Urban Business Area Traffic and Parking Problems Solutions

An urban business area is the commercial and business center of a city. The urban business area also known as central business district (CBD) often coincides with the “city centre” or “downtown”, but the two concepts are separate: many cities have a central business district located away from its commercial or cultural city centre or downtown. The shape and type of an urban business area almost always closely reflect the city’s history.

Cities with strong preservation laws and maximum building height restrictions to retain the character of the historic and cultural core will have an urban business area quite a distance from the centre of the city. In cities in the New World that grew quickly after the invention of mechanised modes such as road or rail transport, a single central area or downtown will often contain most of the region’s tallest buildings and act both as the urban business area and the commercial and cultural city center.

Examination of Parking and Traffic Congestion Problems in Urban Business Area

Parking and traffic congestion is synonymous to each other because failure to meet parking demand of people in a city always lead to on-street parking that results to traffic congestion. Traffic congestion is a condition on road networks that occurs as use increases, and is characterized by slower speeds, longer trip times, and increased vehicular queuing. The availability of less space in urban areas has increased demand for parking space especially in central business area.

Urban Business Area

The inadequate off-street parking in most of the urban business area has metamorphosed to the problem of on-street parking coupled with inadequate traffic management commonly experienced today in most cities. Finding revealed that inadequate parking, infectiveness of traffic devices, absences of loading and offloading bays etc have caused on-street parking and traffic congestion in most urban business area.

To reduce the menace, policy measures are recommended among which are; institution of enforcement of traffic rules and regulations by disciplined law enforcement agents, relocation of certain activities that caused on-street parking and introduction of intelligent transport system, traffic management improvement and provision of off-street parking facilities in the city plan.

Solutions to Urban Business Area Traffic and Parking Problems

Traffic congestion means there are more vehicles trying to use a given road facility than it can handle- without exceeding acceptable levels of delay or inconvenience. The demand for road space arises from the universally observed desire of individuals to own and use a motor vehicle. As incomes increase and technological advancements reduce the real cost of producing a motor vehicle, more and more persons find the financial means for owning and using a motor vehicle.

Motor vehicles do not come without their share of physical and environmental limitations. A motor vehicle in the first instance requires road space to operate freely, parking spaces at residences and work places. Increase of motor vehicles (the demand) often outstrips the provision of road space (the supply) in many urban business area. The result is traffic congestion.

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Traffic congestion may be considered a problem, by many, they often fail to see the extent of its impact on the community and country. These impacts could be further discussed as

Economic Growth

A good transportation system is an important selling point to communities that desire to attract development that provides for employment and growth of a city. If transport costs due to congestion increase, goods and services produced within that city tend to increase in costs thus losing competitiveness in international markets. Efficient transportation access is therefore a very important consideration as it has a direct impact on sound and sustainable economic growth and productivity.

Quality of Life

To some people, congested highways are a symptom of deteriorating quality-of-life-in a community. The amount of time that is spent on commuting to and from work is also in reality, time that is taken away from social interactions or pursuit of activities that have a personal value and satisfaction.

Environmental Quality

Congested road conditions can have a detrimental effect on the environment, in particular air quality and noise pollution. Congestion arises due to increase vehicles on the road. Ironically this is the time when there are the most number of people on the roads as well. This means that many more people become vulnerable to respiratory diseases such as asthma -widely prevalent today.

Anti- Social Behavior

Increasing social problems referred to as Highway Rage (or Road Rage) experienced in many countries where drivers show hostility to each other most often due to the frustration of slow moving traffic is also becoming a serious social problem.

Strategies to Manage The Traffic Congestion in an Urban Business Area

Road users and political leaders need to be appraised what options there are for any city centre to manage traffic congestion. These management strategies could be discussed under short term and long term options. Most successful approach for a city centre would be to adopt a dual strategy so that immediate respite and permanent solutions are initiated together.

The Short-Term Strategy

This strategy has two distinct approaches. The relative merits of each and the suitability of them, for cities centre are discussed below:

Managing the Transport Supply

Managing the transportation system by adding new facilities or by making operational changes to improve system performance is the most common response by engineers and even politicians and administrators to solve congestion problems. These measures can be better understood by classifying such attempts as follows

Adding new transport infrastructure capacity

This means new roads, expressways and railways that can carry more vehicles. Even though this is almost always the ‘first-option’ suggested by road engineers and police alike, this is usually very expensive and often socially prohibitive in urban areas. However the bigger limitation in this approach is that road construction in urban areas is often considered to generate more traffic in the long term, and the idiom that ‘traffic fills whatever road space provided’ is a well-established fact.

