the benefits of congestion

Bmblbzzz
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby Bmblbzzz » 28 Feb 2017, 11:21pm

No one might seem to question the effect of congested hard shoulders on smart motorways, but you can be sure they've been discussing it for years in the DfT. Whether they've identified any sort of solution, I don't know - but when they do, it's likely the politicians will reject it; because the public aren't yet ready for it...

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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby andrewk » 28 Feb 2017, 11:49pm

horizon wrote:
andrewk wrote:
Vorpal wrote:
So, it got me to thinking. What if congestion were terrible all the time. What if we limited traffic to a couple of main throughfares, and only allowed it off into residential areas for access. Would more people cycle? Just to get away from the nightmare traffic? Can we do an experiment somewhere with this? What is the tipping point at which people start to cycle? It is down to journey time?


Wishing congestion on others merely to promote cycling is myopic, stupid, anti social and self defeating.
1. Perpetual congestion may well drive people out of their cars but it is not given, IMO unlikely that it would drive them to cycling. A motorcycle or scooter being more likely.
2. Such anti car attitudes are what make the majority ( and with good reason ) dislike cyclists and dismiss them as weirdos.
3. Congestion increases pollution which harms everyone which means YOU too.


andrewk: do tell us how you would propose to reduce congestion.


Firstly I am not a traffic planner, ministry of transport official or anything else with any professional link to the subject. So as a layman here goes:

1. There is no single silver bullet solution to congestion, I also suspect that no complete solution is possible. Rather the solution is one of lessening the problem and of mitigating its effects through many measures, each of which may contribute in a small way, ie. the salami slicing type solution.
2. The prime drivers of congestion are too many people concentrated in too small a geographic area, commuting and deliveries.
3. In the past there used to be something called regional policy that aimed to encourage businesses to move out of the capital, this was I beleive discontinued in the 80s. I think that such a policy should be reinstituted and not merely in order to ease congestion (which it would to a very small degree).
4. Outer London is not severely congested outside of the rush hour, congestion being caused primarilly by commuters, central London however, seems to be permanently congested. Home working for all or part of the week being technologically possible for many occupations ought to be encouraged as it could greatly ease congestion.
5. There seems to be a fashion for people to have their internet purchases delivered to their place of work. Were employers to ban such deliveries a great number of delivery vans would be taken off our most congested streets.
6. Shops could be restricted to accepting deliveries of stock overnight thus removing many vans and HGVs from our streets at peak times.
7. Build more motorways, widen and improve existing ones, increase motorway speed limits. The UK has the most congested motorways in Europe not because we have more cars but because we have the most inadequate trunk road network. We need to encourage through traffic off local roads.
8. Institute a high daily charge for lorries for entry to cities during working hours. The objective being to encourageHGVs to stick to by pass roads and ring roads and to restrict necessary city entry eg. deliveries to times outside of the working day.
9. Congestion charges for cars for entry to city centres (as presently in London), the daily charge probably needs to be raised a bit.
10. Further investment in public transport, preferably rail not bus.
11. More subsidy for public transport to create lower fares encouraging more use.
12. Encourage walking and cycling as a means of short distance transport.
13. Encourage and facilitate rail freight, get transport of bulk goods off the roads.

There you go...a top of my head answer, many other additional measures must also be possible.

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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby horizon » 1 Mar 2017, 11:13am

Thank you andrewk.

Some of what you propose will work, some not. There is a latent demand for road space, much of which is currently unmet. When roads are widened or traffic speeded up in any way, the hidden demand just emerges to fill the newly available space and the congestion returns. Congestion is the limiting factor where (and when) road space is insufficient to meet demand. Not even congestion charging is wholly effective though pricing of any sort helps. Imagine if electricity were free.

Build more motorways, widen and improve existing ones, increase motorway speed limits. The UK has the most congested motorways in Europe not because we have more cars but because we have the most inadequate trunk road network. We need to encourage through traffic off local roads.


I really cannot begin to comment on that. However, there are plenty of people who agree with you. Personally I am not sure how successful that policy has been . . . :wink:
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby irc » 1 Mar 2017, 11:54am

horizon wrote:T
Build more motorways, widen and improve existing ones, increase motorway speed limits. The UK has the most congested motorways in Europe not because we have more cars but because we have the most inadequate trunk road network. We need to encourage through traffic off local roads.


I really cannot begin to comment on that. However, there are plenty of people who agree with you. Personally I am not sure how successful that policy has been . . . :wink:



It hasn't been tried in the UK. France,Germany etc have far more motorways.

