Congestion pricing seeks to better manage the capacity of urban highways by shifting some travel away from peak periods in order to improve traffic flow. For drivers who are low-income, have no alternative but to drive at peak times, and would be financially burdened by paying tolls, this has the potential to be regressive and inequitable. However, a new report from the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA suggests that the establishment of congestion pricing affords an opportunity to design the system from the ground up in an equitable way. The authors state that, “Congestion pricing can be introduced with a mechanism in place to protect the most vulnerable drivers.”
Induced demand. It’s a concept that used to be popular only among the wonkiest transportation experts, and now gets covered by outlets ranging from the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal. Governing calls it “the almost universally accepted concept” that almost no one understands, while Strong Towns calls ignorance of the concept “professional malpractice.” With new tools and a better understanding emerging, some transportation agencies are now beginning to wrestle with the implications.
Transportation agencies historically have sought to cut congestion by adding capacity. Alternatively, modest pricing signals could be more cost effective and efficient at managing demand, saving public agencies much more in the long run. One example is the I-65 bridge spanning the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana. The bridge carried close to 140,000 vehicles per day prior to construction. The two states spent about $1 billion to increase the capacity of the crossing from six lanes to twelve, enough to handle up to 250,000 vehicles per day. To recoup some costs, a toll of less than $3 per trip was instituted, discounted for regular commuters. Once tolling began in 2017, daily trips dropped to about 60,000.
A new ENO report on congestion pricing and recent webinar suggests that having a clear purpose and vision in place before implementation is the key to success. In addition, revenue as a goal and sent to general funds is largely unsustainable; equity goals and community leadership will help with implementation road pricing has been shown to control congestion, and the main barriers at this point are political and poor communication.
A recent article reports that on-demand transportation can complement existing transit and help cities reduce traffic by up to 15 to 30 percent. Emerging transportation technologies such as TNCs and on-demand transit apps have been much in the news, often with claims that TNCs are adding to urban congestion. In this study, an important conclusion is that the on-demand service can complement public transit networks.
In pursuit of congestion relief, the United States added 63 percent more urban freeway lane-miles between 1990 and 2017. That rate far outstripped the 46 percent growth in urban population. It didn’t work. As widely reported last month, the Texas Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Report has returned after a five-year hiatus.
A new report from the Massachusetts DOT dives into the state’s growing traffic congestion to understand the causes and potential solutions. It points to the rapid outward growth around Boston as one of the main causes, and suggests the current situation calls for bold new solutions aimed at connecting people and places while managing demand, rather than simply keeping roads moving.
As part of its recently passed $175 billion budget, the state of New York is allowing for congestion tolling to be implemented in New York City. Lawmakers believe congestion tolling will not only reduce city vehicle traffic levels but also provide a new source of revenue to fund and maintain New York City’s aging subway system. More importantly, however, New York’s plan may serve as a tipping point for other cities in the United States to finally move forward with their own congestion tolling systems.
Historically, transportation policy addressing vehicle congestion has entailed increasing road capacity. However, research consistently reveals that these policies have the opposite effect. In fact, a new study reveals that cities may be able to improve vehicle travel times by closing certain road segments completely. Using the theoretical framework of the Braess Paradox, the study’s researchers model how blocking off selective streets in downtown Winnipeg can reduce overall vehicle travel times, a change which in turn enables new car-free spaces to be reclaimed as parks or pedestrian plazas.
In order to keep up with ever-increasing ecommerce demand, companies such as Amazon are building sprawling new fulfillment centers on the outer edges of major U.S. metro areas to aid in their logistical operations. While these warehouses can provide a windfall in economic development for the rural towns where they are being constructed, a recent article found that, increasingly, communities are finding these facilities are more trouble than they’re worth. Specifically, the jobs and tax revenue being generated don’t outweigh negative impacts caused by freight pollution and traffic congestion.