Just before Christmas, Auckland Transport released this cute video about the causes of congestion and how to help avoid it,
The press release focused on the holiday period but I can also see them using this campaign later in the year, especially in February and March as the roads get busier.
Congestion on our motorways is frustrating at any time of year, but during the busy holiday season it can be worse than ever.
Auckland Transport’s ‘Spread the jam’ video has been produced to simply explain how traffic congestion can start.
AT’s chief transport operations officer, Andrew Allen, says there are generally four causes of congestion. “Usually it’s drivers cutting-in, following too close to the vehicle in front, rubber-necking or being distracted like using their cell phone. A heavy dab on the brakes can cause a ripple effect right down the motorway turning free flowing traffic into a sticky jam!
“All drivers have to do is always maintain their following distance and give plenty of warning before changing lanes, so use your indicators.”
He says if people are more aware of the causes of traffic congestion and modify their own behaviour our motorways will run more smoothly.
Barney Irvine from the Automobile Association says the answer lies with motorists. “Driver behaviour makes a bad congestion situation even worse – AA members recognise it, and they want to see more done to raise awareness. ‘Spread the jam’ is definitely a step in the right direction, and we’re right behind it.”
A study in 2014 found that the annual cost of congestion in Auckland was $1.25 billion when compared with free-flow traffic conditions.
Remember, spread the jam:
- Keep your following distance.
- Don’t cut in.
- Don’t rubberneck.
- Avoid distractions like cell phones.
As cute as the video is, and it’s a decent start, there’s a couple things I wanted to point out.
- The primary cause of congestion is of course, too many vehicles on the road at the same time. Although getting people to drive better is certainly a good thing, especially on urban streets where more vulnerable road users (pedestrians and bikes) are around.
- Another way to spread the jam is to simply not participate in it. This can mean travelling at different times or by other modes, particularly those that aren’t affected by congestion such as the Northern Busway, rail network or bus routes with good levels of bus priority. This is obviously a bit harder on holiday trips like the press release was focused on but for regular commutes it may be a viable option.
- It is interesting that AT specifically mention the cost of congestion being $1.25 billion compared to free flow. The emphasis is important as the study (for the NZTA) that came up with that figure (actually from 2013) suggested that based on optimising the network capacity, the cost was only $250 million, considerably less. That’s because it absurd to build any transport network to be completely uncongested at all times of the day – in the absence of pricing. Particularly with roads, the financial cost of doing so would be astronomical, not to mention just how much land would be needed.
Overall a useful message but to me it’s just one part of the congestion equation.