Congestion in cities needs other multiple measures. Motorway congestion needs more motorways or existing motorways widened. some planning decisions are cretinous. Like the A80 past Cumbernauld was upgraded from a 4 lane dual carriageway to a 4 lane motorway. So, surprise,surprise, the existing congestion wasn't helped as the capacity wasn't increased. Safety improved due to hard shoulders perhaps.


Since this road links between 2 motorways at either end, IE each end has 4 lanes feeding into it each end the upgrade should obviously been to a 6 lane motorway at little extra cost. The result - 2 years of construction delays and costs without reducing congestion. ,

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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby Vorpal » 1 Mar 2017, 12:14pm

One of the problems with building more and better roads is that they just get congested, too. The UK is building roads, and (despite what people seem to think) actually has decent infrastructure, at least in terms of moving motor vehicles around.

The number of cars per kilometer of road is similar to Germany, and rather lower than Monaco, Portugal, or Japan.
http://mecometer.com/topic/vehicles-per-km-of-road/

Similar results are obtained, considering length of road versus land area. http://www.nationmaster.com/country-inf ... -land-area

And here it is in terms of total length of motorway http://www.nationmaster.com/country-inf ... way-length

There is substantial evidence that this only encourages people to drive more.
This from the USA http://www.perc.org/articles/study-buil ... e-futility
This from Australia http://www.vtpi.org/gentraf.pdf

DfT have issued variable demand modellng guidelinesthat account for this by using cost and time as input parameters to the numbers & lengths of trips people make (so short time in car = more driving), but it's not used for every project. The project manager can determine whether variable demand modellng is required for any given project.

There is also evidence that that when space is reallocated, the traffic load goes down to maintain similar levels of congestion... http://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... cairns.pdf

I am not 'wishing' congestion on anyone, I was curious about how much congestion people have to experience before they make different choices.

I don't think that is anti-car. I own and drive a car, but I am a proponent of policies that encourage people to travel less and use other forms of transport. I honestly don't mind whether it is cycling, walking, public transport, or simply travelling less.

I was quite impressed actually by how much difference a couple of days of bad traffic made to the choices made by my colleagues, even when the weather was pretty crappy for cycling by most people's standards.
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby mjr » 1 Mar 2017, 12:31pm

andrewk wrote:1. There is no single silver bullet solution to congestion, I also suspect that no complete solution is possible. Rather the solution is one of lessening the problem and of mitigating its effects through many measures, each of which may contribute in a small way, ie. the salami slicing type solution.

OK... seems a bit like motherhood and apple pie.

andrewk wrote:2. The prime drivers of congestion are too many people concentrated in too small a geographic area, commuting and deliveries.

Are they? I thought too many short journeys in large vehicles, too many conflicting desire lines and too many more lanes in than out were prime drivers.

andrewk wrote:3. In the past there used to be something called regional policy that aimed to encourage businesses to move out of the capital, this was I beleive discontinued in the 80s. I think that such a policy should be reinstituted and not merely in order to ease congestion (which it would to a very small degree).

That sounds like just spreading congestion around rather than tackling it. It may be a valid tactic but it doesn't itself ease congestion at all, not even to a small degree, because there's still demand for the relocated businesses to communicate with those who didn't relocate, as we've seen with the post-war London relocations (including some to King's Lynn and Thetford) and places like Milton Keynes, plus new businesses take up most of the smaller London premises vacated by the relocated ones.

andrewk wrote:4. Outer London is not severely congested outside of the rush hour, congestion being caused primarilly by commuters, central London however, seems to be permanently congested. Home working for all or part of the week being technologically possible for many occupations ought to be encouraged as it could greatly ease congestion.

That's a fairly good idea IMO but how would it be encouraged?

andrewk wrote:5. There seems to be a fashion for people to have their internet purchases delivered to their place of work. Were employers to ban such deliveries a great number of delivery vans would be taken off our most congested streets.

I'm not convinced because I suspect people would just have them delivered to collection points on their way home like InPost or Amazon lockers, Argos and so on, which are also mostly in the most congested areas.

andrewk wrote:6. Shops could be restricted to accepting deliveries of stock overnight thus removing many vans and HGVs from our streets at peak times.

