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Traffic jams - what's the answer?

People need to be inventive personally, to take the initiative rather than thoughtlessly blaming the government for inadequate public transport.
Chris Harrison, UK

Nobody wants to live in some 19th century public transport hell. Facilitate the car properly like the Americans do. There's no freedom in a rainy bus queue.
Paul Williams, UK

Just two of the comments Talking Point received - read more below.

Background ¦ Your reaction

The Background:

It's 9am and you're late for an important meeting, but you're stuck in a traffic jam the length of the Great Wall of China - isn't it time somebody came up with a sensible solution?

Exactly one year after the UK's deputy prime minister promised an end to the nightmare of traffic congestion, the situation does not seem to have improved.

John Prescott's "integrated transport policy" sought to ensure that different forms of public transport worked together, encouraging people out of their cars.

However, it is looking unlikely that any of Mr Prescott's major proposals, including the setting up of a Strategic Rail Authority, will be realised this year.

What would you do to improve the situation?

Cities across the world are clogged with the same frustrating queues of traffic. Officials in Tokyo have decided that a traffic jam tax might just do the trick.

In a city where it can take 30 minutes to travel one mile, officials hope a tax will keep drivers away from routes prone to gridlock.

A similar scheme is being tested in Leeds, in the UK. But motorists' groups protest that drivers are being taxed enough as it is.

More bus lanes, better public transport or simply using some pedal power - what do you think can be done to make life on the road run smoothly? Would you be willing to change the way you travel?

Background ¦ Your reaction

Your Reaction:

Reading the comments here has confirmed what I've been saying for ages: the car (and the TV) has turned us into a nation of lazy people unwilling to walk or cycle for five minutes. Look at the figures: most journeys are within easy cycling distance and many can be walked, and where serious congestion or parking problems exist these modes can be faster than driving. The benefit to public health would also save the nation a fortune in NHS costs.
Paul Williams suggestion that we "facilitate" the car like the Americans do is pathetically naive - just how do you expect to provide 10 square metres of space for each person in streets that were built hundreds of years ago? Maybe a resident of more recently-built LA can tell you? I think not.
Neil, Scotland

I am from Barcelona, where though public transport is far from perfect, it is abundant and LESS than 1/2 of what one pays for an underground ticket in London. In fact, when visiting the UK was cheaper to rent a car? Something wrong here...
Alberto Damasco, Spain

For cities like London, a toll system, not unlike a DartTag (one way of paying for using the Dartford crossing) could be implemented. The toll zone could be designated and at the limits gantries, which can be doubled up as traffic and camera consoles could also have the tag reading equipment. Tolls could be levied at peak times with special considerations for disabled drivers, buses and registered black cabs. Spot checks could be made within the city zone itself to see if the tag is clearly displayed and see if the information held on the chip matches that of the driver. Payment could be made at the Post Office using the tag as a smart card.
Hazel, UK

The cycling lobby is claiming that more cycle lanes and bike friendly policies are the answer. However, while *they* may well enjoy cycling as a hobby and means of getting fit, how many (e.g.) older people, parents with small children or business people who need to be smart at work, want to get from A to B in the rain, snow or hail on a bike? And end up scruffy and sweaty in the process? I'd guess most people wouldn't, me for one. Cycling is not the answer, and neither is taxing the motorist off the roads as the current Government is doing.
No, the only way encourage Public Transport use and discourage car use is to make PT safer, less crowded, cleaner, more reliable, more convenient, more frequent and above all a lot cheaper than it currently is.
Caroline, UK

I think that they should limit the amount of cars to a family and if that doesn't work, why not carpet the roads?
Tony Perren, England

I have never read such garbage as some of the submissions to this feature. In Britain, we have the highest fuel prices in the world, the most expensive cars in the world, we pay a fortune in road tax, and STILL the Greens are not satisfied. If everyone in Britain stopped using their cars tomorrow, it wouldn't make the slightest difference to global warming. The real culprits are all those third world countries with little or no emissions regulation.
The polar ice caps will still melt whether I drive my car or not. As far as I am concerned, we in this over-taxed, greedy little country should pay about $1 a gallon of fuel and make our industry competitive again. The car is by far the most convenient way of travelling and I prefer that to sitting in a 20-year old, slow, soot belching, inconvenient, noisy bus. Leave the motorist alone!
Bill S, England

I like the American's suggestions of de-regulating the bus industry. It has been done already and it's part of the current problem!! The free market does not work for everything!
Simon Atkinson, UK

