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Addressing Traffic Congestion in London through a Rapid Transit System

Introduction

Like any other large city in the world, London experiences traffic headaches. This can be attributed to several factors including a rapid increase in population, inadequate road infrastructure and most importantly the quick growth in the number of cars accessing the city. Though the government has made efforts to control the problems that result from this increase, none of the strategies has been satisfactory in terms of congestion elimination in most of the city`s busiest streets. Some of the ongoing efforts have included the increase of lanes leading to and from the city, creation of new overpasses and underpasses, more roundabouts but all these have had little impact on public transport in the city (Quddus, 2008). It is only by improving the accessibility, efficiency, and reliability of public transport in London that can best serve to reduce the use of cars and other private means in the city. This is because the presence of a comfortable and reliable public transport will tend to directly encourage the use of public transport to access the city which is a critical factor in the reduction of the traffic congestion problem that presently affects parts of London.

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As such, the primary objective of this proposal is to bring a transformation in London`s public transport by introducing a rapid transit system (RTS) in the city. This proves to be the most appropriate solution to public transport problems as viewed an approach of constructability, mobility, urban regeneration, economic development, and city building. The construction of a BRT system in London will be the most cost effective solution and investment with a large capability to meet the city`s public transport needs while providing significant benefits in relation to economic growth, environmental improvement, social enhancement, and city building. The BRT system will be designed in such a way that it will include separate lanes for the buses, available bus stations as well as attractive modern bus technology. The interesting feature of the modern buses that will be installed in London will encourage people to abandon the use of taxis and private cars to enjoy the BRT infrastructure, mobility benefits and same travel times.

London

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London is the capital city of England, and it is United Kingdom`s most populous city and the second in the EU (Sassen, 2001). The city stands on the River Thames in the south-east of Great Britain island (see figure 1). London serves as a major settlement and has an estimated area of 2.9km2. The city is ranked among the world`s best cities in terms of education, arts, entertainment, commerce, finance, tourism, and finance (Sassen, 2001). London is made up of diverse groups and cultures, and its estimated population, as of mid-2015, was 8,673,713 residents (Sassen, 2001).

Problem identification

Traffic congestion

Traffic congestion is one of the fundamental problems facing the city of London, particularly during the morning and evening peak hours, and severely affects the public transport (see figure 2). This phenomenon is relatively new as in the past decades; traffic congestion was not a major issue in the city at all (Graham, 2007). As a result of the city`s growing population over the years, an increase in the number of cars circulating in the city, and rapid physical development, the problem is worsening.

Additionally, the city has also experienced an increase in its economic and social activities. Despite the efforts by the city authorities and government to solve this problem by improving the capacity of roads; it seems that the approach used by these authorities fails to deliver the desired results, of traffic congestion, completely.

Inadequate parking

Many residents in London have expressed their concern over the parking problems in the city. However, though the megapolis` sheer size is to blame for this problem, to a larger extent, the concentration of cars in the city is to blame. According to Hagman (2016), the parking problems in London have led to the development of a general rule that travelling in and around London is best when one is not driving themselves. Consequently, the parking problem has resulted in many people in London using a car renting system commonly known as “park and ride” that allows one to rent a car while in the city. Hagman (2016) adds that the available parking space provided by the National Car Park (NCP), a profit-oriented business, requires customers to pay heavily for parking services. Despite the fact that disabled drivers are given some parking privileges, they have to display their badges, and the misuse of these badges leads to penalties (Hagman, 2016). This shows that the parking problem is an issue that requires attention and the most suitable way is to reduce the number of cars having access to the busy city.

Air pollution

According to Davis (2017), London has been involved in a breach of its annual air pollution limits just months into 2017. Figure 3 below illustrates air pollution by traffic in Brompton Road, London. Much of the NO2 pollution has been linked to the presence of many diesel vehicles in London and research has found this to cause about 5,900 early deaths of London residents annually (Davis, 2017). London`s mayor, Sadiq Khan is quoted pledging new measures to curb the air pollution problem while doubling the funding to £875m over the past half-decade. The weight of the air pollution issue is further made apparent by Alan Andrews, a London-based lawyer who went to court to sue the government for the severity of air pollution in the city (Davis, 2017). Additionally, according to Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph`s science editor (2017), The British Lung Foundation has called for more action to clean up the air London and proposed the banning of diesel cars into the city. Given the significant contribution that emissions from cars have to the entire town`s air pollution, a better strategy is required that will ensure a minimum number of vehicles is present in the city.

