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6 ways to tackle urban traffic woes without adding more roads

More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities and that percentage is rapidly growing.

There are many benefits that come from millions of people living, working, and interacting in close proximity to one another.

Traffic, however, is not one of them. Congestion is not just bad for drivers’ psyches; it also negatively impacts the environment. But simply adding additional lanes to roads is not a viable path forward. 

Fortunately, cities have other options at their disposal to help tackle and tame urban traffic congestion. They also have access to sophisticated software tools that can help simulate the impact of these solutions before anything is built.

This allows urban planners to experiment with multiple scenarios and select the best mix of solutions to address their traffic woes.

Transit-oriented development. For many large, sprawling cities—like London – the private car has been the primary mode of transport. By building high-density housing within walking distance of an existing transit system, cities can encourage use of mass transport, which takes private vehicles off the roads during rush hour. 

Traffic flow adjustments. When traffic becomes very busy, you can actually get more throughputs if you slow everyone down a bit. Metered entrances at motorway on-ramps – or similar meters along the roadway—control the speed dynamic and help prevent the start-stop traffic that tends to create traffic jams.

Smart traffic lights.  Nobody likes sitting at a red light—especially when no cross-traffic is using the green light. Adaptive traffic lights vary their signals in real time to improve traffic flow.

Congestion pricing tolls. Used to great success in places like London and Singapore, congestion pricing offers another way for cities to get more capacity out of an existing road. By charging people a toll to drive into the city centre, congestion pricing creates an incentive for people to carpool, so that the road carries more people per hour than it normally would.

Bike-sharing services. Bikes take up less space than cars, which means that you can fit more bicyclists than cars onto any given stretch of road. As of April 2013, there were approximately 535 bike-sharing programs in cities around the world, including of course London’s famous ‘Boris bikes’.

Self-driving cars. Can driverless vehicles play a role in easing traffic? The concept isn’t as far-off as it might seem…We could someday have driverless cars driving six feet behind another at a steady speed of 60 miles per hour, which would allow more cars to make use of the road than is possible today.

By Dominic Thasarathar is construction thought leader at Autodesk

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