London could adopt Portland Oregan's policy of free bus rides within zones 1 and 2. Provide better out of town parking (safe and secure) and make the commuter trains clean and timely. What about opening all those old branch lines that BR closed in the 60's and 70's? That would be a start. The car manufacturers could lower their prices on new cars, while the gov't reduces the price of Super Unleaded as it's the cleanest fuel. This will encourage more people to replace their ageing cars...
Matthew, USA

My normal place of work is about 5 miles from home. I drive myself (no viable public transport) and hence travel 10 miles a day. I could take a taxi. It would have to drive to work and then somewhere else to pick up the next person. Same in the evening. It would probably drive about 15-20 miles to do what I do in 10 miles. Putting up car ownership costs to a point where taxi's are cheaper will only increase congestion - not reduce it. Public transport is only a solution where a large number of people want to travel to same place at the same time. Integration of the car and mass public transport is key.
Fred Rayers, UK

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) has always been a traffic jam city. Our government has taken some steps to decrease the traffic jam problem. Car pool has been the best so far..........decrease the fares on public transport, build more LRT ( LIGHT RAILWAY TRAIN ).
Edmund Loh, Malaysia

The government need to do something POSITIVE to encourage motorists, as far as possible, to use public transport, and therefore they need to make public transport better, more frequent, safe, cheaper and more accountable. Doing NEGATIVE things like making more roads, clobbering the motorist with mire taxes and penalties and restrictions, and road tolls is unhelpful, morally reprehensible because it hits the poorest the hardest, and all this is wrong.
Jon Gardner, England

The government has never listened to the motorist. But there is a need for radical solutions. Scrapping older cars should reduce some of the congestion caused by vehicles which are clearly not safe or ecological to be on the road. How many times has a traffic jam resulted in the breakdown of an older car. If the government enforced car manufacturers to charge the correct price on new cars, more people would buy new and second hand cars would be more reasonably priced allowing people to buy newer.
Mark Lisle, Ireland

If the government are serious about reducing traffic congestion, why do virtually all the measures they put in place seem to be deliberately engineered so as to increase congestion as much as possible?
Peter Hattingh, UK

It is not only public transport availability (not the case in UK as far as I could see). It is also having restrictions on parking places, fees for entering certain zones, certain places excluded from traffic and also having restrictions (or licensing) huge supermarkets built the American way. The last point seems to me very interesting since in fact not having a car and shops with essentials within reasonable walking distance means that the car will be the must. And how are you going to change this in such 'free market' economy as UK's or USA's ? Maybe the Dutch way is the answer. Not having too many of shopping malls and preserving in this way local shops + pro-bicycle polices + public transport + traffic jams + no parking places in town centres. This can actually force people to use alternatives.
Jacek A Wentand, PL

Perhaps some of us actually want to keep our cars. Who are the politicians to tell us what to do with our own country. We should have a referendum and if we decide then we keep cars!!!
Mike Scott, UK

"You move the nearest shop closer to me than a mile and a half, and I'll stop using the car to get a pint of milk"
So many people in this country seem to have an attitude problem towards use of the car - it's pathetic, actually, considering the hardships that people have to endure in the third world, that people have to use the car to travel 1.5 miles. That sort of distance can be covered on a bicycle in hardly more than 5 minutes - it can take much longer than that in a car, if there's traffic about! Either people have to grow up, or the government is going to have to force responsible behaviour upon us.
Simon Proven, England

One answer only: promote a good quality public transportation system. I mean, why do people use cars after all? Comfort, no waiting in lines (it is bad enough to wait in traffic jams, already), office to home direct service, air conditioning system, not being smashed inside the crowded buses, and so on! Solve these small problems and you'll have the major one solved as well!
Bruno Silva, Portugal

It's time car drivers faced up to the damage they are causing the planet, make them pay, esp. the yanks.
Peter, UK

Here in Germany, many people who complain about public transport, have never used them since they got their driving licence. They are just completely dependent on their cars. I have been using public transport to go to my work place and all the rest for last seven years. The public transport system is efficient and clean by any standard of the world. The system is integrated i.e. you can order a taxi while riding a underground train or ask the driver to contact your next bus connection. I think to a large extent, one has to go through an attitudinal change to appreciate the positive externalities of using public transport.
Tridiv Borah, Germany

Can't schools recognise the part they play in encouraging the reduction in wasted driving. Facilities such as 'pedestrian buses' (I think they are called) where 2 part-time supervisors collect a convoy of children on a certain route and escort them to school. This is the type of scheme that needs funding - virtually no infrastructure is required at all and large numbers of cars suddenly become surplus.
Chris Hill, UK