BRT proposal

In order to solve the problems of traffic congestion, Inadequate parking and the severe air pollution in London, the construction of a rapid bus transit system is proposed. Some of the features that the BRT will have include large passenger capacity; which is a huge boost to the public transport sector, higher speed as well as frequency. Besides, the new system will enhance flexibility and cost savings for the London people. All these will be made possible by the presence of distinctive elements in the proposed BRT. These features include dedicated lanes, enhanced stations, specialised vehicles, branding elements and intelligent transport systems (ITS). The reason why a BRT system is the best for London is its ability to solve some of the current issues that face the city, from traffic congestion to air pollution. Also, the proposed project will have a reasonable and affordable cost compared to previous infrastructural projects that have been carried out in the city but finally fail to meet the needs of the city to a satisfactory level. The BRT will provide the necessary structure to efficiently and effectively contain the demand for public transport in the city while significantly growing the targets set out for London`s vision 2030 transportation master plan (Dawood et al., 2008). The completion of the BRT system in London will bring about a number of benefits to the city. Some of these advantages will be travel time performance reduction, increased public transport passenger capacity while also providing quality service to the transit travellers and city residents at large. The implementation of a BRT system is likely to be a huge success for the public transport in London as it has been successfully implemented in other large cities across the world where public transport had been a challenge, in addition to the normal problems of traffic congestion, parking problems and air pollution that are experienced in such cities.

Success cases of BRT system

Case 1: Health Line Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland is a major city in the United States and is the second county in the US in terms of population. The county has an estimated population of 388,072 according to the 2015 population statistics (Hook, 2013). In 2005, plans to have a BRT route began and was named the Health Line (Hook, 2013). The BRT plan was implemented in 2008 along a vital business corridor in Cleveland, Euclid Avenue. The Health Line served to replace a bus line system that had an average of 15000-18000 riders a day. Since the Health Line implementation, there has been an increase in ridership in the city. The BRT route runs over 6.8 miles (see figure 4) and has eight stops over, and the services are available 24hrs/day. The frequencies range from every 5 minutes to every 30 minutes and are dependent on the time of the day.

The Health Line has three goals namely; improving transit system efficiency, promoting long-term community and economic development as well as enhancing the quality of life along Euclid Corridor (Pessaro & Van Nostrand, 2011). These goals have been met successfully by correcting the roadway conditions in terms of traffic flow and efficiency. The previously used route had severe traffic congestion problems which had to be addressed leading to the introduction of the Health Line. The new system was also implemented after considering its lower cost and higher reliability for the city residents (Davis, 2013). Other factors that were taken into account before its construction include environmental impacts, ridership forecast, capital costs, maintenance costs, financial feasibility and operating expenses. The BRT system in Cleveland has a number of funding sources such as the State of Ohio, Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, City of Cleveland and NOACA (Hook, 2013). Moreover, public participation played a key role in the implementation of the Health line.

Case 2: Busways Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh is a city in the United States with a population of 304,391. The BRT in Pittsburgh, commonly known as “busways” run for about 18.4 miles (see figure 5 below).

The BRT in Pittsburgh has features such as the bus rapid transit features; including dedicated lanes and signal prioritisation, parking and fixed fares (Perk & Catala, 2009). Some of the funding sources for this system include the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), U.S Department of Transportation (DOT), the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Allegheny County. There are also other cities that have implemented BRT systems and include Las Vegas, USA; Quito, Ecuador and Mexico City, Mexico (see figures 6,7 & 8 respectively) among many others (Levinson et al., 2013).

BRT in London

As demonstrated in the above cases, BRT systems have proved useful in the cities where they have been implemented. The cities have benefited from the highly effective services provided by the systems while also taking care of other environmental and economic factors.

Scheme Description

The BRT system in London will give priority to the key elements of a modern BRT system such as separate running ways, transit signal, queue jump lanes and regulatory signs (Levinson et al., 2013). These are the key factors that enable a BRT system to operate safely at higher speeds while achieving service reliability.

Routes

Two courses will be provided for the BRT system. While one will run from north of London to the southern part of the city, the other route will operate along the east to west direction (see figure 9). This type of design will ensure that the scheme covers most parts of London and that a majority of the city residents can have easy access to the new service coming in town. The north/south route will have an approximate length of 12.5km while the east/west route will cover a distance of about 14 km. Bothe routes will sufficiently cover the central part of London which is the main area mostly affected by congestion due to the high number of cars operating in this area. The route that will run from north to south will use Wellington/Richmond corridors and the route running from east of the city to the western part of London will use Dundas/Oxford corridors. Thus corridors will serve as a backbone for the proposed BRT system.

The proposed system will also involve the enhancement of a few feeder services to support the BRT by ensuring proper accessibility of the new facility.

