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IBM Puts Tech to Work on Cutting Your Morning Commute

IBM is continuing its expansion of IT beyond the data center, this time focusing on ways to reduce traffic congestion and associated pollution.

The company announced today the latest results of its Congestion Charging System in Stockholm, Sweden. The system, which was launched in August 2007 after a six-month pilot project in 2006, has resulted in overall traffic reductions of 18 percent in the capital.

As a result, the city's emissions due to traffic has dropped by at least 14 percent, and Stockholm is collecting 573 million Krona (about US$84 million) per year in fees, all of which will be directed toward road infrastructure improvements.

"It is quite clear that the positive effects of the congestion charging system are continuing. Reducing traffic volumes, decreasing CO2 emissions and improving accessibility is bringing significant benefits to the city, its visitors, and residents, and has been a factor in Stockholm being awarded European Green Capital for 2010," Ulla Hamilton, Stockholm's Vice Mayor responsible for traffic and environment, said in a statement.

IBM is the primary contractor for the congestion system, responsible for the program's design, development and operation. The system works by charging drivers who enter a 24-square-kilometer area of the city center during workday hours; vehicles running on more environmentally friendly fuels receive exemptions from the fees, which range from US$1.25 to US$2.50 per trip in or out of town.
In response to the congestion charge, IBM reported that sales of green vehicles has boomed, more than tripling since the launch of the program. And an additional 60,000 passengers per day are riding public transit, an increase of about 7 percent.

IBM's technology for the project covers 18 barrier-free entry points into the city center, which registers vehicle IDs and charges the drivers the congestion tax.

"Intelligent transportation systems like the Stockholm solution are key to effective traffic management and sustainable cities." said Jamie Houghton, IBM's Global Leader for Intelligent Transport Systems. "The Stockholm scheme will continue to be a major influence on many other cities considering managing the challenging urban development without incurring the costs of building new roads."

While Stockholm remains Europe's largest congestion-reduction project, IBM is working with London, Singapore and Brisbane on similar traffic management and congestion-reduction projects.

The details of Stockholm's success come at the same time that IBM has published a white paper on intelligent transport. The study, available for download from, explores how the growth of city populations is leading to increased stress on transportation infrastructure, and explains how cities can apply technologies to improve their transit systems.

Photos CC-licensed by Flickr users Hector Melo A. and Nrbelex.

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