And screw anyone who lives in town near a shop and wants to sleep at night, or what? It was bad enough when I lived where Mucky D started crashing their delivery cages across the cobbles at 7am. I shudder to think how bad it would have been if all the shops did that and I suspect the richer townhouse occupants would have a few court cases trying to block it or extract compensation for the reduction in property value.
andrewk wrote:7. Build more motorways, widen and improve existing ones, increase motorway speed limits. The UK has the most congested motorways in Europe not because we have more cars but because we have the most inadequate trunk road network. We need to encourage through traffic off local roads.

Building more motorways will just induce demand. The UK maybe hasn't tried it headlong, but some places in the US pretty much has and studying the US has found these fundamental laws of road congestion:
  • The number of vehicle-kilometers traveled (VKT) increases in direct proportion to the available lane-kilometers of roadways. The additional VKT traveled come from increased driving by current residents and businesses, and migration.
  • Building new roads and widening existing ones only results in additional traffic that continues to rise until congestion returns to the previous level. Such attempts to “cure” congestion are thus both expensive and ineffective.
  • Increasing the lane kilometers for one type of road does not significantly reduce congestion on others — for example, widening highways does little to reduce local congestion.
  • Metropolitan areas appear to construct new lane-kilometers of roadway “with little or no regard for the prevailing level of traffic.”
  • Because roadways have “natural” levels of congestion to which they always return, mass transit projects will not reduce traffic.

There seems no reason to think that wouldn't happen again here.

Increasing motorway speed limits would use more fuel, lead to more KSIs and make bunching-up so-called "phantom jam" congestion more likely, not less. That seems like a backwards step.

Does the UK really have the most congested motorways in Europe? Dutch motorways seem far busier in general. I guess it depends whether it's the most congested individual motorways (the M25, M32 and M6 are probably up there) or the most congested motorways system (the UK has a lot of pretty quiet motorway, like the massive A1M Huntingdonshire section most of the time).

andrewk wrote:8. Institute a high daily charge for lorries for entry to cities during working hours. The objective being to encourageHGVs to stick to by pass roads and ring roads and to restrict necessary city entry eg. deliveries to times outside of the working day.
9. Congestion charges for cars for entry to city centres (as presently in London), the daily charge probably needs to be raised a bit.

Yes, this is one of the few tactics that seems to work.

andrewk wrote:10. Further investment in public transport, preferably rail not bus.
11. More subsidy for public transport to create lower fares encouraging more use.

Good things IMO but basically irrelevant to congestion, according to the fundamental laws.

andrewk wrote:12. Encourage walking and cycling as a means of short distance transport.

Cool, but how?

andrewk wrote:13. Encourage and facilitate rail freight, get transport of bulk goods off the roads.

Another good but irrelevant thing.
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby horizon » 1 Mar 2017, 1:00pm

mjr: good link. The funny thing is that this has been known for years. Every time a politician gets up and says that they will build a new road to reduce congestion they are either lying or stupid. My guess is that they are as stupid as the voters they are trying to attract - most people really do still believe that road widening and building reduces congestion. And that's after 100 years of it palpably failing to do so.
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby Vorpal » 1 Mar 2017, 1:19pm

mjr wrote:
andrewk wrote:6. Shops could be restricted to accepting deliveries of stock overnight thus removing many vans and HGVs from our streets at peak times.

And screw anyone who lives in town near a shop and wants to sleep at night, or what? It was bad enough when I lived where Mucky D started crashing their delivery cages across the cobbles at 7am. I shudder to think how bad it would have been if all the shops did that and I suspect the richer townhouse occupants would have a few court cases trying to block it or extract compensation for the reduction in property value.

I don't think this has to be in the wee hours of the morning. What about encouraging deliveries between 7 and 11 pm, and between 10 am and 2 pm? Or something like that?
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby meic » 1 Mar 2017, 1:20pm

mjr wrote:
reohn2 wrote:Mrs R2 and I visited her sister in Manchester Royal Infirmary yesterday afternoon.
From where we live in Lowton [...]
The 23 mile journey took us just less than 40mins door to door from 12.20pm(lunchtime?) and was only slowed by slight congestion on the A34.

The return journey took us 1 hour 55mins due to congestion.

Congestion? Should that be "due to people like us making similar decisions to use motor vehicles instead of a 55 minute bike+train journey to try to save a few minutes, £7.20 train fare and a bit of exercise"? ;-)

reohn2 wrote:I reckon the return journey would have,without those two hold ups been 1hr 35mins to cover 23miles home all but for 2.5mile from Lowton to J23 M6,1mile on Regent Rd and 3/4mile on the A34,was motorway.