BRT Running ways

The buses that will operate in the BRT system will require separate running ways. As such, separation of these buses from the rest of the traffic is an essential to improving reliability, speed and cost of the system. The proposed routes will operate on three lanes as shown in figure 10 and 11 below.

The Traffic lanes will be for use by regular traffic while the Middle part of the road will be dedicated to the bus only.

Bus stations

The BRT system will have not less than 30 stations across London. However, this number is not fixed and may vary as the need for more stops are identified during the construction process. Some BRT services will make use of the existing bus stops in London as a way of reducing the project`s capital cost. The spacing will be approximately 0.75 miles apart to allow for competitive efficiency and operating speeds. The station placement will also take into consideration the points in the city that are major potential generators of trips such as employment and civic centres, highly populated residential areas, universities and colleges. However, before the assembling of any station, the safety conditions of the particular point and any physical constraints will be given special attention. To avoid creating further congestion along the routes, stations that fall at intersections will be constructed on the far side of the intersections. An example of a modern BRT station is as illustrated in figure 12.

Suggested improvement

The proposed scheme will bring about numerous improvements in London as highlighted below

  • Decongestion of the city hence increasing mobility of people and goods
  • Travel time reduction as the buses can travel at higher speeds in their separate lanes. Since the buses will be in lanes separate from the other traffic, it will be possible to travel safely at higher speeds implying that the amount of time that passengers will spend on the road will significantly reduce.
  • As a consequence of increased use of the new public transport, more people who previously preferred driving will leave their cars at home to enjoy the more convenient BRT system. A reduction in the number of vehicles accessing London will lead to more parking space within the city as well.
  • The implementation will encourage the use of public transport as the new system will introduce cheaper, convenient, safer and more reliable transportation for the city residents.
  • A reduced number of cars accessing the town also means a reduction in carbon emissions and hence a healthy city environment with cleaner air.

Impact of improvement

Economic impact: the construction of the BRT system will reduce the over-reliance on private vehicles such as taxi and private cars which contribute to traffic congestion in London. With reduced traffic congestion, more time is saved that can be used to carry out other economic activities hence generating more income for the city residents. Also, BRT will reduce fuel consumption and other costs such as private car maintenance. Being that London receives tourists, the implementation of efficient and better transport systems will boost tourism even more given that visitor movement will be facilitated in a better manner. Furthermore, the BRT system will reduce the need to spend on things like parking space in town or the penalties that come with breaking parking rules.

Social impact: The BRT system will lead to the sharing of buses hence will encourage and provide a platform for social interaction whereby people will have the opportunity to share with each other in a safe environment. Due to its organised nature, the new system will be of great benefit to the less disadvantaged in the society such as the elderly and disabled as they will not be subjected to hardships such as crowd congestion.

Environmental impact: The reduction in the number of cars operating in London results in a decrease in the levels of emitted carbon. The BRT infrastructure will provide the city`s pedestrians with a pavement which increases their safety. The increased safety aspect of the new public transport system will bring down the number of traffic accidents in the city by reducing crashes.

Health impact: Since the BRT system will minimise the amount of emissions that is currently released in London, it will provide a healthier environment for the residents. Moreover, the BRT system will encourage walking to and from the bus stations which contributes to more physical activity for the city residents hence reducing diseases and complications related to lack of physical exercises such as obesity and heart diseases. This is in comparison to other forms of transport such as private vehicles and taxis that would take someone to the door of their destination.

Cost of the scheme

The construction of the BRT will require proper strategies regarding the necessary capital funding and the available sources of funds. To calculate the total estimated capital cost for the project, the average cost per km will be calculated from the already established projects. This is depicted in Table 1 below.

As indicated in Table 1 above, the average cost of a BRT scheme per km is 12.16025 million dollars. Using this value to estimate the cost of London`s BRT system project and applying appropriate formula yields;

Total capital cost for proposed scheme= average cost per km × estimated length of route

Given that the estimated length of the routes is 12.5 km- For the north/south route and 14 km for the south/west route giving a total of 26.4km, then the total capital cost will be

12.16025× 26.4= $ 321.0306 million

Scheme funding

The BRT system project will require a significant funding commitment. As such, various bodies will be expected to participate in funding the project. The first source of funding will be the public money collected in the form of taxes by both governments through the city council. Other sources from the public sector that can be channeled to funding the project include special levies such as development contributions, public asset sales, and provisional grants. This will be a significant source of funding for the construction of a BRT system in the city. In fact, it will be the primary source of finance for the project where about 60% of the project funding will be from the council and government. However, the remaining 40% of the funding will be from additional sources such as public-private partnerships that will provide 5% of the BRT project. Also, due to the presence of adequate competition in the private sector, the tendering costs will be considerable. Thus, the money saved by tendering the private partner with the greatest skill at a favorable price will be used in the funding of other supplementary areas of the project. This type of financing is estimated to contribute about 3 % of the project`s cost.

