By Ken Philmus, Senior Vice President, Conduent Transportation Services

For city managers, mayors and other elected officials, it is obvious that automotive congestion reduction is an important goal. But too often not asked: Why and to what end?

Reducing vehicular and freight traffic is important, as it allows for better planning and mobility of residents and workers. But it’s a means to an end. This alone won’t go far enough toward reaching the end goal of a “people-centered” urban landscape.

Municipal leaders are recognizing that reducing traffic congestion is a quality of life issue – part of a total package of looking at planning differently to increase the desirability of city living and build an “alternatives-to-cars” lifestyle. Public transit is, of course, the first requirement, and it must be fully available, convenient and reasonably priced.

But even transit must be seen as part of a multi-modal interconnected system that moves people and freight most efficiently and affordably, and addresses factors such as walking, bicycling and more In broadening the definition of mobility away from the car, leaders can transform the view of their particular city as a place where people want to live and work, and one that about safety, demonstrating equitability, sustainability, air quality management and an overall improved sense of health and “happiness.”

So what are some cities doing to attain that elusive goal of livability?

Across the world, there are standouts:

  • Portland, Oregon decided in the early 1970s to make conscious planning decisions to encourage a culture of walking, cycling and public transport resulting in many miles of new bikeways.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark is already known as bike-friendly but has implemented ways of encouraging even more pedal power. The city has focused on making it easier for residents and workers to bicycle while still utilizing rail transit.
  • Bogota, Colombia has implemented dedicated BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) routes that take both cars and buses off of very congested streets and added 200 kilometers of bicycle paths and other bike-friendly initiatives.
  • New York City realized that car congestion ground the city to a literal halt – discouraging pedestrians and cyclists from moving freely and enjoying their city.
  • Amsterdam responded to a surge in vehicle-related deaths by introducing a network of “shared-space” streets where vehicle traffic is deprioritized.
  • Singapore has maintained a tight focus on sustainability and livability since the 1950s. Measures include a congestion charge for vehicles entering the city, and building 230 kilometers of walkways and cycle paths, including 210 kilometers m of “park connectors.”
  • Leipzig, Germany pioneered a “sharing economy” for transportation with innovative bike-share and car-share schemes, to keep up with booming growth.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which cities are thinking and acting differently. These leaders are looking at automotive congestion as one part of a quality of life program.

Car congestion relief isn’t the Holy Grail – livability is. Sustainable growth, a better economy and a healthier population are the ends we should all aspire to.

To learn more about city innovations in mobility, read the full eBook: Sharing the City.

This post originally appeared on Tolling Points, the blog of The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA.)

Come see Conduent at IBTTA’s 85th Annual Meeting and Exhibition Sept. 10-12. Enjoy a cup of coffee while learning more about our vehicle passenger detection system and back-office capabilities. We look forward to seeing you there!