I think that the school run has a major part to play in traffic congestion. In my opinion children, where possible should be made to walk to school or take the bus as we had to. Walking particularly is a good form of exercise for them rather than be delivered door to door. I also agree that there should be more companies offering flexi hours. Some people or morning people, others night owls.
Karen, UK

A couple of ideas. One of the main sources of rural congestion in the mornings is parents driving there kids to school. Perhaps a solution could be found like improving school bus services or altering school start times to lay between 9: 30 to 10pm.
The other idea which I have seen in some towns in Italy is to pedestrianise large parts of the towns and cities restricting car access, but allowing Mopeds buses and goods vehicles for example.
Jon Harford, Belgium

We all know that traffic pollution is killing this planet. God gave us feet to walk on so let's all do that and get rid of the cars.
Annie-Rae Slicker, USA

You move the nearest shop closer to me than a mile and a half, and I'll stop using the car to get a pint of milk. The new estate on which I live has no shops or post boxes, and is served by only one bus route. If I were to try to take public transport to work, I would have to: walk half a mile to the bus stop; wait ten (average) minutes for a bus; travel into the centre of the town (half an hour); get another bus to the train station (ten minutes); get a train (45 minutes); take a bus to near my workplace (twenty minutes average), then walk ten minutes.
In other words, a journey that currently takes 45 minutes would take over two hours, and since I normally share my car with two other people public transport would be about ten times the cost as well. I think not. The city councils need to learn one or two facts about road use.
Sarah Blake, UK

Public transport WILL only be effective if it is integrated. I should be able to cycle to the railway station, place myself and the bike on the train and continue with my journey with no hassles. Too many times I have been treated as some sort of trouble maker and a nuisance when I try and take my bike on the train. I need my bike with me to save using taxis. Train fares are high enough without the additional cost of getting a taxi at either end of the journey. The alternative is to link the bus services and trains. How many times do you get to a train station then spend ages looking for the bus station which is on the other side of town or inadequate information to allow you to work out which bus you need.
Ian Brown, UK

80 years ago cars were slow, heavy and inefficient. Technology improved them. Electric cars are the solution to the problem. I would tax road users heavily for using petrol and diesel cars whilst giving concessions to electric users. Once the car manufacturers see there is a market improvements will follow and before long electric powered cars are the norm. More cars can use the roads due to less pollution.
Graham Porter, Wales

It occurred to me driving to work this morning how much lighter the traffic becomes when the schools begin to break up for holidays. Would not a sensible solution be to adopt a continental approach to school hours where they start at 8am. This would then push the problem back an hour in the morning and make everyone's day start a little better.
Simon Pank, UK

Whilst in Denmark a couple of years I spent most of my time there gawping at their transport system. It is wonderful. There are cycle lanes everywhere and the best thing is that the cyclist has the most right of way on the roads. These cycle lanes did not stop at junctions or traffic lights like they do in the UK, they carried straight on.
Woe be tide any pedestrian that found themselves in these cycle lanes. If they weren't shouted at by police they would certainly have found themselves in the way of a disgruntled cyclist complaining about his right of way. In two weeks I did not see one single traffic jam, funny that.
Matthew, UK

Motorway tolls will merely move the congestion, not remove it. The government should use some of the huge proceeds from road and fuel tax to improve transportation generally and public transport in particular. Many motorists (myself included) must travel long distances to work, along routes that are not adequately serviced by public transport. Taxing these motorists further will not make the problem go away, it will put them out of work!
Iain Campbell, UK

Spend money on public transport and cycle lanes, change the laws to give cyclists more protection. That way you can tempt people away from cars and onto alternatives. Here in the Netherlands cars are obliged to give way to cyclists when turning right at junctions and on round-a-bouts. The public transport system is reliable, clean and regular.
John Filder, The Netherlands

I hate busses, they are dirty, late, some of the drivers are extremely rude, sometimes they are early and you miss it, the bus shelters are disgusting; and they say " use public transport". If there was an easy answer I am sure it would have been found by now.
Annette Parsons, England

The solution is easy. Deregulate the taxi and bus services. Make starting a private bus and taxi service as easy as buying a vehicle and slapping a sticker on the windshield. Let competition drive down the price to the point that it's cheaper to take a private taxi or bus then it is to drive. It would also supply jobs for the underprivileged in the society.
Pete Bawden, USA

