U.K. transport secretary wants new tax on motorists

U.K. Transport Secretary Alistair Darling wants to prevent “L.A.-style gridlock” on England’s major motorways. (With the U.K.’s tough gun-control laws, that shouldn’t be a problem, right?) He’s trying to drum up public support for “road pricing,” a tax of up to $2 per mile on drivers who frequent the country’s busiest roads, to be assessed by way of an ambitious high-tech satellite and GPS surveillance system. Transport experts agree it may be the best way to ease congestion; the political feasibility of such taxes is less clear, though the experience of Old London Towne is promising. In that city, Mayor Ken Livingstone’s $9 “congestion fee” for driving in central London has been a smashing success: After just over two years, he claims, gridlock is broken, greenhouse-gas emissions are down, and commuters are filling buses, trains, and sidewalks. “This is the only thing I’ve done in my political life that turned out better than I hoped,” said Livingstone. Darling hopes that success is contagious.