Tuesday, May 5, 2015

How Are Two Waterlocked Cities (Hong Kong and Ottawa) Coping with Traffic Congestion?

Report on Study of Road Traffic Congestion in Hong Kong (124 page pdf, Transport Advisory Committee, Dec. 2014)

Also discussed here: Hong Kong report proposes electronic road pricing (Road pricing, Feb. 19, 2015)

And here: Segregated Bike Lane Pilot Project (City of Ottawa)

And here: Feasibility Study for a Downtown Ottawa Truck Tunnel (City of Ottawa)

And here: Premier Wynne, MP Galipeau and Mayor Watson tour progress of Confederation Line tunnel (City of Ottawa, Aug. 11, 2014)

And here: How Congested with Traffic are Canadian Cities? (Pollution Free Cities, Jul. 7, 2014)

And here: Is It Time for Congestion Pricing in Canada’s Capital? (Pollution Free Cities, Mar. 22, 2013)

Today we review a comprehensive report by authorities in Hong Kong on measures that could be taken in the short and long term to ease traffic congestion which is having major impacts on economic activity by slowing mobility and as well as to the air quality of this large city where the number of vehicles has increased by 30% over the last decade to almost 700,000 while average vehicle speed has slowed by 11% to 22 kph in the urban area. One of the first steps taken by the working group was a poll of public views on the causes for the congestion – the top three according to a majority of those polled were: too many vehicles on roads, too much road work and illegal parking. The measures recommended included ones to strengthen public transit (by offering more options for pedestrians), ones to discourage traffic interruptions by illegal parking and by tourist buses, trucks or vans operating at rush hour (by giving more enforcement powers to police) and ones to reduce the number of cars on the roads by a electronic road charging system. The Hong Kong authorities also are constructing a tunneled bypass highway as an option to the roads being considered for tolling.

Many of the causes identified for congestion and the options being considered are, to this reviewer, very similar to conditions in Canada’s national capital. Although different in many ways, Hong Kong and Ottawa have similarities, especially in terms of high traffic volumes and pollution hot spots and the fact that both urban cores are surrounded by water and so are not able to expand to accommodate more and more traffic. Vancouver, British Columbia is another city almost entirely surrounded by water which has managed to overcome some of the congestion problems that hamper Ottawa and Hong Kong- not allowing a freeway through its centre and providing mobility options being some of its major accomplishments to lead the list of world cities with the highest environmental quality and quality of life. Singapore is another example of a waterlocked city that attacked its traffic congestion with electronic road tolling and was one of the first in the world to do that successfully (as is being recommended for Hong Kong).

Ottawa, like Hong Kong, has more than 600,000 registered vehicles on the road converging each day into the smallest Central Business District of any large city in the country and major road works (a downtown town tunnel to remove heavily polluting diesel trucks from city streets and a second tunnel for Light Rail Transit) are underway in the core which is guaranteed to disrupt traffic further. Recent feeble efforts to accommodate pedestrians, such as a pedestrian bridge over the canal (one done, another planned) and to offer some protection for cyclists with an 8 block segregated/curbed bike lane through the downtown core need to be expanded, along with improvements in non-polluting public transit for the whole city (now planned for 2030). A close read of the Hong Kong report by Ottawa city transportation planners is warranted.

 hong kong  

Key Quotes:

“Recurrent causes of road congestion:

“(a) limited scope for more road transport infrastructure; (b) excessive number of vehicles; (c) competing use of road space; (d) management and enforcement issues; and (e) road works.”

“The number of total licensed vehicles grew by about 30% from about 524 000 in 2003 to about 681 000 in 2013, with an annual growth rate of 3.4% in recent years. The larger the vehicle fleet size, the slower the car journey speed in the urban areas.. During the same period, the average car journey speed in urban areas dropped by about 11% from 25.6 km/h in 2003 to 22.7 km/h in 2013”

“Government has put in place measures to promote non-mechanised means to commute, e.g. through building hillside escalators and improving pedestrian facilities to enhance walkability and connectivity.”

“Motor vehicles are the main source of air pollutants at street level and the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong.”

 “if we do nothing now, with an assumption that the current PC growth rate of about 4.5% p.a. is to continue, it is estimated that the average journey speed in urban areas would be decreased by about 15% in 10 years’ time, with the amount of greenhouse gases generated increased by more than 20%.”

Short-Medium Term

A. Managing the PC fleet size
• Raise PC’s First Registration Tax and Annual Licence Fee Tighten up standards for EFPPCs <Environment-friendly Petrol Private Cars>
 • Raise “fuel levy” for diesel PCs

B. Efficient use of limited road space
• Start planning for a congestion charging pilot scheme
• Increase meter parking charges(The maximum fee for metered parking is $2 per 15 minutes (equivalent to $8 per hour)

C. Stringent penalty and enforcement of traffic offences
• enhance publicity and education efforts to promote compliance with traffic rules and regulations raise the fixed penalty charges for congestion-related offences to restore the deterrent effect (current fixed penalty charges are set at $320 or $450 for congestion-related offences, such as illegal parking
• adopt a stricter approach and deploy more resources to enforce congestion-related offences by the Police • make further use of information technology in enforcement Long-term measures
 * Review parking policy and disseminate real-time information on parkingVacancies
* Encourage on-street loading and unloading outside peak hours
* Provide more park-and-ride facilities"

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