Just As I Thought

Going downtown? Pay up

This is certainly an interesting idea – charge all commuters a fee to drive within a congested area. That’s what the city of London is doing beginning tomorrow morning. All cars entering a large central part of the city must pay a £5 fee (about $8) between 7am and 6:30pm. City officials have literally painted a dotted red line around the downtown area, and dare drivers to cross it – if they don’t pay the fee, they’ll risk a £120 ($194) fine. There are no toll booths, so commuters must pay at their local gas station or shops, via web, or – interestingly – via an SMS text message on their cell phone (this seems like a great idea in the midst of a bad one… perhaps the only good that comes of this scheme).
Cabs are exempt from the charge, but those people who live within the zone are not – but they receive a discount for one vehicle. (My Toyota Prius would be exempt from the charge as an alternative fuel vehicle, much as it is exempt from car pool restrictions here in Virginia.)
If you enter the zone, you have to pay the charge before midnight on that day, or you will be sent a penalty notice. All of this points out something that seems to be much more scary: how do they know you entered the zone? Each and every road leading in and out of the zone is being monitored, that information about each car is being recorded. They are using cameras to read car license plates. One color camera photographs your car in the context of the area, one black and white camera photographs your license plate. They then check each plate against a database of those who have paid. The side effect – you’re being tracked as you drive through London. This system (much like American red-light enforcement systems) is being run by a private company for an undisclosed fee.
Boy, it goes without saying that this plan would not even be up for discussion in this country.
Learn about this odd scheme at the BBC London website.

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