Friday, August 28, 2009

A solution to congestion (you're not going to like it)

There is a solution to all that congestion. It's going to cost you find out what it is. From Traffic, (148):

Parking may be part of the problem of urban traffic congestion. Cars spend 95 percent of their time parked. One survey found that a third of cards entering lower Manhattan were headed to free or subsidized parking spots. If those spots were not free or subsidized, there would be fewer drivers during the morning rush hour. Ironically, near the Department of Transportation itself, the streets are filled with DOT vehicles bearing special parking permits.
When the city of Copenhagen was looking to reduce the number of cars entering the central city in favor of bicycles and other modes of transportation, it had a very crafty strategy: Get rid of parking, but without anyone noticing. From 1994 to 2005, Copenhagen cut parking spaces in the city center from 14,000 to 11,500, replacing the spaces with things like parks and bicycle lanes. Over that same time, not accidentally, bicycle traffic rose by some 40 percent - a third of people commuting to work now go by bike.

Much of the time when you are driving down congested downtown streets, many of the cars are looking for parking. Garages are around five times more expensive than street parking; therefore, many people cruise around causing congestion looking for cheaper spaces.

When Donald Shoup and his researchers tracked cars looking for parking near UCLA (they rode bikes, so other cars would not think they were looking for parking and throw off the results), they found that on an average day cars in one fifteen-block section drove some 3,600 miles - more than the width of the entire country - searching for a spot. One car stopped on a two-lane street creates a bottleneck that cuts traffic capacity in half.
Shoup's solution - charge more for parking on the street. Then people will use the garages rather than getting in my way. I like the idea most of the time - except when I am going to eat at Lulu's downtown and only want to park for an hour. Then I am one of those annoying people slowing everyone down, waiting for cars to move, and backing into a spot.

Here is a better solution - let everyone work from home at least two days a week. Stop making "time sitting at a desk" a performance review; start making results as what really counts. People can make results happen from all over the place, and often results happen the least in the cube. But more ranting on that later.

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