30 january, 2012
A car is luxury. To drive to the city center.
Author: Mikhail Blinkin, no comments
Now all my foreign colleagues support one simple idea. It we want to save the city from traffic collapse, that is actually our goal, not just «making everyone pleased», we need a range of measures. On one hand, we should promote public transport, on the other hand, we should make private cars unpopular.
Two polar concepts were countering in international transport science. According to the first one, public transport is a social service for the elderly, handicapped and poor. All other people drive their own cars. This so called Los-Angeles concept was the most popular with most influential American writers for about 70 years starting from the 1920-s. The other one had a conventional name of a German concept, as it was stated in the famous White Book, worked out by German writers in the 1960-s. Its main postulate stated public transport was meant for everyone. The number of cars would constantly increase. We would not be able to build such cities, where all people could drive their own cars to the city center. That is why we have TransitFirst.
Now these two concepts do not exist anymore. Even the Los-Angeles concept can not physically work at a certain traffic level because of city layout reasons. It does not work even in American cities where there are many roads and streets, thoroughfares and freeways take one third of a city territory.
We are not actually interested in those academic complications. In Moscow road network takes less than 9%, I mean paved road. Even if we had much more roads, if we adhered to the North American standards, anyway there would not be finally enough space. That is why a concept, called German long ago, now has become common.
However, a pathetic belief still exists in Moscow. They believe if the city builds many roads and parking places everyone will be able to drive a car. Even well educated people say if we build many road interchanges we will not face traffic jams, as there will be fewer traffic lights. That is nonsense.
Current road interchanges that are built in Moscow streets are the most expensive way to transfer the traffic jam peak 500 meters left or right.
Using public transport for business trips to central and business areas of the city is inevitable. It can be reached by two ways. The first one is positive. We can make public transport fast, make separate lanes and buy comfortable lower-floor and noiseless vehicles. It should be a normal transport facility, not a Soviet « cattle truck». As if you are told that, of course, driving your car is more convenient. A bad but separate apartment is better than a shared one. However, we provide you with a very decent shared apartment. The second way is negative. You can drive your car wherever you want, even to the Boulevard Ring. But it will cost you not only petrol, like today, but will be much more expensive.
We can organize paid parking places with wily rates. Through personal experience I know how it is done abroad.
The closer a parking is to the city center, the higher rates are. Street parking is incredibly expensive, using a multi-level parking is a bit cheaper, but you have to spend more time on it (to park your car, take a lift down and get to the place you need). The rate system is very wily, one hour costs $3 and 8 hours cost $50. As if you are told you are welcome to come to the center for a business lunch, but you should not leave your car there for 8 hours. Such «anti-national» inventions are countless.
Parking places at business centers also will not improve the situation. Earlier when a developer built or reconstructed an office building he was told to organize not less than 500 parking places. The formula was not less parking places. During last 20 years the regulations changed. Now the developer is told to organize no more than 100 parking places. Ordinary people should not be encouraged to drive to the city center.
A great number of such inventions were created during last years. The point is that without a big need you should not drive your car to Manhattan, Down town or City, I can go on with the list. As a result, residents of a very wealthy and expensive city with the biggest number of cars in the world use public transport to get to Manhattan (including taxi, of course) and walk a lot. It was a revolution for the Americans. But what else could they do?
We will also have to experience it. How many years will this revolution take? I do not know. Public transport should be made more comfortable. More convenient interchange rates should be implemented. Pedestrian walking should be made safe and convenient. People should get used to the idea it is convenient to use public transport and to walk in the city center. This process will be time taking and expensive but finally we will succeed. We have no other choice. A driver’ happiness to park his first HyundaiAccent car, bought on credit, in the Boulevard Ring is unreachable.
We can do without moving anything. The city will just move slower and slower. And will finally stop. We made a very clear experiment, bankers would call it a stress test, when we blocked a small part of Moscow due to the well-known events in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Do you remember the speed of traffic that day?
While you try to remember it, I can say average speed for Moscow transport is certainly less than 20 kmh. We annually lose about 1,5 km because of traffic jams. It is not surprising at all, people buy new cars, traffic becomes heavier. When the speed falls to 12-14 kmh, like it was during the «stress test», imagine how long it will take you to get to and from work. The distance between Moscow Ring Road and the city center is 17 km, regardless of new territories. But we drive the land roads, not the semidiameter and air-tracks. We will suffer from significant inconveniences when the average speed falls to10-14 kmh.
There are two ways to solve the problem. We can either start solving it wisely, or expect the traffic to stop completely and then take very tough measures.
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