avoid the city congestion penalty
Citizens living in thriving cities are paying a heavy congestion penalty. Traffic could be viewed as a positive symptom of economic activity. Yet traffic hassles, construction, detours and general increase in street activity makes it harder and slower to get around town.
We all suffer from too much of a good thing.
Congestion penalties are measured and compared city by city: commute times, pollution, noise, traffic collisions. These add up to lost productivity which dents a city’s global competitiveness and lowers the quality of life for its citizens.
A report by global consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, highlights a new phenomenon causing urban traffic to get worse: e-commerce delivery vehicles.
Commercial vehicles and online deliveries make city traffic worse and carry significant economic costs that demand creative solutions. Congestion costs can be surprisingly high. These “externalities”—in economic parlance—represent as much as 2 to 4 percent of city GDP — McKinsey & Company, Quarterly, May 2018.
Ways and Waze around it
Of course that is why drivers are looking for a short cut. The last stanza in Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken makes it a virtue to ‘take the one less traveled’. It’s a roadmap for life and a license to go off the beaten path.
I shall be telling this with a sighSomewhere ages and ages hence:Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost
Mostly, though, the time starved nature of our daily grind explains why drivers and delivery trucks deek off on a side road. It might also excuse rule-bending behaviour like double parking or cutting through parking lots. Anything to get to work, pick up the kids and get where you are going. With GPS-equipped smartphones and vehicles, drivers are empowered with real-time assistance from apps to ‘beat’ traffic on every journey.
Google’s highly popular Waze app has about 40 million users worldwide. It’s brilliant as a congestion penalty buster, making it easy for a driver to re-route enroute. Waze uses GPS navigation software to provide turn-by-turn navigation information combined with user-submitted travel times and route details.
Don’t enable bad behavior
Technology clearly can help battle traffic. That is why last year the City of Toronto partnered with Waze to share real-time traffic data. But there’s good and bad with the use of these apps. Saving time motivates drivers to regularly take smaller streets. That is exactly where kids play, bike or walk to school. Outsmarting traffic can lead to abuse: failing to stop, ignoring posted speed, pedestrian crossings or turning signs. Police enforcement cannot be spread city-wide. Apps should not enable bad behaviour.
Civil society relies on the goodwill and good behaviour of all who share the city. The strain of congestion is having a devastating impact on the most vulnerable road users: pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic and collisions have now migrated off arterial roads into residential areas. Residents have taken to posting lawn signs pleading for motorists to “SLOW DOWN”.
Ultimately though, we wondered if these very helpful traffic apps do the opposite of what many cities are trying to do: get more people out of their cars, walk, cycle and use mass transit.
Ways of Curtailing Commercial Vehicles
McKinsey report notes how commercial deliveries can adapt their ways to avoid contributing to a city’s congestion penalty.
Logistics staging areas outside city centers (urban consolidation centers), load pooling, and parcel lockers have proved successful in reducing miles driven by commercial vehicles and the number of deliveries, as well as costs. Allowing night deliveries reduces congestion during peak hours and lowers vehicle-related emissions. These practices, plus the use of electric vehicles and autonomous ground vehicles, show the greatest potential, in both environmental and economic terms. In the longer term, droids, drones, and individualized delivery could also make a difference.
We are inspired by these do-able delivery solutions and the meaning behind Robert Frost’s poem–choice is inevitable. It will help everyone see the value in easing the congestion penalty.
We will continue to look at how we can all do our part to keep the most vulnerable road users safe. You can help. Together we want to reach “Zero is the Goal”
We encourage schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– take part to make this preventable problem stop. Subscribe to follow this journey. If you wish to learn more about identity or insignia products, or how we could develop a customized ‘Zero is the Goal’ program for you, drop us a note.