Oye Delhi! Please mind the traffic

india delhi massive traffic jamZinnia Sidhu writes from Delhi

Delhi’s mindless traffic causing breakups since Papu learnt how to drive. The BIG WHITE elephant in the city. Oho! Not Papu, the traffic silly. The unnecessary evil. I genuinely believe that Delhiiets fortunately or unfortunately spend at least 50% of their waking hours in the car listening to Radio Mirchi, while simultaneously banging their heads on the steering wheel, texting, taking Instagram worthy shots, and not to mention swearing once in a while.

Picture this.

The Ring Road’s total length is 48km and is a six-lane carriageway. This was designed to carry about 75,000 vehicles a day. But the road carries 1.6 lakh vehicles per day and is expected to carry about 4 lakh vehicles by 2016!

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Media: “Penang’s transport system inefficient, says expert”

The following article appeared Malaysiakini, the most read independent news website offering daily news and views in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Reproduced here in its entirety, it is  can be consulted directly from the source at http://beta.malaysiakini.com/news/251763. The reader may find some interest in the diversity of views expressed in the Comments which also are reproduced here.

maylasie traffic jam from Malaysia

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Congestion Offsets vs Road Pricing: The quest for efficiency and equity

Matthew Bradley and Jeff Kenworthy help us to set out on our search for USA tollbooth attendenteconomic instruments that can be effective in reducing traffic congestion while leveling the playing field between cars and other transport in ways that are both efficient and equitable.  They tell us that: “A major part of the urban transport problem today is a failure from the very beginning to acknowledge that congestion is fundamentally inequitable and unfair, impractical to construct away, and therefore must be properly charged for and controlled to eliminate the transport system dysfunction which is systemic in cities today.” Recommended reading for anyone with  a serious interest in how to get the most out of economic instruments in our troubled, seriously underperforming sector.

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Congestion Relief Strategies for Asian Cities

This article by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has just appeared in the December 2013 issue of the United Nation’s “Transport and Communications Bulletin for Asia and the Pacific.”  It reinforces many of the strategies and principles set out in the New Mobility Agenda 2014/15 program, and  provides useful reading for anybody concerned with transportation, mobility and public space improvements in Penang and George Town.  A summary introduction to the full paper follows extracting a final section on Optimal Congestion Solutions  and the Conclusions. The full paper is recommended and freely available at http://www.unescap.org/ttdw/Publications/TPTS_pubs/bulletin82/b82_Chapter1.pdf.

penang_bridge_toll

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William Vickerey: On Principles of Efficient Congestion Pricing

William Spenser Vickerey, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, is William Vickereyconsidered the father of Congestion Pricing. He first proposed it in 1952, for the New York City subway system, recommending that fares be increased in peak times and in high-traffic sections and be lowered in others. Elected officials considered it risky at the time, and the technology was not ready. Later, he made a similar proposal for road pricing.

This article was written in 1992 by Todd Litman, executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, to summarize some of the defining  principles set out in Vickerey’s extensive path-breaking early extensive pathbreaking contributions which in many ways defined the field. This essay can be found in its original form in the website of the Institute  at http://www.vtpi.org/vickrey.htm.

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Bicycling to Solve Traffic Congestion in Penang

BICYCLING WITHIN A COMPREHENSIVE TRANSPORT PLAN,
TO SOLVING TRAFFIC CONGESTION

Dr Lim Mah Hui, Address to MPPP Council Meeting, October 25, 2013

malaysia penang  cycle picWe must start to draw up a bicycle strategy, policy and plan and this must be integrated into town planning. It should be coherent, not piece-meal and ad hoc. It must be bottom-up and not just top-down, i.e., the bicyclists must be intimately involved in the planning. The plan must include a budget

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From Penang: Let’s build another big tunnel. That should do it.

Hardly a day that passes that someone somewhere on this gasping planet does not come up with the next bright idea for a project for constructing high cost new infrastructure the main achievement of which ultimately will be to increase the number of vehicles in whatever the given space is.  This is so well known at the leading edge of transportation thinking and practice that it would be  hardly worthy of discussion in 2013, were it not for the fact that these  bright ideas appear all too often and in all too  many places. They need to be dealt with in a positive sense and with as much diplomacy as we can muster.

penang_bridge_toll

Enjoying the bridge in Penang

Here is a perfect  example from Penang which is particularly refreshing given the way in which the author takes on the challenge of making a positive proposal instead of just lambasting the tunnel option. One might prefer not to specify the technology that will be used to improve throughput on the existing road/bridge system in this increasingly congested part of the world (in this case LRT or monorail).  However the bottom line is that the main fundamentals are in place in this excellent newspaper article and worthy of the attention of all of those of us who care about sustainable transport, and above all the people and voters of Penang who are in a position to make this choice themselves — and not have the final decision foisted on them by people with approaches and agendas that do not necessarily match up with sustainable transport policy and practice in the 21st-century.  After all, it is their city.

