The average American spends 42 hours a year stuck in congestion. From Uber and Lyft to congestion charge beating electric cars, cycling running. All promise a convenient way to travel. But which help the most to keep our cities moving and our commutes hassle-free? What is the best way to travel to avoid city congestion?
Travelling to work in the city can be a challenge in car-centric city design. Thankfully there are a few options to make your commute less stressful and even fun. Parking in Cities has become much sought after and unless its part of a company perk, costly.
Car-pooling can be great when it works. Schemes to encourage car-pooling are numerous and have been promoted for many years. Some Cities have enforced multi-occupancy lanes to support car-pooling by giving cars holding passengers priority in traffic.
Enforcing multi-occupancy lanes, however, has proven difficult and costly to police. And the creativity of people wanting to misuse the scheme shouldn’t be under-estimated. This creative attempt to not get caught using a high occupancy lane resulted in a costly fine.
Advantages of Car-pooling
Carpooling has many advantages. Reduced fuel and parking costs from sharing the commuting costs is a significant advantage. Agreeing the split up-front creates and maintains the good-will.
Carpooling can also offer additional safety for anyone who travels typically alone or travels late at night or very early morning.
Socialising, even the worst of commutes can be improved by having the right driver/passenger combination. Having someone to share a morning conversation with makes for a much happier commute.
One less car on the road, a little less congestion and a little less pollution. Carpooling also frees up parking. A typical Car spends 95% of its lifetime parked.
Disadvantages of Car-pooling
The most significant barrier to carpooling is simple logistics. You need to travel at the same time, pick up of passengers needs to be convenient and not too much of a deviation from the drivers’ usual route.
Reliability and timekeeping can become a stress for both the driver and passenger. Bad timekeeping is often a cause of frustration. Then there is the early morning text that the driver is ill or forgot to mention a change of plans.
Electric cars are promoted on their ‘greenness’ and lead car owners into more of a guilt-free mindset towards using their car for commuting. Many cities have installed free-charging stations and free parking for electric vehicles.
Advantages of electric cars
Cheap or free parking is a significant advantage, many cities have placed charging stations in premium parking locations in the city, as electric cars are (relatively) uncommon, parking can be much easier to find. In London (UK) electric cars are exempt from congestion charging.
Electric cars are often significantly cheaper to run in terms of petrol/gas. A 2018 study showed that in the US, an electric vehicle cost $485 per year to run in comparison to $1117 for a gas-powered vehicle. If you can secure that downtown parking at a charging station, even more savings can be made.
Disadvantages of electric cars
In terms of reducing congestion, or your time to travel, electric cars have the same characteristics of a standard car. They take up the same road-space and parking space as a regular car. Electric cars can help ease pollution, but they don’t reduce congestion.
Uber or Lyft
Uber and Lyft have grown exponentially around the world. Both have evolved from a quick and cheap way from the airport to the hotel to avoid high airport taxi fares. Uber and Lyft are frequently used as regular commuting tools.
Advantages of Uber and Lyft
Uber and Lyft can reduce vehicle overheads if used fairly infrequently. The pricing models can make it difficult to budget as a regular method of travel. For city dwellers whole can’t find or can’t pay for overnight parking, both Uber and Lyft offer car convenience without the parking hassle.
Lyft and Uber reduce pressure on city parking by reducing the number of workers parking cars.
Disadvantages of Uber and Lyft
Both Uber and Lyft contribute significantly to congestion, and they are still car-sized. A recent article suggests Uber and Lyft contribute 14% of the traffic in some congested cities. Some criticise the service as Uber and Lyft drivers can make use of high occupancy lanes when carrying a passenger.
There has been ongoing controversy around Uber’s ethics as an ’employer’, something to check out for yourself if that could be an issue.
Electric Scooter including Lime Scooters
Electric scooters, both hired, such as Lime scooters or personally owned scooters have risen in popularity in major cities. Lime scooters are often used for that final mile of a commute, conveniently transporting you from the bus or ferry to the workplace without the hassle of transporting the scooter itself.
