Purpose – The aim of this paper is to add to understanding of how cities function. Specifically, through the lens of power relationships in political organisations, it seeks to study the manner in which accounting and politics are involved in the development of city transport strategies. Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses a comparative case study approach in which documents and media coverage are key elements of the visualising of the city. Findings – The findings are on a number of levels. First, the study explains the efficacy of congestion charging systems. Second, in the politicised organisation of the city, the context in which policy makers sit is crucial in the elaboration of strategies. Third, the adoption of calculative practices such as congestion charging may reflect political rationality rather than actual need. Originality/value – The focus of the study has been cities – a neglected field, but one with considerable research potential. Second, the mobilisation of concepts of power, as articulated by Clegg, Flyvbjerg and Clegg, represent a novel contribution to the accounting literature.