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Another source of financing for this project will be contributions from the industry. This will include voluntary contributions and donations, by private individuals, to the improvement of the feeder network. This will raise about 1% of the project`s total cost. The remaining percentage of the project`s cost will be from other sources such as infrastructure loan fund and contributions from public bodies.

References

  • Davis, J., 2013. BRT: Transit Mode of Choice?. Planning, 79(5).
  • Davis, N., 2017. London on pollution high alert. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/23/london-pollution-high-alert-cold-air-traffic-wood-burning [Accessed 9 4 2017].
  • Dawood, N., Marasini, R. and Dean, J., 2008. 19 VR–Roadmap: A vision for 2030 in the built environment. Virtual Futures for Design, Construction and Procurement, p.261.
  • Glaister, S., 2017. Letter to the editor: Solve London`s parking problems. [Online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/01/24/air-pollution-london-passes-levels-beijingand-wood-burners-making/ [Accessed 9 4 2017].
  • Graham, D.J., 2007. Variable returns to agglomeration and the effect of road traffic congestion. Journal of Urban Economics, 62(1), pp.103-120.
  • Hagman, O., 2016. Morning queues and parking problems. On the broken promises of the automobile. Mobilities, 1(1), pp.63-74.
  • Hook, W., 2013. BRT Brings Cleveland Back to Health. Sustainable Transport, (24).
  • Knapton, S., 2017. Air pollution in London passes levels in Beijing. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/23/london-pollution-high-alert-cold-air-traffic-wood-burning [Accessed 9 4 2017].
  • Levinson, H., Zimmerman, S., Clinger, J., Rutherford, S., Smith, R.L., Cracknell, J. and Soberman, R., 2013. Bus rapid transit, volume 1: Case studies in Bus Rapid Transit.
  • Perk, V.A. and Catala, M., 2009. Land use impacts of bus rapid transit: effects of BRT station proximity on property values along the Pittsburgh Martin Luther King, Jr. East Busway (No. FTA-FL-26-7109.2009. 6).
  • Pessaro, B. and Van Nostrand, C., 2011. An evaluation of the cleveland healthline mechanical guide wheel (No. FL-26-7110-02).
  • Quddus, M.A., 2008. Modelling area-wide count outcomes with spatial correlation and heterogeneity: an analysis of London crash data. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 40(4), pp.1486-1497.
  • Sassen, S., 2001. The global city: New york, london, tokyo. Princeton University Press.

Appendix

Critical review

The proposal is expected to have a number of outcomes. Among these is the improvement of public transport in London which will ease the movement of people in the city. Another major outcome of this project will be the of traffic congestion in London. By reducing congestion in the city, the project will also save time and money for the people in London. Further, due to the safety measures that will be installed by the project, it will also make the city safer.

SWOT analysis

Strengths

Excellent partnership: One of the strengths of the project is the unique partnership while working with the various participants and authorities such as the Council and other government agencies.

Key skills availability: Another strength is the availability of strong engineering teams with the necessary education, skills, and experience to help in the construction and planning works. There is also readily available staff to audit and analyze the progress of the project. This will be essential to help in the detection of any financial misappropriation. Road safety engineers are also available and will be very helpful to ensure security throughout the project`s duration.

Support: The project also enjoys strong support due to the many benefits it has to the public transport sector and the city residents at large.

Size advantage: The city`s configuration and location play a critical role in making the project a success. This is because of the availability of space for the construction of the BRT system which is essential.

Weaknesses

Accidents: One of the weaknesses that the project has is the possibility of accidents occurring on roads and other construction sites during the project. This is because, despite the fact that the likelihood of an accident occurring can be reduced, its occurrence cannot be eliminated completely. If an accident occurs during construction works, it will imply more costs and loss of labour as well.

Opportunities

One of the opportunities is the possibility of using the European Union Funds. This will serve as a source of funds for the project which is a major priority in the implementation stage.

Another opportunity is achieving better public transport in the city of London: The project will make use of the opportunity to increase the safety standards of the city. This will lead to a decrease in the number of accidents resulting from congestion in the city.

Threats

Staff recruitment and retention: The project also has some risks that could make its implementation difficult. One of these threats is the recruitment and retention of skilled staff.

Bad economy: The presence of a bad economy will lead to financial problems which are a key factor in the project`s success. Inadequate resources and funding for the project would adversely challenge the implementation process.

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