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Ten Targets for Sustainable Penang: 2013/2014

The goal of this year’s Sustainable Penang Autumn project is to use the dialogues maylasia - street art childrenand other contacts in order to define a series of at least ten “transformative actions” that can be planned and carried out over the fifteen months following this first program. With an eye to then reviewing progress action by action in a second event to take place in Penang in the opening months of 2015. A sort of open progress report and collaborative reflection for next steps.

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Get in! (It’s that simple)

ridesharing dc streetblogWe have of late not been giving the necessary attention due to the thousand blossoms of ridesharing, an absolute essential ingredient in the New Mobility Mix of services for our cities, and countryside.  To start to make up for this embarrassing lapse, here is the text of an editorial from last week’s New Zealand Herald in Auckland New Zealand.
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Congestion Pricing: Neoliberal approaches and their results in three world cities

In 2013 we shall be giving quite a lot of attention to congestion pricing or sweden stockholm congestoin chargingcharging by its many names and variants, all of which sharing the goal of finding ways to make drivers pay for entry and use of a scarce resource, road space in city centers . This fascinating article by Themis Chronopoulos which is introduced here takes quite an original point of view in his thorough analysis of three of the most recent and widely followed  projects (or in the case of New York City, would-be project). (Note: A quick search of Google this morning called up some 4,370,000 references under the single term of congestion pricing. Something must be going on.) Continue reading

Congestion as policy. (I have seen worse.)

Whether or not congestion is “good” is one thing.  But what is for sure is that one way or another congestion is policy, or at the very least a policy option. And in some cases quite possibly a wise one. Now this has been said many  times  by any people in many places, yet despite its incontrovertible wisdom the message continues to get lost on policy makers.  So in cases like this, we have to take a page out of the book of good people who us sell soap and cars, and keep repeating our message. Today, let’s hand over the podium to Kent Strumpell  from Los Angeles and see what he had to say on our subject in LA Streetsblog back in early 2008. To this reader it has lost none of relevance over almost half a decade.  Read on. Continue reading

Whitelegg proposes radical overhaul and extension of congestion charge in London.

This report by Professor John Whitelegg scrutinizes the possibilities for developing the existing London congestion charge as a response to concerns about future levels of congestion, air pollution and health and economic efficiency. These concerns are important policy considerations at any time but against a background of forecast increases in population and economic activity in the Greater London area they become more important still. World Streets is more than pleased to share this original work with our readers, not less because we take a strong stance against the introduction of technology-based road pricing in cities of the Global South, where it is our view here are more effective ways of achieving the goals of traffic reduction and much-needed new sources of income for public and non-motorised transport. Let’s see what John has to say in this timely report from a London perspective. Continue reading

“Worst Practices”. Los Angeles on the rocks

It’s a fine thing of course to know about “best practices” in our troubled sector, and there are quite a number of programs and sources in various corners of the world that are busy assembling these and making them available in various databases. That is excellent. But we decided that World Streets can make a useful contribution if we take all this from the other end — and launch a series of collaborative “worst practice” (or possibly just “bad practice”) profiles, illustrating different ways to get it very wrong. Continue reading

Mobility please, not congestion on our roads (via India Streets)

Mobility please, not congestion on our roads How many times does the need for being pro-people, environmentally concerned, and context specific, in forming an urban transportation strategy need iteration? Simple – till the job gets done. We need to keep reminding city-building professionals, decision makers, politicos, and most importantly, ourselves – the people – of it, until i … Read More via India Streets

Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City

The author of this careful and quite extensive book review of the battle for America’s streets is Karthik Rao-Cavale, a graduate student at Rutgers University and an associate editor of our sister publication, India Streets. He writes: “This review was originally written for a class I am taking with Prof. John Pucher here at Rutgers University. I am putting up this review here even though the book reviewed talks mainly about the United States, because I feel that the lessons learned are most immediately applicable to developing world. It is a lengthy read, but I hope you will enjoy it.”

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“They will solve Delhi’s problem of congestion for good.”

Bravo!  Bravissimo!!! I love this sentence (says he gritting his teeth). Solutions, solutions. It’s a wonderful world.

If you recall you heard from us last week concerning the wondrous “Straddling bus” project that so surprisingly popped in from an ambitious (?!?) entrepreneur in China — but not about to be undone by the competition to the north, here you have some comments coming from India about two miraculous “zip over” projects in one Indian city, Mumbai, which offer some new wrinkles on our “let’s build our way out of it” approach to sustainable transportation. That said, I might add that we thought this particular horse was actually already dead — but apparently there is still some twitching there. We should really be finding the way to put it out of its (our actually) misery. Continue reading

New York City Congestion Pricing Wars: Ideas vs. politics vs. indifference

This is the first of a two part series by New Yorker Charles Komanoff, an activist, energy-economist and policy-analyst, taking on the loud (and so far powerful) opposition to the concept of bringing road pricing to provide some relief to New York City’s crowded streets.

We are pleased to reprint this short piece with the author’s permission, as published last week in the pages of our diligent Streetsblog New York colleagues, on the grounds that this debate has implications that stretch far beyond that great city’s crowded streets.

We particularly recommend that you take a few minutes to review the Comments that follow this piece. Many of which are informative and quite thought provoking. They provide a good idea of the mental landscape in that city. Click here to view those comments.

