Everyone knows the feeling of standing still in a traffic jam. When the first traffic jam in Holland appeared in 1955, people liked it. Nowadays that has changed a little bit.
Nobody likes it when you are in a traffic jam after a long day at work or at school, but that is not the only damage due to traffic jams. The Dutch business life had suffered financial damage of 1.3 billion euro because of traffic jams in 2017! Stores do not have their products in time, employees are too late at work, delivery services are late too and so on. In 2017 there were 63 million hours of traffic jams and the expectations are that this will grow to 85 million hours in 2022. The amount of traffic jams is only increasing, but is there a solution?
Well, the first thing you would probably think about is to broaden the highways. But the opinions on this subject are contrasting. On the website of the VVD (the biggest party of the Netherlands) they say: “We want less traffic jams. That is why we, also in the crisis, built more than 1,500 kilometres of asphalt. We will keep doing this in the future.” So over the last years, the amount of asphalt in the Netherlands has only increased, but the amount of traffic jams did not decrease. So is it a good solution?
Well, there are some advantages of constructing more asphalt. According to some recent studies, it does reduce the amount of traffic jams in the short run. It also creates extra jobs. After all, the highways have to be built by someone. The disadvantage is that it is expensive, every second the government spends about €30.- on new asphalt. There is one major problem: it does not solve the problem in the long run. And besides we are not the US, so we do not have the surface to keep making more highways.
The alternative is rather simple, let people pay to drive in busy hours and busy places. Then there will probably be less drivers, because they will go later, earlier or they will use another road. According to several studies, it works. It does not have to mean that people will have to pay much more in total, because the road tax can be lowered and the extra tax does not have to be a high amount of money. However, it could be unfair for people that really have to drive in the peak hours, to work for example, to let them pay extra. That is also an argument of the government to not set a tax for driving in the peak hours.
The debate is still going about the best solution is against traffic jams. But I was wondering, why not improve the public transport? If you put one lane next to the highway that can only be used by the public transport, it may be faster to travel with public transport and therefore be more attractive. When people know that the public transport is faster and/or cheaper than travelling by car, they may avoid driving on the highways. Besides this you can still set the tax on driving in the peak hours, because now people have a good alternative and if they really want to drive, they can still do so.
It is also easier for the government to regulate the emission of the public transport rather than for all the cars the consumers own. Maybe this is all a bit too far-fetched, but something must change, because traffic jams are expensive and really bad for my mood.
By: Merijn van der Leeuw