Christmas Day in most cities will be serene, free of weekday traffic jams as workers enjoy a Thursday that is free of normal routines. Many commuters wish that the free-flowing driving could last all year long. Traffic congestion wastes drivers’ time and gasoline, pollutes, reduces employment, and pushes businesses and shoppers away from cities.
There is hope. New global positioning system technology and congestion pricing can reduce traffic jams. In mid-January, 10,000 transportation professionals, including people from the incoming Obama administration, will convene in Washington D.C. at meetings of the Transportation Research Board, part of the National Academy of Sciences, to discuss solutions.
Road use varies with time of day. Time-of-day pricing can encourage drivers to shift non-essential trips to less busy hours, and eliminate some trips altogether.
London’s system of road pricing, with cars charged $16 to enter the center, is held up as a model for other cities. But its main flaw is that drivers pay flat fees, and are not charged by miles driven or by routes taken.