America's Green Technology Is Basis For Stockholm's Congestion Pricing

<p>New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman expounds on the use of IBM’s green technology that enables the congestion pricing system to work in Stockholm, the environmental benefits of road pricing to cities, and the ‘green-collar’ jobs they create.</p>
July 18, 2007, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Probably the biggest green initiative coming down the road these days, literally, is congestion pricing - charging people for the right to drive into a downtown area. It is already proving to be the most effective short-term way to clean up polluted city air, promote energy efficiency and create more livable urban centers, while also providing mayors with unexpected new revenue."

Congestion pricing is already is being applied in "London, Stockholm and Singapore - and New York City could be next. In a few years, the notion that you will be able to get into your car in the suburbs and drive downtown for free will be as old-fashioned as horses and buggies."

"To make congestion pricing work, you need technology - cameras, software and algorithms that can read auto license plates as they flash by and automatically charge the driver or check whether he or she has paid the fee to enter the city center. That is what IBM is providing for the city of Stockholm, which, after a successful seven-month trial in which traffic dropped more than 20 percent, will move to full congestion pricing in August."

"It underscores a fundamental truth about green technology: You can't make a product greener, whether it's a car, a refrigerator or a traffic system, without making it smarter - smarter materials, smarter software or smarter design.

To the extent that "Americans make "green" standards part of everything we design and manufacture, we create "green collar" jobs that are much more difficult to outsource. IBM and other tech companies are discovering a mother lode of potential new business for their high-wage engineers and programmers thanks to the fact that mayors all over the world are thinking about going green through congestion pricing systems."

"Hopefully, if the New York state Legislature acts, New York City will get access to a $500 million Department of Transportation grant for a pilot congestion pricing system. The more U.S. cities adopt congestion pricing, the more U.S. companies will quickly develop the expertise in this field, which is going to be a huge growth industry on a planet where more and more people will be living in cities. Congestion pricing is the only way to make them livable without trillions of dollars of new infrastructure."

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Published on Sunday, July 15, 2007 in The New York Times via International Herald Tribune
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