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TOPIC: Understanding and managing congestion on London roads

Understanding and managing congestion on London roads
03 Dec 2017 19:34 #3394

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[Original article]

A newly published study into congestion on London's roads concludes that a long-term strategic solution requires a shift to active, sustainable and space-efficient modes. Road space should be reallocated to walking, cycling and public transport;  there should be distance-based road-user charging;  there should be workplace parking levies;  and new developments with minimal or zero parking.

Understanding and Managing Congestion was commissioned from Integrated Transport Planning Ltd (ITP) by Transport for London (TfL) on behalf of the Greater London Authority (GLA). The brief was to identify the key causes of increased road congestion in Central, Inner and Outer London over the last five years and to identify a set of prioritised actions to address London’s congestion problems. The Study was developed between June and November 2017.

The study's conclusion is that the long-term solution is to manage demand for travel and promoting "modal shift":

"The contributory factors to traffic and congestion are multiple and varied, and unpicking the relative impact of individual factors is challenging. Analysis has identified recurrent demand on the network as the principal cause of congestion, with excess demand and events such as roadworks, accidents and breakdowns playing a notable but lesser role. As such, while it remains important to continue to invest in managing the network efficiently to minimise the impact of works and improve the response to incidents, this approach can ultimately not be expected to ‘solve‘ traffic congestion. Interventions must therefore focus on managing the demand for travel and promoting modal shift.

"A shift to active, sustainable and space-efficient modes provides the long-term, strategic solution to London’s congestion problems."

Key recommendations are as follows:

  • Prioritise the efficient use of space in the allocation and re-allocation of road space. The most space-efficient means of moving people – walking, cycling and public transport – should be prioritised over low-occupancy private transport;
  • Adopt the policy of introducing variable, distance-based road user charging at a London-wide level. A scheme should be designed to optimise its air quality, carbon and congestion benefits, while giving due regard to equity impacts. Revenue from the scheme should be used to improve public transport, walking and cycling;
  • Review the present Congestion Charge exemptions and discounts, removing them unless their social value strongly outweighs the adverse impact that exempting vehicles has on congestion levels in the Zone;
  • The London Plan should focus new residential development in areas with excellent public transport, and support high quality, high density developments with low or zero parking in these locations;
  • Review the present regulatory regime for private hire vehicles, including a potential change to the law to allow TfL the power to limit the number of vehicles licensed;
  • Continue with the delivery of bus priority schemes to support reliability of bus journey times and implement pilot schemes to explore the impact and attractiveness of express service operation, bus rapid transit and demand-responsive services on appropriate corridors;
  • Implement workplace parking levies in Metropolitan Centres or borough-wide;
  • Support freight by developing a London-wide integrated system of consolidation centres; encouraging sustainable delivery methods such as cycle freight and exploring the potential for freight-only lanes; and
  • Make further investment in intelligent traffic management including the Surface Intelligent Transport System.

The Path of Enlightenment from vehicle-centric to health-centric

An interesting observation included in the study concerns the way transport policy has been evolving internationally;

"The development of policy to this point has followed a "path of enlightenment", from vehicle-centric to health-centric. The car-based focus of the 50s and 60s progressed to an emphasis on efficient movement of people, following the recognition that building more roads as a solution to traffic congestion was ultimately self-defeating. However, as with the car, enhancing the opportunity for personal travel leads to generated demand through greater numbers of person trips or longer distance travelled. This leads us beyond focusing on the transport network as an enabler of ever greater travel opportunities and towards enhancement of quality of life."

This is illustrated using a diagram produced by a Europe-wide study into congestion reduction, reproduced in the box below.

Transport policy evolution in London and around the world

create 636573 three stage transport policy development process

Source: European Union, (2014). CREATE (Congestion Reduction in Europe: Advancing Transport Efficiency) Report Summary. Available here:

Stage one involves rapid urban economic growth leading to a fast growth in car ownership and use, and general support for policies to cater for this trend, commonly accompanied by a reduction in public transport investment.

Stage two involves the promotion of sustainable transport modes which aim to provide better alternatives to car use, particularly public transport. This stage normally leads to a reduction in the rate of growth in car use, followed by a decline in car use.

Stage three entails a policy focus on urban quality of life, achieved through cutting back provision for cars and other road traffic by explicitly reallocating road space to sustainable transport modes, increasing provision for public transport, walking and cycling, and promoting a high quality public realm. This is where current transport policy in London stands. Other ‘Stage 3’ cities include Copenhagen, Paris, New York, Vancouver and Seoul


Understanding and Managing Congestion (Report published in November 2017)

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Understanding and managing congestion on London roads
06 Dec 2017 13:46 #3411

The recommendations of this study, based on empirical evidence, are very much in line with what the Mayor of London is proposing in his new Draft London Plan. In a smaller way, Enfield Council is pursuing a similar strategy with its Cycle Enfield programme. By creating cycle lanes along main roads it is recognising that mode shift away from cars is the only realistic way of stopping current, already intolerable, levels of congestion increasing along with population growth.

Mode shift will not occur unless walking, cycling and using public transport is made pleasanter and less dangerous. Opponents of cycle lanes appear to be in denial of the real situation, burying their heads in the sands - unless, of course, they're able to come up with alternative solutions that don't involve sending cyclists along lengthy back-street routes or river banks.

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Understanding and managing congestion on London roads
08 Dec 2017 22:26 #3417

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