For those of us committed to ending congestion, the latest Inrix and TomTom reports make depressing reading. In the TomTom report, out of 189 cities just 13 cities had congestion improving versus 146 getting worse. The Inrix report also showed a significant worsening of congestion. Worse, all of the future projections for traffic congestion around the world show it getting significantly worse. Quite simply, we are losing the battle against congestion.
The traditional recommendations from experts such as congestion charges, toll roads or road pricing, almost always lack community support and as a consequence political support. The answer from some quarters is for politicians to be brave and show leadership. Given that currently no government in the world, even the non-democratic ones have implemented comprehensive road pricing despite lots of studies and recommendations, it is highly unlikely that any will be implementing road pricing anytime soon, if ever. So what is to be done?
Firstly, we need to focus on approaches that will solve congestion and win over communities. Political support will then follow. Clearways has been recognised by both the Wolfson Economics Prize and the Fast Company World Changing Ideas for just such an approach.
Road pricing never gains widespread community support because it tries to get people to use the roads more efficiently by forcing them onto a new system and sanctioning them, through increased taxes, to change their behaviour.
Clearways turn this thinking on its head. Reforms are at their best when they are focused on customers, improving both efficiency and services. Modern public transport ticketing systems are a great example, reducing both the costs of running the system whilst also dramatically improving the customer experience.
Clearways reduces congestion through an enhancement to ticketing systems and mobility accounts. Rather than a ticketing system covering just public transport services or mobility accounts that add in services such as UBER or car clubs, we open it up so that you can also (if you so choose) include your private vehicle.
Customers can opt into the new system by opting out of paying existing vehicles taxes such as registration or gas/fuel taxes. In exchange, people get their car connected to the cloud and are charged two rates per kilometre driven – one for peak time driving and one for off peak driving. Customers are guaranteed that they will not pay more than they would have done under the existing system. However, if customers change their behaviour in ways that reduce congestion such as retiming their journeys outside of the peak, remodeing onto public transport, using carpool options, reducing their travel altogether or rerouting their trips so that they have less impact on congestion then they can make substantial savings – hundreds of dollars a year.
This type of approach works quickly because we do not need to change everyone’s driving habits. Small reductions (as little as 5%) in road usage can deliver dramatic improvements to traffic flow due to the nonlinear nature of traffic congestion. Discretionary journeys in the peaks often typically account for over 20% of all trips in cities across the world. Re-timing just a quarter of these journeys can have a big impact. Trials of just such an approach have been run in the Netherlands and proved very successful.
Our full scheme is also comprehensive, dealing with the forthcoming transport disruption created by electric and autonomous vehicles, increasing the proportion of vehicles on the scheme so that there is no induced demand problem whilst also making it fiscally neutral for governments.
Our approach works because it is popular with the public (a policy that reduces both the cost of living and congestion is a no-brainer) and it is good public policy. As a consequence, it more easily gains the support of decision makers.
How quickly can our approach be implemented? The technology and systems already exist. A rollout could begin in just a few months of being given the go-ahead.
More information can be found in our FAQs page