If we could get these annoying lorries off the roads, especially the motorways, that would be the answer. There were two lorries side by side, one trying to overtake the other without much success. They travelled like this for about a mile, obviously blocking the first two lanes and slowing all the traffic down. Have you seen the flow of a motorway when there are a small number of HGV's?
Ian Summers, England

A 100 mile car journey will cost me approximately £30 (including petrol, 1/365th insurance, 1/365th road tax) Add a passenger and the cost is halved. Add to this, the fact that I can listen to the music of my choice, smoke, and travel door to door, and I choose the timetable.
Public transport for the same journey on the other hand costs considerably more, smoking is almost completely banned, and does not offer me door to door convenience. Well, I can go without a cigarette for a couple of hours. I can even sacrifice my door to door comfort, but I will not sacrifice my money. Make public transport cheaper and more efficient, and I'll convert. Otherwise I'll stick to my car.
Zvonko, UK

I live in the 2nd largest settlement in East Cambridgeshire. We have no railway station (though we have a railway), are 3/4 of an hour from the nearest station by bus, an hour away from the next two largest cities by bus, 1/2 an hour from the nearest other town. Sounds awful doesn't it, and the cost is immense, the service every couple of hours, and all of these towns / cities / stations are within 15 miles (one as little as 6 miles) of my home. Can ANYONE suggest how I could stop using a car?
Dave Hitchman, England

If the main problem is people travelling in and out of work then why not reduce the need to travel for work. We hear about the new technology that allows office workers to work from anywhere, why not create incentives to get companies that can, use the technology so that people can work from home?
Colin Moore, Medway, UK

Cars should be banned in city centres, such as Manchester has done. Local councils or the government should fund projects such as Manchester's metrolink system to provide easy access to the city centre without large amounts of cars.
Leon Thomas, UK

What we need are more roads! It's absolute rubbish to suggest that building more roads does not reduce congestion. We have half the miles of road per car as France, for example and they're not disappearing in a sea of tarmac are they? The environmental argument against modern cars is bogus. Why is motor fuel tax 500% when the tax on heating fuel, which produces far more CO2 than motor transport, is only 5%? Prescott is attacking motorists purely out of class-envy.
Alex Roebuck, England

I would like to see the minimum age of owning a driving licence raised from 17 to 20. How many people of this age NEED to drive? (Other than an apparent desire to go round and round our city centres). The Driving Schools would be hit but the shortfall could be made up by doing random licence re-testing and Compulsory re-testing for anyone who loses their licence through an accumulation of points. This would also ensure that our driving skills are up to par. And what about banning for life anyone caught drunk driving?
Paul Bailey, UK

Cities were never designed for the motor car - even recently built ones. They must be designed in precincts linked by buses or light rail. The precincts must be environmentally attractive, pollution free and rich culturally. There must still be provision for the motor vehicle, but separated as far as practicable from pedestrian areas. The cost of achieving this will be immense, but needs to be provided for.
Dick Steele, Singapore

I think it is realistic to assume that the absolute number of vehicles in existence is unlikely to actually ever decrease. Therefore, the only practical solution must be to have less of them on the roads at any one time. Why not, therefore, stagger work/school start and finish times according to some carefully co-ordinated rota scheme. Coupled with employers' greater acceptance of flexitime working, much present congestion might well be alleviated. This should also help create greater capacity for improved public transport for people who don't/can't use private transport, and cyclists might be encouraged back onto the roads in greater numbers.
Steve, UK

Public transport is a solution that does not suit everybody and therefore it cannot be the only solution. Moreover, it is not cost-effective and railways especially require vast investment in infrastructure. Inland waterways, in some areas, may be usable for transporting goods. But for commuter traffic, which is what causes traffic jams, the solution is staring us in the face: the 125cc motorcycle. It is economical, more environmentally friendly than a car driven by only one person, and takes up much less space. It is, nowadays, reliable and relatively safe. It has the advantage, in many European countries, that it can be ridden with a motor car driving license, and would sell in greater numbers if it were exempted from sales tax.
Peter, Netherlands

The solution to the transport problem is staring us in the face. Have we forgotten that we have a perfectly good system of waterways in this country? We need to persuade those moving their goods to use this valuable resource. We could also get commuters to travel by river boat, it surely couldn't be any slower than our clogged roads and might even prove faster!
Steve Tiffey, UK

John Prescott's Integrated Transport System SOUNDS good but, if you look behind the snappy title, you see that it really just means taxing motorists harder than ever before.
Helen Emroyd, UK

