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PwC aims to debunk congestion myths and simplify strategy decisions

The report notes that congestion is a complex issue and solutions can have unexpected consequences. It offers a suggested framework for moving ahead with more confidence.

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A new report from PwC, commissioned by the National Parking Association (NPA), explores the underlying causes of congestion and suggests that an ecosystem approach, agile testing and the sharing of best practices are key to optimising infrastructure and alleviating traffic-clogged roads.

The report notes that the cost of congestion in the US is $230-$300 billion (£180 billion to £234 billion) each year. This includes direct costs such as lost time and indirect costs such as increased costs of goods and services.

 

Congestion costs about four times the amount the country spends on public transit and double its spending on roads and highways, according to the report.

 

In 2017, the average person spent 41 hours in congestion, an increase of eight per cent compared to 2010.

 

Further, the report predicts that congestion is likely to get worse in the short to mid-term, fuelled by macroeconomic conditions, urbanisation, transport network company growth, e-commerce growth, infrastructure under-investment, and policy and programme development.

 

Myths and tales of the unexpected

 

The analysis recognises that congestion is complex – its root causes can be challenging to identify and sometimes the solutions implemented have unexpected consequences.

 

The PwC authors also say that "pervasive myths" persist around congestion, and that these need to be debunked. Assumptions which are flagged as needing a reality check include the belief that ride-hailing, car-sharing and autonomous vehicle services reduce congestion and the idea that e-commerce has a zero-net effect on congestion.

 

Assumptions which are flagged as needing a reality check include the belief that ride-hailing, car-sharing and autonomous vehicle services reduce congestion and the idea that e-commerce has a zero-net effect on congestion.

 

Further, the report says that expensive, long-term capital projects aren’t necessarily the best way to address congestion, and that parking policies are often inadequate.

To help policy-makers cut through the congestion complexity, PwC proposes five guiding principles for making congestion-related choices:

  • Consider near- and long-term supply and demand levers. The report concludes that a combination of supply and demand, as well as near- and long-term policies are required to drive sustainable change.

    “Near-term solutions are quicker and cheaper to implement. Meanwhile, infrastructure investments like buses, rapid transit and lane expansion require investment over a long period of time,” the authors say.

  • Take an ecosystem view to drive city livability. A holistic approach means developing city plans that integrate multiple levers (e.g. public transit, private vehicles, parking) and consider the trade-offs associated with each action.

  • Foster innovation through collaboration, pilots and agile policy-making. The report notes that: “The effects of new technologies and new transit are unproven and often unknown” and the rapid development of these new technologies requires cities to experiment through pilots.

    “This allows both parties to learn and potentially benefit without jumping in headfirst. Public-private partnerships (P3s) can be a valuable tool for cities,” PwC says.

  • Develop a financing plan. As demonstrated above, there is no shortage of options to combat congestion. However, many of them are potentially quite expensive, especially those that involve the construction of new roads or bridges or expansion of public transit networks.

    The report highlights that: “A sound strategy to pay for such investments is critical to executing successful programmes.”

  • Learn from other similar cities. PwC says that cities will learn the most from peers with a similar history, built environment and transportation infrastructure usage patterns. PwC provides a framework to categorise global cities into seven different models and examines case studies of each type.

NPA President Christine Banning, IOM, CAE, commented: “Livable cities are vital for real estate development, employment and tourism. Together, we can reduce congestion with a new vision for cities that embraces shared solutions and an ecosystem approach to reducing congestion.”

 

Banning added: “The PwC study debunks congestion myths, provides planners and cities with models and levers for reducing congestion and demonstrates how reducing or eliminating parking minimums and applying a park once philosophy can support intermodal transit within cities.”

The road to more livable cities

 

We’ll explore cutting congestion and future mobility solutions further at our forthcoming event (in London, November 28).

 

This event, complete with panel debates and roundtable discussions, will help leaders from cities and local and regional government share knowledge and experiences, gather new ideas and find more clarity about the way ahead.

Register Here

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