Traffic congestion: is there a miracle cure? (Hint: it’s not roads)

Once a new road opens, people switch back to cars and congestion increases back to a steady-state point of gridlock. For lasting effectiveness, policy needs to include congestion charges and better rail services.

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It is very important that discussions like this are taking place. I don’t believe there are simple answers. We have a lot of very clever people in the industry and if the answers were simple, we would simply apply them.

An interesting thing to me is that we still point fingers at institutions and not at ourselves. If road tolls work for example, it is because they force commuters and other road users to change their behavior by making the journey more painful. At that point they will look for a less painful solution such as changing their travel times or routes. Wouldn’t it be great if business took advantage of new technologies and enabled their staff work to work from home one day a week, or truly adopt flexi time for those who don’t need to be at work at exactly the same time every day?

What about rewarding people or companies for not driving at certain times, for behaviour change rather than penalizing them in the same way that insurance companies reduce premiums or offer Pay As You Drive insurance which recognizes you for not only the distance you drive, but also things like harsh braking and acceleration. What if companies got tax concessions for staff members that commuted outside of peal travel times?

One of the things that really annoys me is rubberneckers. The number of times I see heavy congestion on motorways that should be flowing freely, where people slow down to see an accident on the opposite side of the safety barrier. That has nothing to do with speed zones, amount of highway capacity or any form of politics, it is simply a behavioral problem caused by human curiosity. Here’s the thing, this annoys everyone else too, but it is almost irresistible.  It is our human nature and the reason we have fire and build structures and strive to learn and create more. Maybe we should have Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) such as fleet management and Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) systems that monitor our driving patterns and behavior, providing rewards by way of tax rebates, insurance rebates and other means. Insurances companies are already doing this with PAYD because it reduces their economic risk. We could start with a system funded in part by insurance companies, motoring associations and government. It could be mandatory with all cars and the cost could be refunded by way of rebates to people who drove according to the needs of the network. It’s not just about the carrot or the stick, but also about education. We all know that a lot of the problem is the road and transport users themselves, but it’s always the other guy isn’t it?

See on Scoop.itLocation Is Everywhere

About Luigi Cappel

Writer for hire, marketing consultant specialising in Location Based Services. Futurist and Public Speaker Auckland, New Zealand
This entry was posted in car insurance, PAYD, Road Tolls, traffic, traffic congestion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Traffic congestion: is there a miracle cure? (Hint: it’s not roads)

  1. Gregory says:

    Reblogged this on Sustainable Wellington Transport and commented:
    Travel demand management techniques often focus on road tolls or parking charges. Using insurance to encourage better driving behaviour isn’t a common topic. It’s an interesting idea, although predicated on mandatory insurance, which New Zealand lacks.


    • Luigi Cappel says:

      It doesn’t mean we couldn’t though. We all need car insurance and the only reason PAYD isn’t here yet IMHO is that it is more profitable to charge everyone, with those driving the least distances and having the least accidents subsidising the rest. When a boutique insurance company comes in and starts offering this service, there is huge potential for them to capture a significant sustainable market, albeit with lower margins. Companies like Tower have been playing with apps to encourage risk reduction, so we are dipping our toes. We have mandatory ACC, so there is also a precedent there. It’s a good discussion to have.

      Liked by 1 person

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