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Disappearing Traffic: Finding Traffic Congestion Solutions

  • Progress Report December 16     16 December 2014

    Brendan Halleman from IRF is negotiating with his contacts at World Bank to have a side meeting dedicated to the Road Decongestion Lab at the Transforming Transportation Conference in Washington DC on the 15/16th of January. See http://www.transformingtransportation.org. This would be a fantastic outcome of your support.

    On December 11, I presented the Road Decongestion Lab to the Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand at their Transport Special Interest Group workshop with New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). Possible follow-up includes presenting more broadly to NZTA folks. Thanks to my supporter Camilla Needham for suggesting this opportunity.

    I am attending several meetings in January in the USA all focused on bringing more people into the discussion about reducing congestion.

    I have established a website for Disappearing Traffic. See http://disappearingtraffic.com/.

    Wishing all my supporters the very best for the upcoming festive season. Travel safely, as a passenger if you can. Next update in 2015.

    Paul

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  • Success at IRF Congress     24 November 2014

    In the attached video you can hear the head of the IRF commit his organisation to use IRF's resources and convening power, together with others, to take on congestion.

    I have it on good authority (the man to my right in the picture) that this was added to the planned remarks as a result of the work that several people, including me, did to raise awareness of this issue at the Congress.

    I don't want to declare victory in any sense, but this was the best possible outcome I could hope for at the Congress.

    Thanks again to my wonderful network of backers for helping me to be there. Watch this space as we create a platform for real change.

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  • Congress, Day 1     18 November 2014
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    Today was Day 1 of the Congress. The session that I moderated seemed to go well. Lots of confirmation that I am not the only one who thinks we need to find a basis for lasting congestion reduction.

    Pictured with two colleagues, one from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and one from the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Tomorrow morning we meet to discuss the Road Decongestion Lab.

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  • Flyer ready for Congress     12 November 2014
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    See the picture: Aria and Jade at Curative have done a fine job of creating a very professional flyer for me to hand out.

    I have a side-meeting arranged for Tuesday morning at the Congress, and some confirmed attendees.

    I will use my prerogative as moderator of the congestion management session on Monday morning to let more delegates know about the side meeting.

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  • Blog and a Trial Run     6 November 2014
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    I have established a blog for people who wish 'someone would do something about the traffic'. You can find it at 'www.disappearingtraffic.com'. I have done an initial post, and will soon start adding more content. I hope this is an easy way for my wonderful backers to keep up with developments.

    Yesterday one of my backers, Matt Ensor, hosted me at the Auckland office of Beca, (www.beca.com) a professional services firm, so that I could do a trial run of my presentation for the IRF Congress. A number of Beca staff attended via virtual conference facilities. We had a valuable discussion. Thanks to Matt and all who participated.

    The picture: Screen shot from the recording of the trial-run session. Matt Ensor on the left, me on the right, and the slide in the Congress standard format.

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  • My Beautiful Network     31 October 2014

    Sorry to give you two updates in one day, but I wanted to tie up a couple of loose ends.

    As I write this the total raised is $2,790, which is fantastic and all because you, my beautiful network, see value in this work. $2,000 of that will fund my trip to the Congress. The balance will ensure my time at the Congress is as effective as possible.

    This means I can develop a hand-out for Congress delegates telling them about our proposed 'Road Decongestion Laboratory' (let me know if you have an idea for a better name), and hold a side meeting to build support for the Lab. The Congress organisers are helping us sort out a venue. All up I expect this will cost $750.

    I have got an estimate for a rudimentary 'Disappearing Traffic' website with blogging capability so that I can keep you all up to date with developments: $1,000 to $1,500. Any further 'overs' will go to making this happen. As a start I will be making a free 'Disappearing Traffic blog' and will send you the link.

    At the Congress I am moderating a panel of industry experts who will be talking about their congestion solutions.

