Big problem of big cities

According to the data provided by the UN, in 2008 for the first time in history a moment has come when half of the population lives in cities, and the rate of urbanization continues to increase.

All big cities at least twice a day packs with traffic jams and congestion on the roads. The air, saturated with exhaust, irritation on the faces of drivers is the external aspect of a serious problem. But only specialists really understand how economic and ecological damage is inflicted and can be inflicted to the state in future. Why in the future? Because the problem is becoming more complicated each year: the capacity of the road network lagers behind the growth of the number of vehicles. The demand constantly and significantly outstrips supply. For example, in Beijing, the annual growth of road network is about 2 percent with 10 percent increase in the number of vehicles. The same thing happens in all metropolitan areas, but the tendency is especially for developing countries.

Specialists from different countries have long ago came to conclusion that increasing the capacity through constructing roads and junctions clearly can not keep pace with the increasing number of vehicles on these roads. Therefore, many countries declined further road construction projects, understanding that the proposal fails to cover the demand, it is necessary to limit this demand, and the most efficient and effective measure is to pay road user, including the congestion charge on the overloaded area. And Stockholm, Sweden was no exception, with over half a million cars traveling into the city every weekday. That's why, in the beginning of 2006, the Swedish National Road Administration (SNRA) and the Stockholm City Council announced a trial Congestion Tax, a road charging system similar to those seen in Singapore, London and Oslo. The goal was not only to reduce congestion, but encourage ancillary benefits, such as improving public transport and alleviating environmental damage. With help from IBM and its partners, a plan was devised to charge vehicles as they passed control points on the way in or out of the Stockholm city center during weekday, rush hour times.

The city implemented a free-flow roadside system using laser, camera and systems technology to seamlessly detect, identify and charge vehicles. The road charging system has made a real impact in congestion and overall quality of life for the citizens of Stockholm. By the end of the trial, traffic was down nearly 25 percent. Public transport schedules had to be redesigned because of the increase in speed from reduced congestion. And even inner-city retailers saw a six percent boost in business. The reduction in traffic during the Stockholm Trial has led to a drop in emissions from road traffic by eight to 14 percent in the inner-city. Greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide have fallen by 40 percent in the inner-city and by two to three percent in Stockholm County.

A few years ago, US Federal Roads Authority ordered holding an economic study on the impact of congestion on the costs of consignors on storing. They used three different methods of estimating costs, and in all cases, the material costs for idle in traffic jams totaled the same substantial amount - $7 billion per year, which correlates with independent estimates. If congestion reduces the efficiency of the economy, how to reduce congestion? One of the options is government spending on construction and reconstruction of urban highways. To test the economic effect of state spending to reduce congestion, the Federal Office has initiated another round of research. As a result, the authors of the analysis came to conclusion that in the cities, already congested with traffic, it is very difficult and extremely expensive to expand highways and arteries: the return from dollar spent by the state is only 19 cents. A more effective approach would be to charge for entry to the congested areas of the city, the authors said. The study showed that one dollar paid by the owner of the car enable him to save 60 cents in the cost.

The table below shows only partial correlation between demand and supply in Azerbaijan, as well as the construction of new roads is just one of the criteria for increasing the capacity of road and transport network. But, anyway, the difference is too great.

In Baku much has been done and is being done to remove road congestion: this is the expansion of roads and construction of road junctions in the critical areas, and restricting car parking on all major streets and avenues (yellow line). The intelligent traffic management system, whish is scheduled for mid 2011, will have to play an important role in the management of traffic. However, along with these measures, it needs to manage the demand growing from year to year. According to the famous British transport specialist Phil Goodwin, demand management means that where necessary, the growth of traffic will be reduced or even traffic will be reduced.

The most effective way for Baku would be the imposition of financial burdens on those who want to enter the central part of the city with their own cars, and now the road network almost exhausted its capacity. Levy fees will not be discriminatory, but absolutely true and fair measure to improve the economy and improve the ecological situation in the city. Funds also received from the collection of fees can be invested in improving the transport system. Finally, there is a question of prestige: the city center is its face.

How such a move would today be unrealistic in Baku, the Azerbaijani specialists must re-check its feasibility in the near term, for example, developing the Plan of Regional Development of Great Baku.

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