Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Petro's Brave Transit Plan

Paying every minute: Traffic jams now cost Bogotanos millions in lost time, fuel and pollution. 
If there's an urban problem which causes more suffering for more people than traffic congestion, I haven't seen it: you name it: stress, lost time, sedenterianism, air pollution - even hearing damage - traffic jams cause them.

Build it and they'll fill it up:
a congested ten-lane 'freeway' in California. 
But, there also may not exist a problem with more vested interests: construction companies which want government gravy to build subways and freeways; car owners who want to be able to drive anywhere anytime; car dealers and importers who want to sell more machines - no matter the impacts on the community.

That's why most cities have tried to build their way out of traffic jams - usually unsuccesfully. That's because there's money there for everyone, even tho new roads take many years to build and soon fill up with more cars.

So, give Mayor-elect Gustavo Petro lots of points for planning to attack traffic problems by limiting demand, rather than feeding the traffic monster.

I can already hear the shrieks about Petro's plan to create urban tolls to charge drivers for the impacts they cause. Motorists, after all, don't want to pay for something they believe they've been getting for free.

A private car gobbles up much more road space than does a bus passenger. 
But car drivers don't realize that they are paying to congest the roads: in time lost in traffic jams, extra fuel burnt, in stress and even in lung damage from breathing in pollution generated by those traffic jams. 

Worse, neighbors, pedestrians, bicyclists and bus passengers also suffer lots of these impacts - even tho they don't cause them. 

By spurring commuters to reconsider unecessary trips or switch from cars to bicycles or buses, congestion pricing will reduce all of these problems - just as it has in highly-liveable cities like London, Stockholm and Singapore. Congestion charges will also generate money for public transit, so that Bogotá can improve its bus system and actually pay for its dreamed-of subway system.

This cyclist is the only one moving.
Even those who continue driving cars into the city center will benefit, because they won't waste hours in traffic jams. 

Encouragingly for Petro, London Mayor 'Red' Ken Livingstone, who created London's pioneering congestion charge won reelection - and his conservative successor Boris Johnson has continued the system. In Stockholm, Sweden, support for the congestion charge jumped from 25% to over 50% after a trial run. Traffic in Stockholm's city center was cut 20%. After London implemented its charge, traffic speed jumped 30% and travel times dropped 14%. That means millions of dollars (or pounds sterling) in saving for the economy.

Read about other cities' experiences with congestion pricing here.

Watch a video here.

How do I escape from this?

I've only moved a block since noon!

I wish I were walking!
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


RSP said...

It is interesting that a former leftist leader turns to market innovations to solve problems! Very encouraging.

Miguel said...

yes, but market innovations which include social justice.

Let's hope he succeeds.