The most effective ways to reduce car traffic

Credit: Lund University

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden have identified the top 12 ways European cities have been able to reduce car use and published their findings in Transport Policy Case Studies. The most effective measure has been the application of a congestion charge, with the notable case of London, where urban traffic fell by 33% following the change. According to the study, most of the success stories involved both ‘carrots’ to encourage sustainable mobility and ‘sticks’ to limit cars.

“Transport is a major source of climate pollution in Europe, and these emissions are not really decreasing. Current policies heavily subsidize the use and parking of private cars, hiding the true costs of driving to society. The mission of the recently launched EU aims to have 100 “neutral cities in Europe by 2030. This will be almost impossible to achieve without reducing car traffic. To make progress, we need to know the most effective ways to free cities from excessive car domination,” says Kimberly Nicholas, a researcher at Lund University.

The study quantifies the extent to which 12 measures reduce car use, drawing on real-world experience in cities across Europe. Nicholas and Paula Kuss reviewed nearly 800 peer-reviewed studies and case studies to uncover these twelve measures.

“We haven’t found a silver bullet: successful cities have combined a few different policy instruments, in particular pricing or restricting driving and parking, combined with investments in public and active transportation infrastructure like bike paths,” says Kimberly Nicholas.

Particularly effective measures include a congestion charge, which cities such as London, Milan, Stockholm and Gothenburg have used to reduce traffic throughout the city center by 12-33%. Oslo’s replacement of parking spaces with pedestrianized streets and pedestrian cycle lanes, and Rome’s restriction on cars entering the city center, with fines for violations used to fund public transport, have both reduced the automobile traffic by about 10 to 20%. The measures are described in more detail in a feature article in The Conversation.

Around 75% of the initiatives were led by local municipal authorities, often in collaboration with local businesses or local public transport providers and civil society.

The most effective ways to reduce car traffic

Collaborations between cities, employers and universities could also play an important role in reducing traffic. Utrecht reduced the share of commuters traveling by car by 37% by providing mobility services, including a free public transport pass for employees and workplace shuttles. Bristol in the UK and Catania in Italy have both reduced car journeys to university by 24-27% with staff travel planning to use carpooling, walking, cycling or public transport, or mobility services to provide free public transport to students respectively.

“Our results show that there are already European cities that are successfully reducing car use and improving the quality of life and sustainable mobility of residents. With this analysis, we hope that other cities can learn learnings from these successes and implementing them,” concludes Kimberly Nicholas.

If we all choose the fastest mode of travel in a city, the whole city becomes slower and more crowded

More information:
Paula Kuss et al, A Dozen Effective Interventions to Reduce Car Use in European Cities: Lessons from a Meta-Analysis and Transition Management, Transport Policy Case Studies (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cstp.2022.02.001

Provided by Lund University

Quote: The Most Effective Ways to Reduce Car Traffic (April 25, 2022) Retrieved April 25, 2022 from

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