John Landis, Chair of the City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley, provides a fascinating first-hand review of London's congestion charging program, and offers his perspective on transportation and land use in the city.
"...The CCZ's technology is not particularly advanced. Over two hundred closed-circuit TV cameras installed at the edge of the CCZ take video pictures of the license plates of vehicles entering the zone. The images are transmitted to a control center where they are identified and matched to the plate numbers of cars whose owners have prepaid to enter the CCZ; private vehicle owners who have not prepaid and do not pay by midnight are fined £60 ($95)."
"...Almost fifty percent of the 3.5 million workers who commute to London each day arrive by public transport. And yet, London's public transit system is perennially in financial trouble. Its operating costs and particularly its labor costs are too high. Its tunnels, cars, and station passageways are too narrow to comfortably accommodate peak demand."
"...Unable to build affordable family homes within London or its surrounding greenbelt, homebuilders and buyers have leapfrogged past the greenbelt to more distant and unprotected locations. The result has been a disjointed form of urban sprawl that, like its more continuous counterpart in America, can't be efficiently served by public transit or walking. Between 1990 and 2002, the proportion of personal trips in the UK made by private car increased from 57 percent to 64 percent, while the proportion of non-auto trips declined correspondingly. The biggest losers were local bus service and pedestrian travel."
Landis also features a fascinating review of changes in England's low-cost airline revolution, which is changing the nature of air travel within Europe:
"The effect on leisure travel behavior has been nothing short of amazing. Many more UK residents travel to Europe for short and long vacations than in the past and they travel much more frequently. The second-home market in Spain and southern France has
boomed, largely because of an influx of UK money. Secondary cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Leeds are now much more closely linked to the European continent, and indeed to other parts of the UK."