Monday, February 17, 2014

Smarter Ways of Dealing with Traffic Congestion

English: Congestion Pricing Equilibrium
English: Congestion Pricing Equilibrium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Smarter Congestion Relief In Asian Cities - Win-Win Solutions to Urban Transport Problems(18 page pdf, Todd Litman, Transport and Communications Bulletin for Asia and the Pacific, Dec. 30, 2013) 

Also discussed here: Smart Congestion Relief: Comprehensive Evaluation Of Traffic Congestion Costs and Congestion Reduction Strategies(57 page pdf, Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Dec. 29, 2013 

Today we review a paper that suggests a number of ways that cities- particularly large cities- can reduce or eliminate much of the congestion that hinders the urban economy and pollutes the air. Only after implementing some or all of the “smart” options such as congestion pricing, more efficient use of the roadways, dynamic parking rates etc should road expansion be considered, even though in many cities this is the one and only approach attempted with spectacular failure in the long term. An important point is made about the much more effective results from varying the price for road use or parking according to demand rather than by a flat toll or fee which does raise revenue but has less effect on congestion.

 optimum car modal share 
                 Rural              Small City         Large City

Key Quotes:  

"many congestion evaluation studies use outdated analysis methods and assumptions which exaggerate congestion costs and inaccurately evaluate the benefits of potential congestion reduction strategies. This can bias planning decisions in ways that can increase total transportation costs.” 

"Conventional congestion indicators, such as roadway level-of-service, the travel time index, and the Gridlock Index, reflect congestion intensity, the amount that traffic speeds decline during peak periods. Such information is useful for making short-term decisions, such as how to travel across town during rush hour, but is unsuited for strategic planning decisions that affect transport options (the quality of travel modes) or development patterns. More comprehensive evaluation measures total congestion costs, taking into account exposure (the amount that people must drive under urban-peak conditions)."  

Road Pricing Options:
  • Congestion pricing: Road tolls ..higher under congested conditions, Shifts urban-peak driving to other times, routes, modes.. large congestion reductions.
  • Flat tolls and vehicle travel fees: ..generate revenue, Shifts automobile travel to other modes.. Reduces total vehicle travel….modest congestion reductions.
  • Efficient parking pricing: ..higher rates during peak periods ..offering non-drivers the cash equivalent of parking subsidies…Shifts driving to other modes and destinations…. tends to provide large congestion reductions.
  • Fuel tax increases: ..generate revenue..Shifts driving to other modes ..Reduces total vehicle travel. ..Provides modest congestion reductions.
  • Distance based pricing: Prorate vehicle insurance.. fees by mileage…Shifts automobile travel to other modes … Effects are potentially large but dispersed..modest congestion reductions.”
Optimum Strategies:
  1. “Improve alternative modes, including walking, cycling and public transit..
  2. Manage roadways to favor space-efficient modes, such as bus lanes on urban arterials .. transit-priority traffic control systems, and High Occupant Vehicle (HOV) lanes on urban highways.
  3. .. apply congestion pricing ..with prices set to reduce traffic volumes to optimal levels..
  4. .. efficient transport pricing reforms to the degree that is politically feasible, including road tolls, parking pricing,fuel price increases, and distance-based insurance and registration fees…
  5. Implement ..commute trip reduction and mobility management marketing programs
  6. Only consider urban roadway expansions if, after all of the previous strategies are fully Implemented...”
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