Reversing Car Dependency

The environment for urban living is degraded in many cities by individual motorised transport. Greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, noise, traffic injuries and congestion are just some of the ramifications. Congestion produces major economic, environmental and social costs. Overdependence on car travel leads to adverse health outcomes, social inequalities and oil dependence. The cost to society is too high to ignore, but is generally not reflected in prices for road use or land for roads and parking space, and is overlooked in land-use planning systems. Cars, roads and parking spaces use up a large amount of the scarce space in cities that could be used for other purposes that would be more beneficial to overall economic welfare. The combination of several policy distortions has encouraged overuse of cars from an economic perspective. These include planning practices that favour automobile travel over other modes, land-use development regulations that create automobile-dependent communities and prices that fail to reflect the external costs of travel, notably peak-period congestion costs. The impact of these policy distortions is cumulative and synergistic. These distortions exacerbate congestion, pollution and crash risks and impede accessibility, particularly for non-drivers, inflating consumer transportation costs for the population as a whole. The roundtable meeting convened by the International Transport Forum in Paris in December 2019 examined how the planning and fiscal frameworks established by governments determine the share of urban mobility that is dependent on private car use and what governments can do to support a shift away from car dependency. The objectives of the roundtable were to examine:  The main trends of car use and travel demand;

  1. Mechanisms to establish incentives for road space to be used efficiently;
  2. Road space reallocation to favour walking, cycling, public transport and other shared modes;
  3. Road pricing to manage growth of urban car traffic;
  4. The effects of parking pricing and parking availability on commute modal choice;
  5. Other transport-related pricing inefficiencies and hidden subsidies for car use.

The report is organised as follows: the first section looks at the effects of road space reallocation on car use and traffic. It reviews international experience with road space reallocation as a proactive strategy for managing traffic growth, the cases of Paris and Oslo are also examined. The section also considers the role of parking regulations and their influence on mode choice and urban form, based on evidence from Los Angeles. The second section discusses fiscal measures for managing urban traffic and correcting policy biases that favour automobile travel over more sustainable and affordable modes. This section discusses the example of Singapore, where road pricing has been applied since 1975 as part of a full set of integrated planning instruments to manage car use and ownership. The third section explores how governments can balance the quality and affordability of public transport in order to encourage modal shift. The final section examines the role of land-use policies for reducing over-reliance on private vehicles.

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