How much time do you spend stuck in traffic each day? Is it minutes? Hours? Maybe you’re lucky enough to live within walking distance of your place of work or your children’s school or crèche. Perhaps your town or city has good cycling infrastructure or public transport. Many Europeans, however, waste valuable hours sitting in traffic.

Drivers in the UK apparently spend the most time stuck in gridlock according to the European Commission, racking up an average of 45 hours stuck in traffic in 2016. Belgians, Italians, Greeks, and Luxembourgers also spend upwards of 35 hours in road congestion. On the opposite end of the scale are the Finns, who spend only 17 hours on average sitting in traffic jams. The Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia also have relatively stress-free commutes, having only modest traffic congestion compared to other EU Member States.

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Edita, who is very confident that “lessening traffic and encouraging other modes of transport is entirely possible”. However, she doesn’t actually provide any concrete solutions to make it happen. So, what can we do? How can we all be less like London and more like Helsinki?

To get a response, we spoke to Chiara Garau, Assistant Professor in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Cagliari, Italy. What would be here suggestions?

It is certainly possible to reduce traffic congestion in cities by increasing limited traffic areas, by encouraging car sharing services and also by encouraging the use of public transportation.

Intrigued by the suggestion of “car sharing services”, we spoke to the founder of one: Frédéric Mazzella, founder and President of BlaBlaCar and one of our sister think tank Friends of Europe’s European Young Leaders. What would he say?

You’re asking that to the founder of BlaBlaCar, so I guess you know the answer. Jokes aside, for sure, carpooling is a great solution to reduce traffic because it is not a surprise that it’s better to place two people in a car than to have two cars per people. So that’s what we do. We reduce the number of cars on the road by improving their occupancy rate.

So what we do for long-distance carpooling on BlaBlaCar is we allow drivers who have empty seats to match with passengers going the same way, so we don’t create additional cars, but we use the existing cars for passengers who want to go to their destination. Sometimes it’s also for drivers who decide to not take their own car, but take the car of someone else. We have an occupancy rate of 2.8 people per car in the BlaBlaCar network versus 1.6 on average in city travels. 1.6 means 1 driver and .6 passengers and 2.8 is obviously 1 driver and 1.8 passengers which is a lot better. So this is one way to reduce costs, congestion and the number of cars.

Other solutions which are very light, like all the bicycle fleets or the scooters. Those solutions are also very good and light. My only concern regarding those two – the fleet of bicycles and scooters – is safety and security because obviously it’s a bit dangerous to use them in cities because you can hit cars. But they are very convenient and very light, so they reduce congestion if people use them instead of cars. Then public transit is a good thing, but it costs a lot. So our approach with BlaBlaCar is to use what already exists and not add any additional infrastructures. We have everything we need: we have the roads, we have the cars, we have the people who drive the empty cars. So we have everything to create a network that can optimise congestion.

Finally, we spoke to another young entrepreneur who is seeking to crack the traffic congestion conundrum: Richard Cartwright, founder of FlowX, a tech start-up that works with city authorities to extract traffic data from CCTV cameras. How did he think this data might be used to make traffic jams a thing of the past?

The golden question! I split this into two main methods: increasing the efficiency of existing capacity, and changing travel mode.

The first, increasing the efficiency of existing capacity, is of immediate concern. This requires more granular understanding of traffic within a city, and then designing traffic to smoothly flow across the city. This means optimised traffic light timings and improved road design. It is critical here to understand how different travel modes interact (for example, vehicles-cars-pedestrians) and making sure the network is resilient to shocks.

The second, changing model of travel, is the most influential factor in the medium term. We know that improving public transport in tandem with the rise of micro transport has impressive effects: citizens leave their car at home and instead hop on a shared hire bike from home to metro station, get the metro into the city centre, then walk from station to office. We are beginning to see more radical vehicle restrictions in global cities, but this itself brings its own problems: how do goods delivery trucks reach high street stores if vehicles are banned?

Radical policy is required to change mode of travel, and policymakers must be brave in standing up to incumbent interests.

