Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

Expanding the Scope of Sustainability Planning: Lessons from Stockholm’s Congestion Charging Policy

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Abstract:  In 2007, after years of unresolved debate, the Swedish parliament approved a congestion charge for Stockholm applied to cars crossing the city’s inner boundary. Since its introduction, congestion charging has led to an even more lasting reduction of car trips to the city center, in part because the policy generates revenues for financing new subway extensions and uses these same resources as the basis for negotiating new transit oriented housing in subway extension areas. As such, congestion charging is arguably as much a sustainable housing solution as it is a narrowly defined transit policy for reducing automobile congestion or pollution. This article investigates how and why Stockholm, despite considerable political conflict, technical complexity and negative public opinion, was able to turn a long-standing and controversial debate over moderating automobile traffic via tolls into widespread support for a national congestion tax, which itself laid the groundwork for a more expansive sustainability agenda. It further suggests that only when congestion charging was strategically reframed and widely recognized as addressing the concerns of multiple and competing constituencies, did efforts for its adoption translate into larger sustainability gains.

Keywords:  congestion charging; innovation; land-use policy; planning; politics; transport; urban sustainability



© Amy Rader Olsson, Diane E. Davis. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.