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Removing road space can 'disappear' traffic, says ITF

Deniz Huseyin
03 March 2021


Reallocating road space from cars to bikes and pedestrians can result in traffic “disappearing”, suggests a new report from the International Transport Forum (ITF). 

“A growing body of evidence suggests that a well-planned reduction of road space for private cars does not add to congestion,” it says.

Governments should review how much road and parking space is allocated to the different transport modes. “Reallocation of road space and changes to road layouts that give more space to cyclists and pedestrians should be used as a strategy to manage car use.” 

Growing use of micromobility has strengthened the case for reducing road capacity for cars, the ITF believes.

“Expanding dedicated cycling lanes to accommodate e-scooters, e-bikes and similar micro-vehicles will do much to make these safer, and also perceived as safe, thus making micromobility a much more attractive alternative to cars.”

Also key to reducing car use is quality public transport at affordable prices, says the ITF, though this requires less crowding, more comfort and enhanced reliability.

“Peak pricing should be considered for public transport, with or without concomitant road pricing, especially where fares are low and use is high. This will help balance demand with supply and fund additional peak-time services.”

Road pricing could be an effective tool in managing congestion and enabling the more efficient use of road capacity, states the report. “Flexible charges that vary by time and location can set prices to match drivers’ marginal cost of using roads and thereby change their behaviour.”

However, it warns that road pricing could have a disproportionate impact on lower income groups. “The scale of distributive impacts will depend on the travel patterns of the different income groups, the location of jobs and residential areas, and how tolling revenues are used. Earmarking tolling revenues for improvements in public transport can neutralise distributional impacts.”

Employers should stop offering free workplace parking spaces to make commuting by car “less attractive”. Instead, workers should be offered a cash payment or “a comparable transit benefit equal to the cost of a parking space” to discourage car travel. “Governments should also make bike-sharing and other emerging transport options that can reduce environmental impacts and congestion eligible for commuter benefits.”

The report calls for dynamic parking pricing systems, which adjust tariffs in real time based on parking place occupancy in surrounding areas, says the report. “Where dynamic parking pricing is not possible, charging by the minute at average market price for kerbside parking is the best alternative. Retailers will tend to benefit because charging for the time the parking space is occupied increases turnover, which makes finding a parking space easier.”

Another recommendation is the scrapping of minimum parking space requirements for new developments. “They tend to worsen car dependency, hinder infill development, contribute to urban sprawl, reduce the financial viability of real estate investments for developers and make home ownership less affordable for citizens.”

The ITF acknowledges that the car is “likely to be irreplaceable” on many routes between peripheral areas. “The object is not to suppress travel by car but channel it to locations and uses where its value to the individual clearly exceeds the costs it imposes on society (including other car users).”

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