Outline the principal problems associated with increases in urban traffic congestion and evaluate the strategies used to ease these problems
Over the past 40 years, there has been a huge increase in the number of privately owned cars, and today most families have two or more cars creating an excess of 21 million cars in the UK today. This increase in available transport has meant that housing has been able to be built further out of the city leading to counter-urbanisation which has caused greater commuting between home and work. There has also been a huge reduction in the amount of people using public transport as the general reputation of public transport is that it is dirty, unreliable and very expensive.
These factors therefore have meant that private transport has become ever more appealing, but has brought with it environmental, economic and social problems. The environmental issue of air pollution leading to the green-house effect and harmful exhaust emissions leading to human illnesses as serious as brain damage has caused high costs to the car manufacturers to reduce car emissions and has also cost the government and tax payers, as more and more people enter hospitals with car related illnesses as well as car accidents.
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Economic losses are also massive to all businesses, as congestion delays deliveries forcing delivery charges to increase. Also, the employee’s time is wasted in the traffic jams, which amounts to millions of pounds of working time wasted each day. Road building and maintenance is also very costly and is an area to which a lot of the tax payers money is located each year. Fuel is also very costly, especially in the UK where taxes on fuel are massive compared to other countries such as the USA or most other European countries.
Social problems are a regular occurrence each day too, as congestion slows down the progress of emergency vehicles and there is an increased danger of road rage and car accidents as traffic levels rise. All these problems are ever-more increasing in cities in both MEDC’s and LEDC’s. However, traffic management in Worcester has employed some strategies to try and combat this congestion. The most recent attempted solution being the ‘Park and Ride’ system that was setup in 2001, which operates every 10 mins from Mon-Sat. This has attempted to stop so many cars entering Worcester and therefore trying to keep congestion out of the city centre.
This has been a main attempt by many cities, as most cities within the UK have been very erratic in the situation of roads within the city, simply due to the fact that the roads have had to have been built round what was already there, which has meant a noodle pattern of roads weaving between the city. However, this strategy hasn’t been too successful, as not many people use this facility due to the fact that public transport still has a bad reputation and it is often cheaper for people to drive all the way into town and park in company car parks than have to pay i??2 to catch a bus in.
Bus priority lanes have also been introduced down some roads to allow quicker access to the city by bus, in an attempt to make it seem quicker to take the bus into the city, but again this strategy has only been part successful as few roads have these priority lanes introduced. Bus shelters are also being improved to make people’s perceptions of the public transport change. Another city which has faced massive congestion problems is Mexico City, which produces 12,000 tonnes of gases and pollutants from the 40,000 factories and 3. 5 million vehicles.
This gives the city the world’s highest ozone level from December to March. 2 million people suffer from diseases caused by air pollution (placing yet more pressure on medical facilities) and 98% of the northern sector of the city suffers from cell deformation and inflammation of the nasal passage. The pollution is so bad that the WHO (World Health Organisation) declared that air quality in Mexico City was only acceptable on 20 days in the year. All of this pollution is due to the fact that many cars are not serviced properly and therefore respire more than the legal amount of toxic fumes.
Also, many of the cars on the roads in Mexico City are very old due to the fact that most of the population is very poor, which means that some of the cars are run without the use of a catalytic converter. The congestion problems are so bad that the average speed of cars moving through the city is an estimated 12 mph, which contributes to the increasing amount of harmful fumes released. However, the Mexican government is now trying to tackle these problems with strategies that are now working their way into the laws.
One of the most inventive strategies has been to restrict private cars to not be allowed to be driven on one day of the week. This has been a good of way of trying to cut down on the level of traffic, but has not worked in some ways. For instance, the wealthy population of Mexico City can simply afford to own two cars each which enables them to use the alternative car on the day which their other car is not permitted. The government is also now replacing old taxis to ensure that they cut down on emissions, which has been a great success, as taxi drivers now have cleaner and more efficient vehicles to drive.
Petrol stations are also only open fro restricted periods of time, which has been good in the sense that people are now buying less fuel and therefore cannot drive as much, but it also means that the taxes received from the population buying this fuel has decreased, which is quite a dramatic effect as the economy of Mexico is in a bas state due to the amount of demand for new facilities and housing, so by cutting the taxes they cut the funds for these new facilities.
Overall, traffic congestion is a major problem to all countries throughout the world, due to the favourite phrase “time equals money”, which means that while people are driving to work they are not being productive. Also the effect on the environment is quite drastic, as the green-house effect is a global issue that all countries must think about. The strategies to reduce these effects have been quite successful in easing the problems that congestion has on society, but they still have a long way to go before these strategies can actually start making a big impact on the problems.
I think the main area for the government to look at is trying to make public transport more appealing to the average commuter. Perhaps this could be done by lowering the prices for fares or maybe introducing cash penalties for entering the city such as in London, where it now costs people i??5 to enter the city. Drastic strategies like this must be made in order to be able to start seriously reducing the effects that traffic congestion has on the economic situation of a country the social aspects and especially the environmental threat.