    They include senior managers from Xerox, 3M, Inrix, and Lindsay (the latter make the moveable barrier that is on the Auckland bridge, for those in NZ). I have identified five questions to ask them. I thought you might be interested in what those five questions are, so here goes:

    1. With due respect to the value of the solutions you have spoken about, and they are all valuable and needed, it has been suggested that any time we reduce the traffic, or add extra capacity, all that happens is that the space created fills up with induced or latent demand, and we are no further ahead. You will have heard people say, or even said yourself: "we cannot build our way out of congestion”. And yet we keep trying to do just that. Have you thought about this, and

    a. do you have any comment about why it happens and

    b. ideas for what we should be doing about it if we truly want to reduce congestion and improve the travel experience and

    c. Does your organisation put any focus onto this question?

    2. It has been suggested that there is no money to be made from reducing demand, and so why would commercial organizations be interested in helping to reduce demand. Would you care to comment?

    3. It has been suggested that reducing traffic congestion is a behavioural problem rather than a traffic engineering problem. However, it seems that the focus of departments of transportation is to implement engineering solutions, and the vast majority, perhaps 96 to 100 percent of funding, goes to such solutions (roads and public transport). Do you think there should be a different mix in the spending, and if so could focusing on demand reduction achieve some gains if equivalent sums of money were spent on it? How would you share it out?

    4. It has been suggested that the traffic congestion challenge is different in different cultures, and that as a result what works to reduce traffic in one city might have no effect in another city. Do you have any experience with this, and if so could you comment about the implications of this for ‘solving’ congestion?

    5. If we were to reframe the challenge away from ‘increasing capacity to meet demand’ to ‘reducing demand to fit within capacity’, while still achieving the same amount of mobility, and maintaining the gains that we achieve, which alternative skill-sets would you bring into your organisations, and what would be the major initiatives that you would pursue?

    Sorry for the long post, but this brings you pretty much up to date.

    After the Congress I hope to provide you with a summary of their answers, plus let you know how we get on with the Lab discussions.

    Thanks again for your fantastic support.

    Paul

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  • 5 Reasons for Being Optimistic (about fighting congestion)     31 October 2014

    1. When highways are temporarily taken out of service, say for resurfacing, the system managers know how to reduce demand in advance of and during the project period. Then they seem to hit the 'reset' button and everything returns to 'normal'. Those methods could be used on an ongoing basis to achieve persistent reduction, but they choose not to use them.

    2. When congestion charge tolling schemes are introduced,usually in the face of huge opposition, they reduce the traffic. This shows that people CAN manage trips in a different way. I am not an advocate of tolling, but we could leverage this mechanism.

    3. Adjusting the supply and price of parking has been shown to change traffic flows - showing that people CAN manage trips in a different way.

    4. Car-sharing (renting cars by the hour, such as City Hop (in New Zealand, or Zip Car, or Getaround in the USA) results in people making very different modal choices. When someone becomes a car-sharing member, they often get rid of a car from their household, and use other modes more often.

    There are two 'orders' of resolution needed. The first-order of solution is the sort that gives people choices about how to fulfil their mobility needs: carpooling, added buses, bike share, car share, etc.. The second-order approach is what is needed to engage people to 'desire' to use the first-order solutions in sufficient quantity that the traffic is reduced.

    My work is now focused on the second-order approaches, and understanding what it takes.

    One of the key changes that is needed is that the people in charge 'value' people who travel as passengers, regardless of whether they ride in a bus, van, or car that is going anyway. The 'currency' of congestion reduction is 'passengers'. The fifth reason I am optimistic is that, when asked, most people say they would be willing to travel as a passenger for more of their trips - if it was easy enough and rewarding enough to do so. There are certainly enough empty seats.

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  • WOW! Target met in under 12 hours.     25 October 2014

    Huge thanks to all the supporters, and to Spark Foundation. I thought it would take some days to do, but the time between sending out the first round of emails till you guys had the project fully funded was LESS THAN 12 HOURS. Needless to say I have a pretty big smile on my face for such tangible and generous support for the congestion-solving mission. THANK YOU!!!!

    Now that my trip to the Congress is certain, I can look to ways to maximise the impact of being there. One way to do this is to host a side meeting with the industry leaders to specifically discuss our 'Road Decongestion Lab' proposal.

    Any funds raised over and above the target will be put to making such a meeting happen: getting the proposal into great presentation shape, and getting a venue and so on. I estimate that will cost $500- $750.

    And if we go beyond that? The Disappearing Traffic website would be next. I will get an estimate for getting that done, and let you know.

    Thanks again everyone. Paul

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