It is a transformative time in transportation as new technologies become available.
People call rides from Uber and Lyft services.
Autonomous vehicles are being tested.
And technology and pricing can be used to better manage traffic.
“We are essentially at a tipping point where cities and towns are really more willing to rethink the way we have been getting around,” said Anne Brown, assistant professor of planning, public order and management at the University of Oregon.
Here is a look into the future:
Manage traffic better
Decades of research have shown communities cannot work their way out of congestion, Brown said.
Some commuters will choose to avoid crowded streets, use transit or an alternative route, or travel at a different time of the day when traffic is not as heavy.
However, if a congested freeway is widened, some of those commuters will switch back to the preferred route as it can handle more traffic, she said. The initial benefit quickly fades.
Going forward, transportation experts see pricing as a way to better manage traffic and manage the move away from the gas tax that has been the traditional source of road finance.
Tolls can help reduce congestion, increase revenue, and invest in transit, Brown said.
One method is to calculate a toll traffic jam. For example, the cost could be $ 5 for drivers traveling between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., $ 3 between 7 and 8 a.m., and $ 1 earlier in the morning.
The goal is to encourage commuters not to travel at the busiest time to make it faster for everyone, Brown said.
Hot lanes are another method. Motorists can pay a toll to use the faster lane instead of the free multi-purpose lane.
“The Hot Lane can actually move a lot more people per hour, even if it sometimes looks like they’re empty,” she said, adding that the vehicles travel at much higher speeds.
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Help for those who cannot afford a toll
Some people don’t travel by car because it is expensive to own. AAA appreciates that The average annual cost of owning and operating a vehicle is more than $ 9,500.
Research has shown that people of all income groups pay tolls, Brown said.
The money generated from the tolls can be used to subsidize costs for those who may be negatively affected, she said.
Southern California, for example, has a number of toll facilities and the money will be used to allow transit on the same corridor to provide an alternative for commuters.
The money can also be used to provide household tax credits.
It’s just not money that commuters pay. It is time too.
Commuters may use the multipurpose lanes, but they are late. It may be worthwhile for you to pay the toll to get to work on time or to pick up your child from daycare to avoid a late fee.
More transit options in suburbs and rural communities
In some cities like Philadelphia, buses, subways and taxis are the most efficient way to get people around, she said.
In suburbs and rural areas, traffic becomes expensive and passengers can’t expect to catch a bus every 10 to 15 minutes.
Some rural and suburban communities are using the latest technology and have contracts with Uber and Lyft to take passengers.
But this option also has disadvantages.
While a transit fee is cheaper and offers better service to passengers, it could exclude people who don’t have a bank account or smartphone to pay for it.
Wheelchair users also need barrier-free offers.
Transport companies have a lot to think about, but “it’s really interesting and a potentially promising solution for lower density communities,” she said.
The future of autonomous vehicles
Self-driving vehicles are still being tested and there is still a long way to go before the country sees full deployment, Brown said.
Technology needs to be used to support autonomous vehicles, and many cities haven’t planned it yet.
“It’s hard to plan proactively when you’re not really sure when it’s going to come or what it’s going to look like,” said Brown.
They will be expensive because of the technology required, and it is believed that the public will use them like a subscription-based service. It would be more of an Uber or Lyft service, but without a driver.
The subscription could include a certain number of trips per month or unlimited trips, she said.
Autonomous vehicles would offer greater mobility to a wide variety of people: young people, older adults and people with disabilities.
Considerations need to be taken into account, such as the price to use and what options are available to people who do not have smartphones or bank accounts.
“So there is still a lot to be done with these, but they have the potential to really change both our cities and the way we travel,” she said.
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