The Issue of Traffic Congestion in Megapolises and Large Cities

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The United Nations (2019) state that over 50% of the worldwide population lived in cities in 2018 and it is projected that this figure will rise to almost 70% by 2050. Although well- managed urbanisation relies on government developments in economy, poverty reduction and population and quality of life, negative aspects include environment issues, inadequate transportation and infrastructures (United Nations, 2019). This essay will first discuss the importance of traffic congestion, then identify the relationship between urban living and congestion issues and finally evaluate high-quality bus rapid transit systems (BRT) as a possible solution to this problem.

The United Nations (2004) highlight that urban communities are characterised by a successful economy, employment, dwellings and habits that bring people to cities, as a result generating the demand for automobiles because of their benefits to comfort and convenience. The rise in motorised vehicles has driven to global traffic congestion and levels are worsening day by day (UN-Habitat, 2013). This problem is an increasingly important problem in urban areas. One of concerning issues relating to congestion is environmental pollution (UN, 2004). According to a report by UN-Habitat (2013), the growth of urban economies in megacities influences the increase in cars. This report also points out that the number of worldwide cars is projected to reach almost 1.6 billion by 2035, in China alone the approximate figure of private cars will rise to 350 million, and this is one cause of the rise in environmental pollution and CO2 emissions.

In addition, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (2009) points out that in 2007, the number of registered vehicles in Bangkok rose to over 5.5 million vehicles which contributed 38% of total GHG emission and released roughly 23 million tonnes of Carbon dioxide (CO2) from utilizing almost 9 million litres of fuel energy that was the major cause of Green House Gas emissions in Bangkok. This is also supported by the Arthur D. Little Institute and the International Association of Public Transport report (2014) which found that air and noise pollution and GHG emissions are increasing because the use of urban mobility has been growing significantly. They also highlight that by 2050, over 17% of the earth’s resources will be consumed by urban transportation. Furthermore, UN-Habitat (2011) demonstrates that the level of CO2 emissions per capita from urban transportation reached from 0.5 to 1.4 tonnes per person in 2006. Dora and Phillips (2000) maintain that road traffic is the major cause of air pollutants, in the 1990s, European cities experienced the high level of carbon monoxide (CO), contained 75% nitrogen oxides (Nox) and nearly 40% particulate matter (PM10) which contributing to harmful public health. It is clear that traffic congestion is an issue that leads to environmental pollution and effect on urban living.

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Another impact of congestion is quality of urban life. The majority of vulnerable of road users can face the high risk of death and injury and the global number of road traffic deaths and injuries on the road is set to rise approximately 65% from 2000 to 2020 (WHO, 2004). They also found that the number of people killed globally in car accidents, especially in the large cities, is estimated at almost 1.2 million each year. A survey in 2010 by IBM who interviewed over 8,000 motorists in 20 international cities across 6 regions, found that 30% of those interviewed reported increased stress from traffic, 27% reported increased anger, 29% reported that traffic interrupted their performance in work or school and 38% reported cancelled trips due to gridlock. IBM also continued this survey in 2011 which found that, for all the cities, the average of regular working journey is 1.2 miles that passengers spend about 33 minutes. They also reported that Mexico City, Beijing, Shenzhen and Nairobi routinely experienced delays of approximately 2 hours, and 45% of respondents in Moscow surprisingly faced congestion problems more than 3 hours. These situations affect quality life which involving both working and the life of urban people because of traffic congestion.

One solution to the traffic congestion problems in urban areas is to provide high quality bus rapid transport systems (BRT) which is increasingly important strategy for achieving more sustainable urban mobility and more than 160 worldwide cities are planning BRT investment (Cervero, 2003). According to a report by UN-Habitant (2013), BRT is a mode of public transportation providing faster, comfortable and practical urban transportation which can reduce private car usage, air pollution and GHG emissions This report also highlights that BRT operates on exclusive specific lanes in crowded city areas which included stations, services, information to unify system with strong points and the investment costs of BRT are 4-20 times lower than light rail and 10-100 times metro systems with similar standard of capacity and service. Furthermore, UN-Habitat (2013) states that BRT is an interestingly potential solution for dealing with traffic congestion. For example, in 2008, Lagos invested and provided a ‘BRT lite’ service for traveling in the city with a 22-kilometre route, 26 stations and 220 high quality buses. Their BRT systems designed to support 60,000 daily journeys, and supported 220,000 per day by 2010 as a result reducing 40% of travel time and 35% of waiting time and passengers experienced safe, clean and reliable transport. This is supported by the Institute for Transportation and Policy (2011), the Guangzhou BRT opened in 2010 with 22.5-kilometre route and supported about 805,000 daily trips thus reducing 29% of travel time for passengers and 20% for drivers and also significant effected on environment issues by decreasing 45,000 tonnes of CO2 in its first year of operation of which over 100,000 tonnes in 2015 that caused to contribute the global warm problem.

Although there have been several studies that suggest BRT can be a potential solution tackling traffic congestion, there may be also the limitation of this system. In some developing countries, BRT systems need to require suitable connectivity with other means of urban transportation (Suzuki, Cervero and Iuchi, 2013). According to a report by UN-Habitat (2013), passengers may pay extra fares and walk long distance to continue their journeys because of separated lines from different public transportation such as BRT systems in Bangkok, in Manila and in Quito, and this leads to a main difficulty for using BRT. Some mega cities have succeeded in public transport connectivity with the rest of the public transportation. The same report also suggests that there are 3 levels of transport integration which are physical integration allowing to transfer from one service to other services which coordinated timetables and frequencies, and fare integration involving discount for cost transfers. Therefore, appropriate integration between public transport systems need to develop the information systems for coordination services and providing suitable information for passengers. A recent report by Knupfer, Pokotilo and Woetzel (2018) states that Singapore has been one of top ten cities which providing the safest and most ecologically sustainable systems for public transportation and convenient and flexible ticketing systems such as 15 % discount on adult fares for low-income employees or free travel for students. As a result, 86% of their population were satisfied with overall situation in public transportation in 2018.

In conclusion, this essay has discussed that traffic congestion is an increasingly significant issue in worldwide countries and there are relevant relationships between urban living and traffic congestion problems. One possible solution is to provide high quality bus rapid transit systems, faster travel times, comfort and cost-effective urban transportation which reduce private car ownership, air pollution and GHG emissions. However, there are some issues to execute this solution, some studies and development could lead to high quality bus rapid transit systems dealing with traffic congestion problems effectively and benefit urban living.

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