Dear Lezlie Lowe,
In "Broken windows" (Sep. 25, Lowedown), you write:
"Mayor Ken Livingstone brought in London, England's congestion charge for vehicles travelling into the city centre. People hated the changes. But these visionary mayors believed in them and pushed for them, looking beyond immediate municipal wants and past their own popularity. Now people look back and think, 'Huh, I guess that asshole was right.'"
Well, not so much. Major businesses have called overwhelmingly for the western extension of the congestion zone to be scrapped.
Almost 80 percent say the zone, set up by Livingstone in February last year, should go, with 76 percent saying the zone had had a "negative impact" on their trade. One hundred firms were polled by London's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, to coincide with the closing at the weekend of current mayor Boris Johnson's consultation into the future of the zone. Only 13 firms polled believed the western extension should be retained while 10 firms called for it to be reformed, possibly with different hours of operation. And from London's Property Week, "The system introduced by former mayor Ken Livingstone had punished people in the wrong way, but it will be possible to have a system of road-user charging that makes more sense."
Livingstone is now an adviser to Hugo Chavez. How wonderful. What vision. He lost his recent election by over six points. It has been pointed out by one blogger at thetruthaboutcars.com regarding the congestion charge: "One reason for the controversy is that whilst the scheme has been lucrative for its private-sector operator, Capita, some critics argue it has failed to raise the promised levels of funding for public transport as costs eat up the revenue."
By --Timothy Cain