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How Intelligent Transportation Systems can reduce the environmental impact of traffic congestion

It’s no secret that extreme road congestion can have a negative impact on our environment.

In areas with severe traffic congestion, vehicles can’t function at their optimal performance, increasing fuel consumption and pollutant emissions. Implementation of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) should be considered in large cities and metropolitan regions to reduce traffic congestion and improve environmental quality.

One study determined vehicles are responsible for 25% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, 90% of the carbon oxide (CO) emissions, and 50% of the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions generated worldwide. The study also predicted vehicle CO2 emissions in developing countries will likely more than double by 2029.

Many countries have implemented strict legislation to help reduce the impact of vehicle emissions. The U.K.’s Climate Change Act enacted in 2008, set a target for England to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 34% lower than 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% lower than 1990 levels by 2050.

As traffic congestion grows, smarter transportation solutions can go a long way to help mitigate environmental impacts. Here are four tolling and parking strategies that Conduent Transportation recommends to reduce road congestion, along with the amount of harmful pollutants released into the air.

  1. Congestion Pricing Techniques

Congestion pricing (dynamic pricing) is an emerging demand-based tolling technique in which toll prices fluctuate based on the volume of traffic during peak travel periods or during other road congestion challenges. Toll pricing may vary on Express Toll lanes / High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, or on bridges or tunnels, in a specific congested area, or per-mile traveled.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) Federal Highway Administration (FHA), congestion pricing can improve the environment by:

  • Reducing vehicle miles traveled – decreasing fuel consumption and pollutant emissions
  • Reducing stop-and-go traffic – decreasing fuel consumed and emissions generated by constant or sudden accelerations and decelerations
  • Reducing traffic in urban areas – to contribute to a more livable, pedestrian-friendly environment with reduced traffic noise

Economists agree that congestion pricing is the most viable and sustainable approach to reducing traffic congestion.

  1. HOV Lane Enforcement

Another way to improve highway congestion is to introduce HOV lanes for cars with two or more occupants. These lanes encourage ridesharing, reduce congestion, and help to ensure cars can maintain consistent speeds. To enforce HOV lanes, transportation authorities need a reliable, automated solution to accurately count the number of people in each car.

One rideshare company reported that carpooling services have resulted in 15 million fewer vehicle trips, and 287 thousand fewer tons of emissions that would have otherwise been released into the air.

  1. Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) vs. Toll Booths

Electronic toll collection is rapidly becoming the most popular way for drivers to pass through tolls on highways – and for good reason! New cashless tolling methods allow drivers to maintain a consistent speed while passing through overhead gantries – their accounts are automatically billed as they drive by. Environmental benefits of electronic toll collection include:

  • Emission control — with the elimination of the acceleration and idling before a toll booth, harmful vehicular emissions are reduced
  • Fuel savings – deceleration, acceleration and idling is eliminated, saving fuel
  • Congestion reduction — since vehicles do not stop at a toll booth, congestion is reduced, allowing cars to maintain more consistent speeds on the road
  • Reduction in paper billing – Frequent travelers of ETC toll roads often have a billing account so that toll charges are automatically deducted from their account vs. receiving a paper bill in the mail

Conduent Transportation processes more than 3.7 billion electronic tolling transactions each year.

  1. Effective Curbside Enforcement

A large supply of parking within a city does not directly create traffic problems, but it does reduce the cost to own, park, and drive an automobile.

The implementation of efficient parking management strategies can help local authorities in several ways. They can price on-street spaces so that they maintain 85% occupancy. Fewer available spaces encourage everyone to walk more, drive less and use other transit options. This also helps improve air quality. One study showed the correlation between parking pricing and use of public transportation in a city, recommending that free parking should not be available in cities with plentiful transit options.

By now, most everyone understands an estimated 70% of the  world's population will live in cities by 2050. This will likely contribute to congestion, gridlock and polluting emissions. To counter the trend, cities and transportation authorities must work with a trusted partner to strategize and implement smarter transportation solutions that will make roadways and the environment sustainable for generations to come. Conduent Transportation stands ready to help cities and transportation authorities to achieve their transportation improvement goals.