Maybe, but why should it be? You can't really expect less use of the roads, surely?

reohn2 wrote:We discussed how we felt sorry for the people who have to make a journey twice a day in that sort of traffic.
IMHO this isn't the way modern society with all the technology at it's fingertips should be moving people about in the 21st century.

I agree that it's not how we should be moving people about. Rather than feeling sorry for other people who decide to go motoring, many of whom will also later discover they made an incorrect decision about what would be faster and more convenient, I feel we need to accept that this individual-level decision-making is broken and work to fix it - part of which will probably be making it more obviously attractive to more people to cycle as a way of getting past motorists blocking the A34.

Instead, the Manchester councils seem to be trying to deflect cycling off onto near-parallel routes which are also busy - Oxford Road and Plymouth Grove, for example. The time will probably come where they've got to bite the pollution/congestion bullet and take a lane out of the five-lanes-plus-centre-hatching A34 to help reduce pollution (four lanes = lower exhaust density) and encourage cycling.

I just did a quick Google maps from here to Morriston Hospital in Swansea where I had to visit my mother regularly. Car normal traffic 40 minutes. Public transport 1h 50 min running every hour but vising times are restricted, so that is 2 to 3 hours (you have to walk to the bus stop to begin with.).
So that is 1h 20 minutes against 5 hours travel.
Cost is £7 diesel v £15 each for bus and train fares. Car parking is free at Morriston Hospital.

Aberystwyth Hospital is a little better ratio because roads are slower 1 hour by car and 2 hour (plus waiting) by bus, each way. No chance of congestion. :D
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby mjr » 1 Mar 2017, 1:30pm

meic wrote:Public transport 1h 50 min running every hour but vising times are restricted, so that is 2 to 3 hours (you have to walk to the bus stop to begin with.).So that is 1h 20 minutes against 5 hours travel.
Cost is £7 diesel v £15 each for bus and train fares.

Firstly, state-controlled things like hospital visiting times should be reset to enable and encourage public transport use.

Secondly, you shouldn't have to walk to the stop to begin with: there should be cycle parking at all timing stops.

Thirdly, that is 1h20 the driver can't do anything else and passengers are severely constrained, against 5h of mostly freedom to do whatever else can be done while travelling.

And finally, there should be duo and group discount fares (if there aren't already), plus smartcard and through ticketing and/or it sounds like maybe up to £9 congestion charge to level the decision.

But I know it's not going to work for everyone for every journey and that's why cars in some form will still continue for the near future, hopefully through car-sharing more, but there's a lot more public transport infrastructure around Manchester than Carmathen.
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby meic » 1 Mar 2017, 1:36pm

Secondly, you shouldn't have to walk to the stop to begin with: there should be cycle parking at all timing stops.

The stop is only 150 metres away, so no need for a bike. It does however add time to your journey, as does locking up your bike. Where you are on a crucial trip, you do have to leave 5 to 10 minutes early because they are not very punctual. Leaving early or arriving late quite frequently.
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby horizon » 1 Mar 2017, 2:00pm

irc wrote: Motorway congestion needs more motorways or existing motorways widened. some planning decisions are cretinous. Like the A80 past Cumbernauld was upgraded from a 4 lane dual carriageway to a 4 lane motorway. So, surprise,surprise, the existing congestion wasn't helped as the capacity wasn't increased.



irc: you can see from my other posts that I don't fully agree with you. However, I can see that you are trying to make the best of things from a road engineering point of view and I respect that. Nevertheless, taking a wider perspective, I think the enormous talents of engineers and others should be put to other uses as new road building, impressive and thoroughly and professionally done as it is, is IMV just encouraging the punters to drive more.


PS We have some engineers here locally shoring up a failed embankment and I take my hat off to them.
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby MikeF » 1 Mar 2017, 4:51pm

I think in general a type of Parkinson's Law applies to roads, especially major roads ie "Motor traffic will expand to fill the road space available to it". :wink: Once a road has become "saturated" people will search for alternative routes. These are often so called "rat runs", but often are more direct routes on roads less able to to take heavy traffic.
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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby Pete Owens » 2 Mar 2017, 12:33am

Congestion is just an symptom of the laws of supply and demand getting out of kilter.

Road space is a valuable resource - and if no direct charge is made for its use then people have no incentive to make the most effective use of it. In terms of space, private cars are the most inefficient means we have of moving lots of people around, but to a car owner it will always make sense as an individual to waste all that free space as the cost of the congestion they cause is suffered by the rest of the population. In economic terms It is an example of the tragedy of the commons:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

This is not to say that road building is never justified, just that without road pricing first on your list of measures then you really are not serious about congestion being a problem in the first place.

