Traffic Congestion Solutions To Transform City Living

Author and guest blogger, Rachel Smith, decongests the problem of traffic congestion because we have a problem!

The average Aussie, British and American family spends more time sitting in their car than they spend sitting around their own kitchen table.

The average adult spends the first two months of every working year just covering the cost of maintaining a car, and many of us will spend more than $25,000 a year on parking fees.

Our cities are killing us, but most of all they are robbing us of our money and our precious time. Many of us now spend more than 15 hours a week sitting in traffic, and more than 80% of us are failing to get an hour of exercise every day.

A text message I receive from my friend Michelle who lives and works in Brisbane says it all:

“Been stuck on the bus home for over an hour now. Traffic is horrific. Hate to think how much of my life I’ve wasted sitting on the bus. Some days I spend more time stuck in traffic than with my one-year-old daughter.”

Our cities are in crisis because they revolve around the car, the resultant traffic congestion has two main causes: firstly, too many cars, and secondly, individual car use means that when just one car slows down it forces every other the car behind to slow down. This effect spirals and multiplies, creating traffic jams.

We don’t need to question whether congestion exists or not. We all know that traffic congestion exists. We see it every day. It’s what we do about it that’s important.

That’s why in my new book, Decongestion, I answer the question: “How do we cut traffic congestion, without the expense of new roads and annoyed residents?”

Part 1 of the book ‘The problems caused by our cars’ explains how the Australian and American dream has become our biggest nightmare, and examines the problems associated with, or caused by, our addiction to the car.

The Australian and American Dream has been for many decades – and maybe it still is – space: a big house, a big backyard, a swimming pool and space for many cars.

This is what we were all told we should aspire to. Everyone copied everyone else, and so now Australia and America are full of big houses with big backyards and swimming pools and parking lots of cars.

But many people think our greatest dream has tuned into our biggest nightmare. Sydneysiders, for example, currently make 16 million trips on an average weekday and 15 million at the weekend.

According to popular media sources, social media and technical publications, the biggest issues in Australia that need solving right now are:

  • the cost of living
  • traffic congestion
  • adult and childhood obesity
  • sedentary lifestyles

    Each and every one of these problems is associated with, or caused by, our addiction to the car.

    It is essential to have an understanding and appreciation of why we have too many cars on our roads which create too many traffic jams, and why both factors create traffic congestion in our towns and cities.

    A snap shot of the fast facts are:

  • 60% of Australian households have access to two, or more, cars.
  • 53% of all personal vehicle trips in Australia were for personal and other use, 27% for commuting and 20% for business use.
  • 6 out of 10 people in Australia travel to work by private car, alone.
  • Less than half of Australian kids who live within a 15-minute walk of their school actually walk to school.
  • 1.35 million Australians drive less than 5 kilometres to work every day.
  • 1 in 10 car trips in South East Queensland are less than 1 kilometre in length.
  • 4 people die and 90 people are seriously injured on Australian roads every day.
  • Traffic congestion costs each car-commuting household more than $1,000 a year.

    When you consider all this, it’s little wonder we are struggling to make financial ends meet, we’re overweight, we’ve got such sedentary lifestyles, and we’re literally stuck in traffic!

    A big problem is that all too often planners and engineers jump into designing the solution without fully understanding, looking at, or investigating, the problem.

    That’s why I undertook extensive research and interviews with city leaders, planners, engineers, public servants, economists, academics and advocates – to understand the biggest challenges in cutting traffic congestion.

    In Part 2 (my next article) I’ll provide an overview of the research, their responses and my findings.

    Author, speaker and former principal transport planner at AECOM (Brisbane), Rachel Smith, is writing a series of guest features on her new book, Decongestion, for The Bike In My Life.

    Rachel was retained by the UK Government for 6 years as a specialist sustainable transport advisor, has spoken at more than 200 conferences, has 2 TEDx talks and her work has appeared in international media including the BBC, ABC, DW-TV, SBS, Disney Channel and The Economist. She was part of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, developed the first crowd solving bicycle map and won the CIHT BP Road Safety Award and AITPM Janet Brash Memorial Scholarship.

    Copies of Decongestion (e-book or paperback) can be purchased online:

    Paperback copies can be ordered from international stores (Amazon and Book Depository) and Australian stores (Booktopia and Fishpond)


    Book Depository



    Amazon International Site

    Book Depository International Site

    Kobo Books

    Barnes and Noble


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