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Moving cities forward - most European and North America don’t plan to increase spending on traffic management in the next five years

A survey sponsored by Siemens of over 2,000 traffic management professionals in Regional and National Capitals (RNCs) in Europe - Traffic Management Transformed - claims less than half of these cities expect to increase their spending on traffic management in the next five years.

This is despite developments in technology and the emergence of cloud computing that provides opportunities for cities offering to deliver improvements in traffic management, and not just manage its maintenance.

As well as benefitting from improved flow within cities, enhanced traffic management could also improve connections between cities, as claimed in the report.

 

Current use of traffic management in Regional and National Capitals

Siemens commissioned Credo – a London based strategy consultancy – to review the current use of traffic management in Regional and National Capitals, defined as cities in Europe and the US with 200,000 to 1m people.

The report also identifies how these cities and the broader traffic management industry can learn from some of the world’s megacities on the best ways to harness traffic management to drive competitiveness and mobility. The research was carried out with the support of Rijwiel en Auto Industrie (RAI), organizer of the Intertraffic international trade fair for infrastructure, ITS traffic management, safety and parking.

Working with RAI, Credo invited over 2,000 traffic management stakeholders to participate in a survey to build a picture of the current use of traffic management technology.

Credo found significant variations in how traffic management is understood, used and funded across the cities - with only 40% of cities stating that they have been very effective in their use of traffic management.

A quarter of the cities do not have a clear vision and supporting plans to deploy traffic management; and even where cities are looking to invest in traffic management, there is often an underlying conservatism in how it is used, with nearly a third of cities looking to simply replace existing technology and less than 35% seeing traffic management as a way to better accommodate existing traffic demand.

Perhaps because of this, in the next 5 years less than 40% of cities expect their traffic management spending to increase.

Case study - the Congestion Charge

The central London congestion charge introduced in 2003 is featured as a case study of traffic management in a mega city.

The congestion charge was initially successful with an 18% reduction in the number of charged vehicle trips by 2007 and a 21.1% reduction in the overall vehicle kilometres in central London (2011 vs. 2000). In contrast, overall vehicle kilometres in outer London only decreased by 8.4%.

The average speed in central London increased by 8% after the congestion charge (2000 – 2006). However after 2006, the average speed decreased and is now lower than before the change. TfL attributed this to changes in road space allocation to other public transport users. Arguably the situation would be worse if these space allocation changes had occurred without the scheme.

Between 2002 and 2012, London observed significant modal shift with a 53% reduction in car usage, a 61% increase in bus usage and a 208% increase in cycling. The increased bus usage and cycling broadly mirrors the pattern across London and is consistent with the London-wide investment in both modes of transport. This suggests that the congestion charge supported rather than directly caused this modal shift. The congestion charge however did contribute to this modal shift through fund- ing. In 2007 82% (£101m) of the scheme’s operational revenue was spent on bus improvements.

According to Credo, the establishment of TfL in 2000 provided a focused body aligned to the new mayoral system that could implement strategic projects that affected both the public transport and road networks. This solution can be applied to all cities regardless of size but will be harder in cities with fragmented governing bodies.

A congestion charge requires public support as demonstrated by the failure of the west end extension.

Cities should also accompany charges with improvements in alternative methods of transport. In London the revenue was used to fund improvements in the bus network, making the use of buses more efficient. This, said Credo, has helped maintain public support for the scheme by not pricing motorists off the roads and forcing them to compromise on the efficiency of their travel.

Conclusion

The report authors suggest that cities need to evaluate potential solutions against their traffic management strategy, each choosing the most appropriate solution for their city.

Best practice in the world should be followed tailored to each city’s specific congestion challenges.

Cities need to integrate their technology systems as much as possible and should look to justify the necessary investment by demonstrating the efficiencies and the additional capability an integrated system will deliver over isolated systems.

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