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Re: the benefits of congestion

Postby Stevek76 » 2 Mar 2017, 12:42am

Vorpal wrote:One of the problems with building more and better roads is that they just get congested, too. The UK is building roads, and (despite what people seem to think) actually has decent infrastructure, at least in terms of moving motor vehicles around.


It's tricky to compare countries as definitions of motorway, expressway (particularly) varies along with the population densities and distributions, that said I'd agree overall, the UK does not need more motorways and nor does it need wholesale widening of existing ones.

If there is a problem with the UK's strategic road network, it's more in the rather piecemeal nature of parts of it, routes like the A303/30 and A27 where it switches back and forth between dual and single carriageway and really it's those kind of issues where the bulk of the current funding highways england has is going. Most of those projects have been kicking about 20-30 years or more but have previously ended up repeatedly canned due to varying government whims, the coalition government put strategic roads on a set funding cycle which should lead, and at least appears to be so far to less of the messing about.

Vorpal wrote:DfT have issued variable demand modellng guidelinesthat account for this by using cost and time as input parameters to the numbers & lengths of trips people make (so short time in car = more driving), but it's not used for every project. The project manager can determine whether variable demand modellng is required for any given project.


There are tests in that linked unit that should be satisfied before being able to avoid considering variable demand, in practice any scheme of significance will (or should) need it and is liable to severe issues in the event of an inquiry/review should the authority attempt to progress without having followed the guidance. That said, in terms of raw economics variable demand can actually 'help' the project business case as the rule of half used means the induced trips accrue some travel time 'savings' if there isn't enough induction to significantly increase congestion away from the scheme.

Vorpal wrote:I was curious about how much congestion people have to experience before they make different choices.


About 20min seems to be the minimum limit I think before noticeable behaviour change but obviously the stubborn ones are willing to stick it out for much more. From what I've seen of variously sized smaller towns in the UK, one of the first effects once that 20min (ish) delay is hit is the peak starts to spread out as people shift work hours early or late (more the former) to avoid it, unfortunately takes a bit more to actually get them out of their cars altogether.


andrewk wrote:5. There seems to be a fashion for people to have their internet purchases delivered to their place of work. Were employers to ban such deliveries a great number of delivery vans would be taken off our most congested streets.


Places of work are often taking deliveries anyway and if those deliveries are happening in the day I'm not sure they're adding much. Better surely than having delivery vans making repeated missed visits to homes?


andrewk wrote:increase motorway speed limits


Does not help capacity, as speeds increase so do headways and thus overall capacity stays around the same, a small amount of capacity is actually gained dropping to 50mph but that's largely because it eliminates the speed disparity with HGVs (limited to 56mph). That aside, outside of the 'smart' motorways where 70mph is actually enforced now people have largely been doing whatever speed they want to for years. Unmarked police cars from what I've seen rarely bother to pull someone over unless they are doing more than 100 or exhibiting poor driving (undertaking/tailgating etc, at which point they pull someone over and presumably nick them for speed because it's far easier to 'prove' than the behaviour parts)

The UK has the most congested motorways in Europe


I'm not sure that we do? As for building more, as others have pointed out, that simply doesn't help, people will simply travel more to clog it up again, and they'll clog up their neighbourhood in the process getting to the motorway so they can clog that up.

I don't have an issue with moving parts of the strategic network out of places it shouldn't be in and getting rid of obvious bottlenecks but wholesale new roads or widening simply induces traffic that then causes bottlenecks wherever your new or widened road passes and ends. Unfortunately even with the limited improvements that are made, there is no joined up planning involved in simultaneously 'de car-ing' the local roads they just moved the strategic traffic off. Unfortunately there is some nimbyism involved there. The locals don't want the strategic traffic off their roads so they have a nice pleasant urban environment to walk and cycle around, they simply want to drive the less than 2 miles to the shops without getting stuck behind 5min of HGVs. :roll:

As for public transport, buses are, in theory, fine, it's just the deregulated nature (outside of London) of them makes any effort at coherent joined up planning hopeless, if there's one thing to beat the can kicked down the road or half implemented road schemes I mention above it's their public transport equivalents, ambitious tram projects downgraded through various 'bus rapid transits' to ending up as a couple of bus lanes and some slightly fancy looking quality buses that don't actually go where anyone needs them. The ability for the new 'metro regions' to re-regulate bus services could help here though it comes at a time when councils don't have any cash to spend on such matters.