Paradox, Schmaradox. Congestion Pricing Works.

– by Charles Komanoff

We’re used to seeing bizarre patterns of thinking on the Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages, but an op-ed in Friday’s Journal took it to a new level: “How Traffic Jams Help the Environment.”

Still more bizarrely, the author was New Yorker writer David Owen, promoter of the commonsensical idea that urban density is energy-efficient, hence big cities are green.

For some reason Owen has taken a dislike to congestion pricing, and it has led him to construct an elaborate Rube Goldberg argument to prove that congestion pricing leads to more driving:

If reducing [congestion] merely makes life easier for those who drive, then the improved traffic flow can actually increase the environmental damage done by cars, by raising overall traffic volume, encouraging sprawl and long car commutes.

What a lovely paradox … and how ridiculous, as Owen could have discovered by giving London’s congestion pricing experience (or Stockholm’s or Singapore’s) more than a cursory glance.

As any student of urban traffic now knows, London’s cordon pricing scheme cut traffic within the charging zone an average of 15 percent, raised travel speeds 30 percent, and greatly expanded bus ridership and cycle commuting — with little increase in traffic outside the zone or other negative effects. (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/Impacts-monitoring-report-2.pdf)

Nearly seven years on, the reasons are fairly obvious:

* Raising the price to drive into the center of London made car commuting less attractive.

* The gain in driving speeds attracted some new trips but not so many as to cancel the lost ones.

* Bus transit benefited from a virtuous cycle in which improved speeds attracted riders, further reducing traffic and also financing service improvements which attracted still more riders, further reducing traffic, etc.

* Ditto for cycling, though here the synergy was via safety in numbers.

All this was intuited back in the day by Transport for London staff, including Jay Walder, who has subsequently become the new MTA chief. The only uncertainty was the extent to which new car trips attracted by the time savings would undercut the reduction in trips from the congestion charge.

As it happened, some “induced traffic,” as Owen might have termed it, did materialize, but at far less than the one-for-one rate he assumed in his article. Without it, the drop in traffic might have been 20 percent or more. But the actual equilibrium, a settled 15 percent reduction in cordon traffic, was robust enough to achieve the desired results: faster travel by every mode, greater use of transit, and less VMT (vehicle miles traveled). Congestion pricing is indeed green.

To trace Owen’s error, look no further than his hypothesis: “If reducing [congestion] merely makes life easier for those who drive …”

Emphasis added; the “merely” is quite important. When the reduction in traffic is caused by a congestion charge, life is not just easier for those who continue driving but more costly as well. Yes, there’s a seesaw between price effects and time effects, but setting the congestion price at the right point will rebalance the system toward less driving, without harming the city’s economy.

What’s that right price point, then? It’s not quite rocket science to figure it out, though it does take some thinking (not to mention continual tinkering if exogenous reductions in road capacity erode the original congestion benefits, as TfL reported recently). It’s a subject Ted Kheel and I have in fact been thinking about for quite a while now, and if you would like to do some thinking about it too, start with our Balanced Transportation Analyzer — http://www.nnyn.org/kheelplan/BTA_1.1.xls –and contact us with questions or criticisms (email: kea AT igc.org).

In his piece, Owen linked former Londoner and current MTA honcho Walder with the idea of congestion pricing. One can’t help wondering whether he or the Journal intended it as a pre-emptive strike against a possible renewed push for congestion pricing in New York City. Whatever the motivation, it’s disappointing to see a writer who has rightly urged Americans to “live closer” peddling the defeatist — and false — notion that the price of urban virtue is eternal gridlock.

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* Click here to read the original piece in Streetsblog (with Comments)

The author:
Charles Komanoff “re-founded” NYC’s bike-advocacy group Transportation Alternatives in the 1980s, helped found the Tri-State Transportation Campaign in the 1990s, and co-founded the Carbon Tax Center in 2007. Charles’s writings include books, articles, and landmark reports such as Subsidies for Traffic, Killed By Automobile, and the Kheel Report on financing free transit in New York City. A math-and-economics graduate of Harvard, Charles lives with his wife and two sons in lower Manhattan

Bad News Dept: Scrapping London Congestion Tax

I really liked the format of the paper, but what I liked best was the Bad News Department!

Just as you have talked about the attempts to detract the success of the Velib in Paris, so also Mayor Boris Johnson’s scrapping of the westward extension of the London Congestion Tax is being used in Mumbai by the car lobby to state that “The Congestion Tax is a failure in London, and therefore it cannot be used in Mumbai”. That it cannot be applied in the format that has been used in London is because of various other reasons, not because the concept per se is bad and therefore doomed to failure. (This was in a lot of newspapers, and my views on the same were also published, but I unfortunately did not make copies!)

Mumbai desperately needs some form of congestion reduction techniques: whether it is fiscal or policy measures, it will have to be tailored to meet our socio- cultural issues, as well as the unique geography that Mumbai has. However, the scrapping of the extension of the congestion tax in London has set back any progress we were making in that direction.

I wonder if any other city has had a similar experience?

Bina C. Balakrishnan
Consultant- Transportation Planning & Engineering
Mumbai, India