How Cities Are Responding to Automobile Congestion

As economies begin to reopen around the world, some cities are taking action to prevent widespread gridlock.

2 minute read

June 29, 2020, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Thailand

Rush hour in Bangkok. | TZIDO SUN / Shutterstock

"As coronavirus lockdowns loosen around the world, city leaders are scrambling to address a new problem: the prospect of gridlock worse than before the pandemic," write Somini Sengupta and Brad Plumer. "From Shenzhen to Milan to Austin, officials are trying to coax people back onto buses and subways and reclaim road space for cyclists and pedestrians."

The consequences of fewer people riding transit or riding bikes will be bad for congestion, pollution, and injuries and fatalities caused by collisions, according to the article. But many cities are struggling to mitigate the oncoming traffic.

More than 30 large cities coming out of lockdown, including Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Oslo and Geneva, recorded more congestion on their roads in mid-June compared with the same period last year, according to data from TomTom, a navigation company. Other early evidence suggests that driving is increasing faster than public transit use as people step out of confinement and move around again.

The article surveys the globes for some of the transportation planning responses to the growth in automobile travel as public transit struggles, including the examples of Bogotá, London, Seoul, Beijing, and Austin. Here are the details on Austin's efforts:

In Austin, Tex., the city has expanded its system of public shuttles that can be reserved through a mobile app by riders who aren’t well served by existing bus lines. Officials are also drawing up plans to better integrate existing bus and rail lines with the city’s bike-share system by offering unified ticketing and apps. They also plan to eventually replace the city’s 1,000 shared bikes with electric versions that make travel easier in the sweltering Texas heat.

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