How would you cut traffic congestion in your city? What suggestions do you have for beating gridlock? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Andrey Khokhlov
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11 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Raphael

    Congestion charge for the central city; toll the ring road, use the funds to subsidize public transportation infrastructure.

  2. avatar
    Cãlin

    With the technologies we have today I still wonder we are still searching for a solution to this neverending problem. Still, in my opinion it’s impossible to curb traffic congestion all of a sudden. Nevertheless, since we have the possibility of HD high altitude surveillance and tracking of objects, since we have strong computers and since we have a wide network of streets it should be possible to anticipate , regulate and optimize the general flow of cars because they aren’t moving erratically. Also tracking the car movement it would be a good idea to “desynchronize” the schedules of the main groups of moving people by dialog with the most important employers. And some other things like this…

  3. avatar
    Jaromir

    Less congestion will motivate people to use cars more and then congestion is back so I’m not sure it’s good idea trying to do that. What would be good to ensure that people do not have to travel/commute by having good mix of production, commercial and residential sites over the whole city instead of having the commercial zones vs residential. So people do not need to travel long distances. But it’s probably too much utopia.

  4. avatar
    Mark

    Much cheaper, far more efficient and fully electric public transport would do the job!

  5. avatar
    Manuel

    Sticking all the tires of all the cars.

  6. avatar
    Justin

    Just copy Madrid and ban cars…

  7. avatar
    catherine benning

    How would you cut traffic congestion in your city?

    Do what they do in Manhattan, don’t allow trucks or deliveries in from 7am to 10pm. Make them deliver overnight. Likewise for rubbish collection. Overnight is the answer. Make sure it is a regular job requirement not an additional request leading to increased salary.

    Cut the size of buses in off peak hours 10am to 4pm and late evening night hours. Use only small buses during non peak travel hours. In London buses are huge and carry only half a dozen passengers off peak. Most of them line the streets almost empty. This goes for out of town as well. Empty buses with no more than six passengers is ridiculous and wasteful. Small buses much more comfortable.

    Left turn on red light when road clear reduces build up at junctions. Dramatically reduce traffic lights. Most in town are overkill. Take Prince Charles idea at Sloane Square. The removal of traffic lights has made the flow of traffic there much easier. Too many road markings, too much control that is unnecessary and slows down the process of going through town.

    Stop crowds filling roads at football match times and Mosque hours, where it is impossible to drive past without confusion, chaos and threats. Regents Park Mosque is a big offender. As is Stamford Bridge and other football areas where crowds are lining the roads willy nilly.

  8. avatar
    shah md. helal

    I’m Shah Md. Helal, a Bangladeshi male citizen. I am doing research on Sustainable Elimination of Traffic Congestion from the big cities of the world. Finally I have come out with a solution of my own invested method which I name “Continuous Traffic Flow (CTF)”.

    According to 2017 INRIX Technology Inc. USA’s Traffic Score Card, 1360 Cities in 38 countries in the globe are affected with Traffic Congestion. Now-a-days Traffic Congestion assumes the role monster intent to stop human civilization. Traffic congestion steals our time, reduces our quality of life, and hurts us economically.

    It’s a question method if we look for the fundamental reason of traffic congestion. In Road Traffic Management, the whole world is opting One-Way Traffic Management and Light Traffic system. These systems stop vehicles at the intersections of the road for 5 to 10 minutes and vehicles wait there for crossing the road. Meanwhile from other roads, more vehicles gather over there and create ever bigger load of vehicles in the intersection. Moreover One-Way Traffic maintains discipline to avoid crowding in the road intersection, but it can’t create continuous flow in the road. Since the amount of traffic is highly increased in the big cities and the traffic congestion worsen proving the One-Way Traffic Management is the Root of Traffic Congestion in the intersections of the road.

    The proven inability to reduce traffic congestion and to create continuous flow stimulate me to invent “Continuous Traffic Flow (CTF)”. CTF is the only solution of elimination of traffic congestion and improvement of air quality still today.

    It will be a great public benefit if you take initiative to encourage my method in your city.
    Please feel free to contact me by e-mail.

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