Advantages of Electric Scooters
In terms of space utilisation, electric scooters are hard to beat for efficiency and congestion reduction. As they are usually last mile’ forms of transport, scooters also encourage commuters to use other means of main transport into the city, such as buses and trains.
Scooters are incredibly cheap to run, as well as being affordable to purchase outright. Scooter hire is more mixed, offsetting any upfront purchase with higher per-use costs.
Disadvantages of Electric Scooters
Travel range between recharging is the most significant challenge with electric scooters. As with fully electric cars, the range is improving with each technology iteration, manufacturer claims between 20 miles and a massive 50 miles between charging. At the top end of this distance range, recharging can be up to 10 hours.
Varying street regulations from State to State and Country to Country on where and how scooters can be used. The general acceptance of scooters. Scooters have mixed reception in different cities, often influenced by the behaviour of the scooter riders and their respect of other road users and pedestrians.
Desirability, scooters have become increasingly desirable for thieves, so be sure to protect your investment.
Stability and injury risk, the small wheelbase and centre of balance of the rider can be a recipe for serious injury, and many scooters are capable of speeds above what a cyclist would maintain in the same terrain.
Cycling to work
Cycling has vastly different levels of adoption as a way to travel to work from country to country. In terms of congestion, bikes are efficient space users and can navigate rapidly through heavy traffic. Being human-powered (excluding e-bikes), they are limited only by the fitness of the rider. Worldwide, many cities are undertaking large investment programmes to encourage cycling as part of a multi-modal transport strategy.
Advantages of cycling to work
Cycling is an efficient use of space, and cyclists can navigate through traffic relatively unhindered. Informal ‘competitions’ in trying different modes of transport in busy cities often result in cyclists winning in out in time to get from A to B.
Cost-effective, cycling can be as cheap or expensive as you want (or can afford). A good used bike can be bought cheaply, and a few essential accessories and clothing are all you need to get going.
Health, cycling is a great way to improve fitness and health. It is surprising how quickly regular cycling can improve fitness as a low impact exercise. Add to the fun by picking up a sports watch or cycle computer to track your progress.
Disadvantages of cycling to work
Limits of your fitness can be a barrier when starting out. Some city terrains simply aren’t suited to human-powered cycling.
Relatively limited range, while cycling can be the king of efficient transport in the city. If you commute a reasonable distance from the city, your overall journey time can be longer. Or simply the total distance is simply too great.
City design, City design is often car-centric and can create risk for the cyclist. This scenario is improving all the time in most major cities as they battle with the big picture of growing congestion.
Weather, when cycling you are subject to the weather. Simply put, if it’s wet, you will be wet.
Electric or eBikes can help increase the range of cycling or help a new commuter raise their fitness level by having an eBike assist them. The assistance in hilly commutes is quite a game-changer.
Running to work
Running to work is another congestion-busting move. Depending on city design, running can be incredibly efficient in getting you to work. Running can be done all year round, in winter check there are several cold weather running tips to bear in mind.
Advantages of running to work
Close to zero contribution to road congestion, running is an efficient way of moving around. At low intensity, we are designed to cover relatively large distances with ease.
Fitness, running is a very effective exercise to improve fitness. As with cycling, it is remarkable how quickly running can improve overall fitness.
Time-saving, if you normally pay for or head to the gym, running can be part of your getting to the gym before or after work routine. Arrive at the gym already warmed up and ready to go.
Disadvantages of running to work
Limited by distance and time, some people simply live too far from the office to effectively use running as a form of transport.
Lack of facilities for showering or changing at the workplace. Sharing running-stink with work colleagues is a big no-no. If your workplace isn’t set up with and showering or changing facilities, running can be a big hassle.
Health, running with poor technique can be high impact. Transitioning to regular running should be done gradually to allow the body to adapt.
Best commute, mix it up
The likely best approach is to mix it up a little. Reducing car usage by just a day or two a week is an incredible move. Alternating between cycling and running is also an effective way of getting the advantages of both.