GPushing cars out of cities has become an international focus. But city administrations, planners and citizens still do not have a clear, evidence-based answer to the question: what helps to reduce car traffic in cities?
We’ve looked through nearly 800 peer-reviewed reports and case studies from across Europe published since 2010 and used real-world data to rank the 12 most effective policies European cities have put in place.
The ranking reflects cities’ achievements not only in terms of measurable reductions in car use, but also in achieving improved quality of life and sustainable mobility for their residents.
Our study, conducted at Lund University’s Center for Sustainability Studies and published in Transport policy case studiesnotes that more than 75% of urban innovations that have successfully reduced car use have been led by a local city government – particularly those that have proven to be most effective, such as B. a congestion fee, parking and traffic controls and traffic-calmed zones.
Tight guidelines don’t seem to be effective – there’s no magic bullet. The most successful cities tend to combine a few different policy tools, including both carrots, which encourage more sustainable travel options, and sticks, which impose or limit fees for driving and parking.
The research is clear: to improve health outcomes, meet climate goals, and create more livable cities, reducing car use should be an urgent priority. Nonetheless, many governments in the US and Europe continue to heavily subsidize driving through a combination of incentives such as subsidies for fossil fuel production, tax breaks for car commuting, and incentives for company cars that encourage driving over other modes of transport. In essence, such measures pay the polluters while they burden society at large with the social costs.
Ranking: 12 ways to reduce car use in cities
12. Apps for sustainable mobility
Unsurprisingly, cell phone technology is a growing aspect of car use reduction strategies. For example, the Italian city of Bologna has developed an app that allows individuals and teams of employees from participating companies to track their mobility. Participants competed to earn points for walking, cycling, and using public transit, with local businesses offering these app users rewards for meeting point goals.
There is a lot of interest in such a gamification of sustainable mobility – and at first glance the data from the Bologna app looks amazing. An impressive (73%) of users reported using their car “less”. However, unlike other studies that measure the number or distance of car journeys, it is not possible to calculate reductions in distance traveled or emissions from this data, so overall effectiveness is unclear. (Skipping a short drive and skipping a year of long commutes to work both count as driving less.)
11. Personalized Travel Itineraries
Many cities have experimented with personal travel analysis and plans for individual residents, including Marseille, France, Munich, Germany, Maastricht, Netherlands and San Sebastian, Spain. These programs – travel advice and planning for city dwellers to walk, bike or use (sometimes discounted) public transport – have achieved reductions of 6-12%. However, because they include all residents of a city, as opposed to smaller populations of, say, commuters to school or work, these approaches can still play a valuable role in reducing overall car use. (San Sebastián introduced the university and personalized travel planning in parallel, which likely helped reduce car use further than isolating the two.)
10. School Travel Planning
Two English cities – Brighton and Hove and Norwich – have used (and evaluated) the pure carrot measure of school travel planning: providing pupils and parents with travel advice, planning and events to encourage them to walk, cycle or carpool going to school with the provision of improved cycling infrastructure in cities. Norwich found that with this approach it was able to reduce the proportion of car use for school trips by 10.9%, while Brighton’s analysis found the impact was about half that.
9. Car sharing
Perhaps surprisingly, our analysis shows that carsharing is a somewhat divisive measure to reduce car use in cities. Such programs, where members can easily rent a vehicle nearby for a few hours, have shown promising results in Bremen, Germany, and Genoa, Italy, with each shared car replacing between 12 and 15 private vehicles. Their approach was to increase the number of shared cars and stations and integrate them with residential areas, public transport and cycling infrastructure. However, other studies point to the risk that carsharing may actually induce previously car-free residents to increase their car use, so we recommend further studies on how carsharing programs can be designed to truly reduce overall car use.
8. University mobility services
The Sicilian city of Catania took a pure carrot approach to their students. By offering a free public transit pass and providing shuttle service to campus, the city has reduced the percentage of students who drive to campus by car by 24%.
7. University Travel Planning
College travel programs combine the carrots of promoting public transit and active travel with the stick of on-campus parking management. The most successful example highlighted in our report was achieved by the University of Bristol, which reduced their employees’ car use by 27% while offering them improved cycling infrastructure and public transport discounts.
6. Travel planning at work
A major 2010 study looked at 20 cities across the UK and found that 18% of commuters switched from driving to other modes of transport when their companies implemented travel strategies and advice to encourage employees to stop driving, including companies -Shuttle buses, discounts on public transport and improved bicycle infrastructure and reduced parking. In another scheme, Norwich achieved nearly identical rates by adopting a comprehensive plan but without the public transport rebates. Interestingly, these carrot-and-stick efforts appear to have been more effective than Brighton and Hove’s pure carrot approach of providing plans and infrastructure such as
5. Parking Fees at Work
Another effective method is the introduction of parking fees in the workplace. For example, a large medical center in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam achieved a 20-25% reduction in employee car journeys through a program that charged employees for parking in front of their offices, while also allowing them the opportunity to “own” their parking space. to pay out”. Space and use public transport instead.
This system proved to be about three times more effective than a larger scheme in Nottingham in the UK, which levied a workplace parking fee on all employers in major cities with more than 10 car parks. Proceeds raised went towards support for the City of Midlands public transport network, including the upgrading of a tram line.
4. Mobility services for commuters
The most effective carrot-only measure identified in our review was a campaign to provide commuter mobility services in the Dutch city of Utrecht. The local government and private companies have worked together to provide employees with free public transport tickets, combined with a private shuttle bus connecting stations with workplaces. This program, promoted through a marketing and communications plan, achieved a 37% reduction in the proportion of commuters driving downtown.
3. Limited Traffic Zones
Rome, traditionally one of Europe’s most congested cities, has shifted the balance towards greater use of public transport by restricting car access to the city center at certain times of the day to only residents and those paying an annual fee. As a result, car traffic in the Italian capital has been reduced by 20% during restricted opening hours and by 10% even during unrestricted opening hours, when all cars can visit the center.
2. Parking and traffic controls
In some European cities, removing parking spaces and changing traffic routes has proven effective – in many cases, the space previously reserved for cars has been replaced by car-free streets, bike lanes and sidewalks. For example, Oslo’s replacement of parking lots with walkable, car-free streets and bike lanes has been found to have reduced car use by up to 19% in the center of the Norwegian capital.
1. Congestion Charges
Drivers have to pay to enter the city center, with the revenue generated being used for alternative sustainable modes of transport. London, an early pioneer of this strategy, has reduced traffic in the city center by a whopping 33% since the city’s first elected mayor, Ken Livingstone, introduced the charge in February 2003.
Other European cities have followed suit, adopting similar systems following surveys in Milan, Stockholm and Gothenburg – with Swedish cities varying their prices by day and time. But while congestion charging clearly leads to significant and sustained reductions in car use and traffic congestion, they alone cannot completely eliminate the problem of congestion, which persists while incentives and infrastructure for car use remain in place.