It is a well known fact that automobiles are a major source of air pollution, yet traffic management plans have not been implemented in many urban areas. While cleaner fuel and green cars are great strategies for reducing car pollution, a new analysis finds that road pricing is the most effective way of lessening harmful vehicle emissions.
Alexander Bigazzi is a professor of Civil Engineering at the University of British Columbia. He reviewed hundreds of published papers on traffic management strategies, which reported on 65 studies of real-world tactics such as road and congestion pricing, speed enforcement programs, and incentives for carpooling.
The evaluation revealed that the most promising strategies for air quality improvements are road and congestion pricing and the establishment of low-emission zones. Bigazzi says that the other practices have potential, but evidence of their benefits is not as apparent.
Bigazzi explains that it is important to understand the impact of traffic management strategies because of the serious health risks associated with vehicle pollution. He finds that road pricing and low-emission zones work better in improving air quality simply because they reduce the amount of traffic. By lessening the number of cars on the road, these strategies reduce emission rates.
“Low-emission zones also encourage the purchase and use of cleaner motor vehicles,” says Bigazzi. He points out that these tactics will be most effective when they are adopted on a large scale.
“Hundreds of cities in Europe have congestion pricing or low-emission zones in their city centres and are enjoying improved traffic flow and air quality,” says Bigazzi. “These strategies haven’t been embraced in North America in the same way for a variety of reasons, but there are great potential benefits for cities here ready to embrace innovation.”