Are Car Free Cities The Answer To Urban Traffic Congestion?


The problem with traffic congestion is that everyone needs to be in the same place at the same time. With two out of three of Australians driving to work each day and a whopping 15 million vehicles on the road, it’s said that we are wasting a tremendous 90 hours a year sitting in traffic, according to the TomTom Traffic index.

The TomTom travel index, the most accurate measure of traffic congestion in urban areas, carried out a survey capturing 10 trillion data measurements since the end of 2007.

It found that In Moscow, drivers face an average 74-minute delay for every hour driven in the worst peak-hour traffic. Istanbul was the second most congested city, followed by Warsaw, Marseille, Palermo and Los Angeles. Sydney was ranked seventh, followed by Stuttgart, Paris and Rome.

The Australian Government's department of infrastructure and regional development found that total travel in Australian urban areas has grown tenfold over the last 60 years. A study is being undertaken by the department to assess eight popular Australian capital cities, and present base case (or business-as-usual) projections to 2020 of avoidable social costs of congestion for Australian metropolitan traffic.
According to the study the current trend in urban traffic is forecast to grow with total kilometres travelled growing by 37 per cent between 2005 and 2020. Commercial vehicle traffic is forecast to grow substantially more strongly (averaging around 3.5 per cent per annum) than private car traffic (at about 1.7 per cent per annum).

With congestion comes travel costs, and according to the Australian Association of the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, Australian cities are highly car dependent and thus making them highly oil dependent with getting to work becoming the biggest challenge of all.

Cities in particular like Melbourne are already becoming very dense from people moving to inner city suburbs to avoid commute times and cost of living pressures.

Within Melbourne's CBD there is one job for every local resident, but 20 kilometres or further from the city centre, there were about three jobs for every 10 local residents, according to Co-author Paul Donegan in his book City Limits: Why Australia's cities are broken and how we can fix them.

With time running short and putting a hold on future urban developments, Australia’s infrastructure and development leaders are looking for solutions to Australia’s congested cities.

Sydney is looking to clear pedestrian space for cars to help congestion after it was heard that the city is grinding to a halt with some of the worst traffic in the whole nation. Meanwhile busy cities like Paris are taking a different approach for their city’s historic centre, by following the footsteps of many European cities to move towards a more pedestrian friendly city centre where no cars are allowed.

Is the solution smaller pathways? Underground metros? What about scrapping cars altogether - a car free city solution?Places like Zurich in Switzerland have been uninhabited by cars since the 1990s, developing themselves into a world class transit metropolis. It was a 1996 decree where Zurich decided to cap the number of parking spaces before moving on to be completely car free, banning cars and severely limiting their number in the city. The use of bikes in Zurich has increased by six per cent, and the streets are inundated with restaurants and people. Zurich’s strategy is to monitor the number of cars entering the city with its 4,500 sensors occupying the city. There is never any significant traffic backup in the city itself because Zurich halts highways and main roads into the city until congestion is relieved where it reaches a level to accommodate enough cars comfortably. Zurich city works effectively with its 15-line tram system -- a magnificent landmark of the city, along with its network of comfortable commuter trains and buses.

Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires used to have 20 lanes of car traffic but since 1971, like Zurich has blocked cars from one of its 20-block street occupying more than 10 kilometres. The first South American city to decree that it would be for pedestrians only has More than 650,000 people now riding the MetroBus every day, cutting commutes in the city centre from 55 minutes to an incredible 18 minutes. The postcard image of this proud city is Avenida 9 de Julio Street.

Frieberg, Germany is regarded as of the greenest cities in the world with its car free streets. The city has maintained its pedestrianised presence progressively from 1971 onwards with its transport policy resting on public transport network, cycling, traffic restraint, channelling of motor traffic and parking space management.

The idea behind car free cities plan to provide a design which offers a higher quality of life with plenty of green spaces, where people can efficiently use city resources and fast transport.

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