There is no readymade universally acceptable solution to the urban transport problem. Planners, engineers, economists and transport technologists each have their own views, which when combined, invariably produced a workable strategy. Whatever policy evolved should be considered firstly, in the light of time it takes to implement them and secondly, all policies need to be appraised in terms of their cost.
The following common steps may be helpful in solving the problems of urban transport:
1. Development of Additional Road Capacity:
One of the most commonly adopted methods of combatting road congestion in medium and small towns or in districts of larger centres is the construction of bypasses to divert through-traffic. This practice has been followed throughout the world including India. Mid-twentieth century planners saw the construction of additional road capacity in the form of new or improved highways as the acceptable solution to congestion within major towns and cities.
Since the pioneer transportation studies of the 1950s and 1960s were carried out in the US metropolitan areas, where the needs of an auto-dominated society were seen to be paramount, the provision of additional road capacity was accepted for several decades as the most effective solution to congestion, and urban freeways were built in large cities such as Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Western European transport planners incorporated many of their American counterparts’ concepts into their own programmes and the urban motorway featured in many of the larger schemes (Muller, 1995). However, it soon became evident that the generated traffic on these new roads rapidly reduced the initial advantages.
The construction of an urban motorway network with its access junctions requires large areas of land and the inevitable demolition of tracts of housing and commercial properties. By the 1970s planners and policymakers came to accept that investment in new highways dedicated to the rapid movement of motor traffic was not necessarily the most effective solution to urban transport problems.
2. Traffic Management Measures:
Temporary and partial relief from road traffic congestion may be gained from the introduction of traffic management schemes, involving he reorganisation of traffic flows and directions without any major structural alterations to the existing street pattern. Among the most widely used devices are the extension of one-way systems, the phasing of traffic-light controls to take account of traffic variation, and restrictions on parking and vehicle loading on major roads.
On multi-lane highways that carry heavy volumes of commuter traffic, certain lanes can be allocated to incoming vehicles in the morning and to outgoing traffic in the afternoon, producing a tidal-flow effect. Recent experiments using information technology have been based upon intelligent vehicle highway systems (IVHS), with the computerised control of traffic lights and entrances to freeways, advice to drivers of alternative routes to avoid congestion, and information on weather and general road conditions. The IVHS can be linked up with advanced vehicle control systems, making use of in-car computer to eliminate driver error and control automatic braking and steering when accidents are imminent.
Traffic management has been extensively applied within urban residential areas, where excessive numbers of vehicles produce noise, vibration, pollution and, above all, accident risks, especially to the young. ‘Traffic calming’ has been introduced to many European cities and aims at the creation of an environment in which cars are permitted but where the pedestrian has priority of movement. Carefully planned street-width variations, parking restrictions and speed-control devices such as ramps are combined to secure a safe and acceptable balance between car and pedestrian.
3. Effective Use of Bus Service:
Many transportation planning proposals are aimed specifically at increasing the speed and schedule reliability of bus services, and many European cities have introduced bus priority plans in an attempt to increase the attractions of public transport. Bus-only lanes, with or against the direction of traffic flow, are designated in heavily congested roads to achieve time savings, although such savings may later be dissipated when buses enter inner-city areas where priority lanes at intersections and certain streets may be restricted to buses only, particularly in pedestrianised shopping zones.
Where entirely new towns are planned, there is an opportunity to incorporate separate bus networks within the urban road system, enabling buses to operate free from congestion. In the UK, Runcorn New Town, built as an overspill centre for the Merseyside conurbation, was provided with a double- looped busway linking shopping centre, industrial estates and housing areas.
About 90 per cent of the town’s population was within five minutes’ walk of the busway and operating costs were 33 per cent less than those of buses on the conventional roads. Although the system is not used to the extent originally envisaged, it successfully illustrates how public transport can be integrated with urban development. Bus-only roads can also be adapted to vehicle guidance systems, whereby the bus is not steered but controlled by lateral wheels, with the resumption of conventional control when the public road network is re-entered.
Such systems have been adopted in Adelaide and experiments have been made in many other cities (Adelaide Transit Authority, 1988). The bus can also be given further advantages in city centres where major retailing and transport complexes are being redeveloped. The construction of covered shopping malls and precincts can incorporate bus facilities for shoppers, and reconstruction of rail stations can also allow bus services to be integrated more closely with rail facilities.
The ‘park-and-ride’ system, now adopted by many European cities, enables the number of cars entering city centres to be reduced, particularly at weekend shopping peak periods. Large car-parks, either temporary or permanent according to need, on the urban fringe are connected by bus with city centres, with charges generally lower than central area parking costs.
The advantages of the bus over the car as an efficient carrier are secured, and the costs of providing the fringe car-parks are much less than in inner-city zones. Rail commuters can also be catered for in a similar manner with the provision of large-capacity car-parks adjacent to suburban stations.
Many towns and cities have’ attempted to attract passengers back to bus transport by increasing its flexibility and level of response to market demand. In suburban areas the dial-a-ride system has met with partial success, with prospective passengers booking seats by telephone within a defined area of operation.
Such vehicles typically serve the housing areas around a district shopping centre and capacity is limited, so they are best suited to operations in conditions of low demand or in off-peak periods. Fares are higher than on conventional buses since the vehicle control and booking facilities require financing.
