightly to massively beneficial in terms of quality of life, bus speeds, pollution and carbon emission reduction and hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds of revenue-generation for mass transit, bike and ped projects.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    I would ask that you please try to stay on topic. You cite and refer to other concurrent causes for loss of business in London, but the London Chamber of Commerce study very specifically studied the impact of Congestion Charging on businesses in London, and the study concluded that businesses have indeed been badly hurt by congestion charging.

    More relevant cut and paste from the same London Chamber of Commerce report – Hopefully you have read pages 6-9 of the report as they are the most telling:

    “Other Supportive Research

    These results are supported by the findings of other key organisations. The Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors reported that nine out of ten retailers viewed the charge negatively, and the retailer John Lewis estimated that the congestion charge resulted in a 7.3% drop in sales at their Oxford Street store in the first six months of its operation, compared to a 1.7% increase across the rest of their stores. This could have serious long-term implications for the London economy, as the capital’s retailers employ 9% of the total London workforce and contribute £15.2 billion (13%) to the capital’s GDP13.
    There is also evidence that other sectors are suffering from the impact of congestion charging. Research carried out by The Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors has found that more than seven out of ten businesses in the entertainment sector have said the charge has had an adverse impact on their business.14…..”

    This report clearly and fully supports the fact that congestion pricing has had an adverse negative impact on London businesses since its inception.


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