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Improving existing infrastructure for increasing capacity

A less expensive approach is to identify bottlenecks and increase capacity at these places. Signalizing an uncontrolled intersection or street widening of bottlenecks or providing for a grade-separated intersection would fall within this category. However many such attempt are also unlikely to solve traffic problemsin the long term, as these bottlenecks often control the flow of traffic beyond them and when they are eased, the problem shifts further down stream- a problem identified as ‘migration of congestion’.

Existing infrastructure for increasing capacity

Converting existing road space for high occupancy vehicles either by introducing bus lanes or providing bus ways. In some cities, entire roads have also been converted to pedestrian only streets. Removal of on-street parking is another successful method used especially in the peak period in the peak direction. This is a successful approach increasingly used in cities throughout the world, that have correctly identified that carrying more people in to a city is more important than merely allowing for more vehicles to come.

Operational Improvements to existing infrastructure to increase capacity

These include operational changes to increase the capacity of a transport system. These measures include introducing reversible lanes during peak periods. The middle lane can be made into a reversible lane, with the outer lane in the peak period turned in to a bus lane); introducing a right-turn phase in a traffic signal, ensuring better police enforcement, one-way systems that reduce traffic conflicts and expanding the public transport network are some common approaches.

The use of Information Technology has also allowed the Roads for Intelligent Transport Systems where incident detection programs, motorist information systems, and towing/enforcement efforts that can be used to minimize the effects of accidents and other non-recurring incidents and increase the capacity and reliability of the network.

Long-Term Strategy

Solving traffic congestion in the long-term however requires even wider strategies and policies. These can be identified in to four categories. These are also discussed in brief

A land-use strategy compatible with transport capacity

Provision of a good case study on how a sustainable and balanced land-use strategy can be developed based on the transport capacity that can be provided. The combined land use- transport strategy adopted in the CMRSP aims to provide for more space efficient modes of transport within the CMR together. The main radial arteries to the City are proposed to be developed as High Mobility Roadsfor fast commuter travel (by banning parking, right-turns, introducing signalisation etc).

Furthermore, it proposes to develop the Colombo City as mixed high-density land use and to facilitate the planned formation of six satellite city centres. The proposed outer ring road in this case is intended to connect these satellite cities while simultaneously providing for an orbital route around Colombo and its suburbs for inter-regional traffic.

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A Vehicle Ownership strategy compatible with road capacity

Vehicle ownership is associated with increase in incomes. It is also represents an important feature of choice of travel. Increases in vehicle ownership however, requires more road space, parking space and measures to control air pollution etc. Therefore, to properly plan the land use in the CMR or in any city, the levels of vehicle ownership that can be sustained therein has to be understood. The present rates of vehicle ownership in Sri Lanka, is around 74 vehicles per 1000 persons.

This increases to 97 per 1000 in the CMR. In Colombo District, this increases further to 141 per 1000. In Colombo City, this is even higher at 262 per 1000. The fact that within most parts of Colombo City and also in many parts of the Colombo District, traffic congestion is a regular feature indicates quite clearly that the present level of vehicle ownership therein, cannot be sustained. This as described before, is because the demand that these vehicles generate cannot be matched by the provision of increased road space. This means that the saturation levels for the present transport infrastructure appears to have been reached in these areas

A strategy for public transport compatible with population density

It is was shown earlier that public transport becomes a necessary and appropriate mode of travel when population density is high and density of roads is low at the same time. In such a scenario when incomes increase, it is public transport that can provide sustainable transport. Therefore it is evident that the backbone of an efficient and sustainable transport system in the CMR would essentially center around a good public transport system. Particularly for travel within the CMC and on the commuter arteries.

Such a strategy would require the following policy initiatives, projects and programs to give priority for public transport use and to restrain private vehicle use- a two pronged approach that has been successfully used in many cities throughout the world (e.g. Singapore, Tokyo, most European Cities).

  • Implement a Parking Policy where parking spaces are restricted & where parking fees are increased in keeping with the demand for the limited spaces.
  • Implement an electronic tolling system for the roads within the CMC at peak periods so that inefficient use of road space by low occupancy vehicles during peak periods could be discouraged by a toll.
  • Encourage the operation of road and rail based park and ride systems.
  • Divert port-based freight traffic from road to rail. • Set up regional distribution centres for agricultural produce to minimise travel related to internal trade.

Culled from Research Gate Website | Urban Traffic Congestion: The Problem & Solutions

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The Author

TPL. Adegboyega Tunde

I am Adegboyega Tunde Temitayo. A registered Town Planner with Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC). I love to think differently and possibly on various Urban and Regional Planning issues to proffer solutions to Urban and Rural Environmental Problems. As the Chief Editor of Town Planners Diary, I humbly welcome you to this platform which is about enhancing Planning Education through research on various Town Planning and Environmental issues.

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