Experiments have also been made with small- capacity buses that can be stopped and boarded in the same way as a taxi and which can negotiate the complex street patterns of housing estates more easily than larger buses. However, with the widespread introduction of scheduled minibus is the problem of overloading has been reduced.
4. Parking Restrictions:
As we have seen, it is not possible to provide sufficient space for all who might like to drive and park in the central areas of large towns. Parking thus must be restricted and this is usually done by banning all-day parking by commuters or making it prohibitively expensive. Restrictions are less severe – off-peak, so that shoppers and other short-term visitors who benefit the economy of the centre are not deterred. Separate arrangements must be made for local residents, perhaps through permits or reserved parking.
City authorities can thus control public car-parking places, but many other spaces are privately owned by businesses and reserved for particular employees. The effect of this is to perpetuate commuting to work by car. The future provision of such space can be limited through planning permission for new developments, as is done in London, but controlling the use of existing private spaces raises problematical issues of rights and freedoms that many countries are reluctant to confront.
Overall, parking restrictions have the advantage of being simple to administer, flexible in application and easily understood by the public. Their Achilles’ heel is enforcement, for motorists are adept at parking where and when they should not and evading fines once caught.
Fines in many cities are so low that being caught once or twice a week works out cheaper than paying the parking charge. Indeed, in London in 1982, a survey showed that illegal parkers outnumbered legal ones and only 60 per cent of the fines were ever paid. Parking controls have to be stringent and be enforced if they are to make any significant contribution to reducing congestion in the city.
5. Promoting the Bicycle:
The benefits of cycling have long been recognised. The bicycle is cheap to buy and run and is in urban areas often the quickest door-to-door mode (Figure 5.3). It is a benign form of transport, being noiseless, non-polluting, energy-and space-efficient and non-threatening to most other road users. A pro-cycling city would promote fitness among cyclists and health among non-cyclists. Cycling is thus a way of providing mobility, which is cheap for the individual and for society.
Advocates of Environmental Traffic Management (ETM) frequently cast envious glances at the Netherlands, where cycle planning is set in the context of national planning for sustainability. The Master Plan Bicycle, which aims to increase bicycle-kilometers by at least 30 per cent between 1986 and 2010, not only tackles the traditional concerns of cycle infrastructure and road safety, but also addresses issues of mobility and modal choice; how to encourage businesses to improve the role of the bicycle in commuting; reducing bicycle theft and increasing parking quantity and quality; improving the combination of cycling and public transport; and promoting consideration of the bicycle amongst influential decision makers. These ‘pull’ measures are part of a national transport strategy of discouraging car use, which ‘pushes’ motorists towards use of the bicycle.
6. Encouraging Walking:
Walking is the most important mode of transport in cities, yet frequently data on it are not collected and many planners do not think of it as a form of transport. As a result of this neglect, facilities provided specifically for walking are often either absent or badly maintained and pedestrians form the largest single category of road user deaths. There are social, medical, environmental and economic reasons for promoting walking, for it is an equitable, healthy, non-polluting and inexpensive form of transport. Moreover, ‘foot cities’ tend to be pleasurable places in which to live, with access to facilities within walking distance frequently cited as a key indicator of neighbourhood quality of life.
7. Promoting Public Transport:
If ETM aims to shift trips away from cars, then attractive alternatives are required. Cycling and walking may be appropriate for the shorter distances, but transferring longer trips requires that a good quality public transport system is in place to ensure that the city can function efficiently.
This means that:
1. Fares need to be low enough for poor people to be able to afford them;
2. There must be sufficient vehicles for a frequent service to be run throughout the day;
3. Routes must reflect the dominant desire lines of the travelling public and there should be extensive spatial coverage of the city so that no one is very far from a public transport stop;
4. Speeds of buses need to be raised relative to cars by freeing them from congestion;
5. It is not enough to provide public transport: it also has to be coordinated. Multi-modal tickets may be one essential ingredient of a functional urban transport system, but the key item is the integration of services by the provision of connections between modes.
8. Other Measures:
Some of the other measures useful for urban transport planning are:
1. Restrictions on road capacity and traffic speeds,
2. Regulating traffic access to a link or area,
3. Charging for the use of roads on a link, or area basis,
4. Vehicle restraint schemes,
5. Rail rapid transit,
6. Transport coordination, and
7. Public transport improvement, etc.
The urban transport planning is a continuous process and it should be done through a process, as Figure 5.4 shows, are the pre-analysis, technical analysis and the post analysis phases.
Once the goals are established, data need to be collected in order to prepare land use, transport and travel inventories of the study area. The availability of good quality, extensive and up-to-date data is an essential precondition for the preparation of an urban transport plan. Accordingly, there will need to be an inventory of the existing transport system and the present distribution of land uses; a description of current travel patterns; and data on such matters as population growth, economic activity, employment, income levels, car ownership, housing and preferred travel modes.
In brief, urban transport process has four principal characteristics – quantification, comprehensiveness, systems thinking and a scientific approach. The environmental traffic management system should be adopted both in developed and developing countries in order to check the increasing problems of the urban transport.