Easy - keep a running balance of cars that are manufactured against the cars that go to the knackers yard. Then, just add lanes accordingly to each road accordingly. This way the traffic solution will be solved. Of course the environmentalists might be a bit against it and of course there would be nowhere to go for a country walk or even anywhere to live, but hey, thats the price of no congestion.
Peter Brophy, USA (Uk ex pat)

The main problem is the amount of vehicles on the road. Perhaps we should limit the number of vehicles and even go as far as permitting two cars per family. Limiting the number of vehicles could be done by having a permit to own a vehicle. If you are banned from driving, give up driving, etc. then you lose the permit to someone who is waiting for one, such as new driver. Everyone needs, loves their cars...taxing them is NOT the answer.
Marcus, UK

How can the government expect us to leave the car at home, when the public transport system in this country is so unreliable. When you are in business, you need to be able to get from A to B in the fastest possible time and at a time that is convenient to your business. The bottom line is that the jams are here to stay whatever the government says or does.
Bridget Simmonds, UK

Granting Tax relief on rail season tickets might encourage commuters to 'let the train take the strain'? Personally it would take a substantial increase in the cost of running my car (or a substantial decrease in costs of public transport) to force me out of using the convenience and air-conditioned comfort of my car. Public transport does not pick me up outside my front door, and deliver me direct to my destination. People that suggest you should live nearer to work may be right in principle, however, working in London and living in Kent the extra cost of transport is more than paid for by the mortgage savings of relative cheap housing. I personally believe the answer is to ensure car manufacturers produce smaller zero emission vehicles, and not to force us all into dirty polluting buses. Cars are not the evil they are made out to be.
Lynton, UK

I think there are many ways of getting people out of their cars and onto public transport, both sticks and carrots. What is lacking is the political will to implement anything that is more that merely cosmetic. A few suggestions: clean, frequent, reliable, and free public transport. Banning cars from central London (e.g. zone 1 of the underground + provision of free public transport). Charging the actual cost of private cars to the owners/users, including the extra deaths due to respiratory illnesses etc. and the polluting effects at local and global levels. Improving the inner cities so that people do not feel that they must live outside and therefore have to commute long distances. In the case of the UK there is also a massive job to be done in changing people's attitudes. 17 years of Thatcherism and a very laissez-faire transport policy have left a legacy of selfishness and short-termism which will be very difficult to change. The task is not made any easier by the rather luke-warm approach of the current government.
Claus Christiansen, UK

It is not a solution to make the conditions harder for motorists only. Instead (or additionally) city planners must encourage the use of the bicycle and the public transport with positive measures. I.e., safe cycle ways and a cheap and sufficient bus and railway system. For short distances the bicycle is the best solution, offering similar personal freedom as the car with less need for space and no environmental damage.
Christoph Schmidt, UK (Germany)

My personal view is that we should stop using cars , instead produce fast and comfortable train systems like the Mexican metro (underground) and external electric public transport with perfectly planned schedules. Stop producing cars they are the source of a lot of pollution, noise and selfishness like someone said.
Jos_icol_Segura M_ez, Mexico

What would help is transport ministers who actually accepted what the problem was - too many cars - and then honestly set out what they were trying to do, which should be reducing the number of them. Unfortunately all the waffle we hear about "reducing dependency on cars" and increasing choice hides what we should really be aiming at - which is less of them. Anyone on my road who thinks we should simply cater for more cars ought to be prepared to demolish some of the houses on our street - because otherwise there will simply be nowhere to park the extra cars. The road is clearly full already. If demolishing homes seems too radical, then lets face reality and curb the numbers on the street.
Martyn Williams, UK

I have a vested interest. I work on the railways. I am 27 and can't drive. I run or cycle everywhere because public transport is dire and slow. A 45-minute bus ride into the centre of Birmingham becomes a 10 minute cycle. However there is a very large criticism that can be made of the railways that Prescott is going to be unable to solve. Railtrack is not concerned with travel. It is a property company. That is where it makes its money. Not on the railway. Railtrack quote huge numbers when they talk about investment. This money does not go onto the track where it cuts delays and increases safety, but into stations where it impresses the punters.
Denis Oakley, UK

The Government will never want us to get out of our cars - think about it, £35 Billion is raised through the humble motorist alone! - The country can't afford us to get out of our cars! - If the problem is an environmental one, then we must invent 100% clean cars, not half solving the problem by pushing everyone on to dirty busses. Just for the record, buses are NOT cleaner than cars. 1 bus gives out the same amount of Asthma irritant particles as 128 cars!
Bill, UK

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