Would you stop using your car? Do you know that by increasing the road capacity to reduce traffic jams would make the situation worse? This is an interesting story about a practical application of the “Braess Paradox”.
2009, The Netherlands. Some inhabitants of one Rotterdam’s neighbourhood receive a strange email: they have been watched while driving and are asked to stop. Is it a threat, blackmail, or phishing?
Absolutely not! The message comes for Rotterdam City Hall and the highway company that are allied to reduce traffic jams that have been polluting the cities day after day.
Wouldn’t it be easier to build bigger highways or built new ones?
Here comes the “Braess Paradox” . According to this theory, increasing the road capacity to reduce traffic jams would make the situation worse.
Actually, with a new road, people who had given up to the car before, would go back and use their car again. Moreover, those who were avoiding using the car during rush hours would drive again.
On the other hand, by eliminating roads, the journey time can be reduced, because some motorists will be inclined to stop using their car. This is the paradox.
Rotterdam City Hall tried also another thing: the positive toll, also known as the reverse toll.
What is it? If the citizens leave the car into their garage during rush hours, they will receive a small amount of money. Of course, they will receive also a device to control if they indeed have left the car into their garage.
It worked! In a couple of years, the volunteers who joined the programme and applied to that scheme increased, and traffic jams decreased. Also when people did not receive the money any longer, they kept up with their good habit.
The Netherlands is always far ahead of other European countries with their pollution reduction policies. In Amsterdam, when crossing the street, you have to be careful of bikes not cars!
I stopped using my car in Brussels because I found it was faster by subway than by car!
Would you stop using your car in exchange of some money? Or simply because you would do some good to the planet?
This is an edited version of an article published earlier on my blog crisbiecoach.
23 thoughts on “Would You Stop Using Your Car?”
The US works with sticks, not carrots. NYC has the congestion tax, that is, use the car to drive into certain parts of the city and pay extra. What they’re finding is people turning to Uber and Lyft to avoid the tax and congestion actually increasing. However, its a tax and other cities are looking to implement it.
Interesting, in London it’s like that as well!
Hm… I’m not much of a car driver myself, especially given the rate of traffic in Jakarta. Unfortunately lately, not even public transportation is as reliable as it once was. I’m much more of a motorcycle rider, so I think I would have to go on depending on the weather. On normal casual days, I switch between using public transportation and my own vehicle. If it’s raining and I can’t afford to be late, I would be forced to borrow my father’s car
People in Jakarta still prefer to use their own vehicles though, even if it means it would make them late since they (unknowingly) contribute in causing the traffic
It’s exactly like that!
I would love to be less reliant on my car but public transportation in my area is not very good. Development was not well- planned either- things are very spread out between our small city, the suburbs and the surrounding small towns. I favor policies like the one you described, that either encourage us or force us to pollute less and live more sustainably.
The Europeans are way ahead of the North Americans when it comes to cars, car policy, and thinking critically about cars. I actually hate what cars do to us. Of course, they contribute to environmental degradation, but they also mess us up psychologically:
Thanks for writing a piece that needed to be written.
I read your post, I don’t know why I couldn’t leave a comment there, so I reply here. Thanks, or because of,
Sorry, maybe there is something wrong with my iPad today…I was sayimg that thanks to or because of my RLS I walk a lot and when in a hurry I take public transportation, that in Brussels is very efficient (when they don’t go on strike…). I agree with what you wrote in your post about walking as opposite to driving. I feel more relaxed and calm generally speaking, besides the fact that it is doing very well to my legs, while my husband who loves driving, is more impatient and stressed, especially when he drives! Maybe to persuade our people, we would need to point our this aspect related to excessive stress. Many of us are so much stressed today that could find a solution in giving up driving!
…have been walking to the desired location for two decades. Jus waiting for sponsor¿ The savings went to mari; which is fuel for doing shit like walk everywhere.
Giving up my car would either mean someone had actually created an effective transit system or I would become an extremely localized entity.
Of course! When I lived in Denmark, all the citizens who didn’t own cars got 1000 DKK (a little over 100 euros) in their bank accounts. Even the foreigners! It was such a lovely surprise, and it definitely made me feel as if I was doing the right thing by using public transport!
Oh yes, also a friend of mine received it! And also there people ride a lot, I remember lines of bikes waiting for the green light !
I would love to do this but I physically cannot stop using my car. Have a farm full of animals to feed and no electric vehicle is capable of hauling a horse 🐎
Luckily I don’t have a car😂 but If I had circumstances will force me to ditch it here. Good blog post Cris
I would use my car I meant to say
As a Bus driver it would make my working day easier and busier.
Good old ‘induced demand’. Well known that with roads, if you build them, they will come (use them)…
What a great post, Cristiana. I love the setup and the questions you ask. In Seattle we are far behind the Netherlands but I love all the families that I see delivering their kids to school by bike these days. And often they use the bikes with the big bin in the front – which I believe was another Dutch invention/inspiration. Such an inspiring practice – and post!! Thank you.
Ah yes, I know what you mean! The big bin as you call it, we call “cargo” here in Brussels!
Driving is not the pleasure that it used to be. I’m happy to stop driving now, given my life stage and situation.
I can’t stop using my car, I live in my car. But I stopped using an apartment. I try not to travel to far each day, I just move along rivers and lakes, go hiking for about 10 km in one direction, turn and return to my car, and the next day I go to where I turned the day before and start hiking there. Have a great day 🍀
I lived car free in Chicago for four years and loved it! I live in Indy now and they are building new highways and such while the planet is suffering. The paradox is alive and well here I’m afraid.