4 Strategies to Mitigate Traffic Congestion

Cities are experimenting with new strategies to reduce congestion, lower emissions and increase quality of life for local residents

What Happened?

Cities are experimenting with new strategies to reduce congestion, lower emissions and increase quality of life for local residents.

Transportation Pilot

An 18-month transportation pilot program in Berkeley, California, recently ended as part of a multi-agency collaboration to address the city’s traffic congestion and parking concerns. The goBerkeley program was fueled by federal funding to improve ease of mobility throughout key neighborhoods in the city by testing new methods of:
  • Reducing local traffic congestion
  • Improving parking options
  • Promoting alternative forms of transportation

Overall, the pilot program aimed to not only make navigating and parking in the city easier and more efficient for residents, but also make residents more aware of different transportation options besides a personal car while lowering emissions.

Berkeley officials worked with AC Transit, City CarShare and other transit agencies to increase access to alternative transit options while freeing up parking spaces throughout the city. The car share partners offered discounted rental fees to promote the program, while AC Transit distributed 1,000 bus passes to workers in the downtown neighborhood. The public-private collaboration also implemented price limits and time limits in high-demand parking areas to funnel cars toward lower-demand areas.

After the 18-month period passed, Berkeley officials reported an overall reduction in the number of automobiles on the road. Of those who received free bus passes, 82 percent opted to use public transportation more often – with nearly half reporting taking up to 7,000 trips a month. If the city opts to continue the transportation plan, the program will be funded via parking revenue.

State-Of-The –Art Traffic Signals

Knox County, Illinois, is using a $1.5 million federal grant to install fiber optic cables between traffic signals on several roads with high traffic volumes. The updated traffic signals will be able to respond to roadway conditions in real time and help the city improve traffic flow to reduce congestion and unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, WBIR reported.

The county’s main office will have access to the smart traffic signals to monitor traffic volumes and adjust the timing of stop lights to control congestion. If the new system proves successful in mitigating backups along major roadways, the county is considering conducting a citywide system design analysis for more widespread upgrades, WBIR reported.

Clean Fuels Advanced Technology

The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Clean Fuel Advanced Technology Project is in its third phase after receiving $6.2 million in federal funding through the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program. The project is designed to reduce transit-related emissions in specific counties throughout the state that have reported air quality concerns. The Clean Fuel Advanced Technology initiative aims to achieve this goal through:
  • Education and outreach: billboards, radio, television and social media campaigns
  • Project support: technical advisory committee to develop clean transit training activities
  • Recognition and implementation of best practices: state-wide green fleet program to increase opportunities for clean transportation policies

The program is investing in vehicle upgrades and retrofitting, as well as purchasing electric, natural gas and propane vehicles to offer the same services with limited emissions.

Congestion Pricing

Move NY , a transit advocacy group in New York City, is proposing the city adding tolls to major entryways throughout the city that receive high traffic volumes. This strategy includes a call for congestion pricing as a means to control traffic flow for easier mobility, The New York Times reported.

The advocacy group argues adding more tolls will allow the city to reduce the price of tolls elsewhere throughout New York City while continuing to collect revenue that can be allocated into much needed transit upgrades and maintenance projects. Not only would the toll strategy make collection more equitable citywide, but it will also help reduce congestion in the downtown Manhattan. The city could then set aside one-fourth of its $1.5 billion in annual revenue to improve crumbling roads and bridges, The New York Times reported.

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