Road Space Rationing Debate

3-5 minutes
Proposer (me)  – 3-5 minutes
Opposer – 3-5 minutes
Audience – 5 minutes
Proposer/Opposer 1-2 minutes rebuttal and summarise points

Road Space Rationing is also known as alternate-day travel, driving restriction, and no-drive days. Road Space Rationing is a travel demand management strategy that is aimed at trying to reduce urban air pollution and/or peak urban traffic, in some countries they use it to reduce oil use, it does this through restricting car travel by controlling which vehicles are allowed into city centres and rush hour. It can be done by either restricting traffic access into the area by either using the last digits of the license number on pre-established days and during certain periods, usually, the peak hours, this has been used as early as 1982 in Athens.

This policy is commonly used in Latin America, mainly to try and reduce air pollution in places like Mexico City and  Santiago, Chile. Sao Paulo, more than 6 million vehicles, is the largest metropolis in the world with such a travel restriction, implemented first in 1996 as measured to mitigate air pollution, and made permanent in 1997 to relieve traffic congestion. More recent implementations in Costa Rica  and Honduras have had the objective of reducing oil consumption, due to the high impact this import has on the economy of small countries, and considering the steep increases in oil prices that began in 2003. 

After a temporary implementation of road space rationing to reduce air pollution in Beijing  during the 2008 Summer Olympics, local officials put in place several permanent rationing schemes to improve the city’s air quality. As of June 2016, another 11 Chinese cities have similar restriction schemes in place. Also, temporary driving restrictions to reduce cars on the streets by half during severe pollution events have been implemented in Paris and surrounding suburbs in March 2014, March 2015, and December 2016; in Beijing twice in December 2015, and one more time in December 2016; and also in Rome and Milan  for several days in December 2015. A similar alternate-day travel temporary scheme was implemented in New Delhi  as a two-week trial in January 2016. A temporary ban on diesel cars was implemented in Oslo  on municipal roads in January 2017.

In 2010 there were 1.015 Billion road motor vehicles in the world, not including off-road vehicles or heavy construction equipment. 

In 45 B.C. Julius Caesar declared the center of Rome off-limits between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. to all vehicles except for carriages transporting priests, officials, visitors, and high-ranking citizens, as congestion was a huge problem in Rome as well as other Roman cities. 

Schemes rationing access based on number plate have mixed results. If used infrequently or temporarily the alternate-day travel policy can have some impact. However, if used as a long term measure, inequality issues might arise, as wealthier people can afford to own two cars with opposite-parity number plates, to circumvent any restrictions, with the second vehicle being often older and therefore more polluting. Cities such as Tehran which have used such schemes are now looking to more sustainable methods of traffic and emissions control,  such as low emission zone or traffic limited zones as used in Europe.  Access regulations have often been found to be effective, in reducing congestion, traffic and pollution.

Road space rationing based on license numbers has been implemented in cities such as Athens, Santiago, Mexico City, Metro Manila, Sao Paulo, Bogota, Colombia, La Paz, San Jose,  countrywide in Honduras and Ecuador. All these cities restrain a percentage of vehicles every weekday during rush hours or for the entire day. When the restriction is based in two digits a theoretical 20% reduction of traffic is expected. Cities with serious air quality problems, such as Mexico City and Santiago use more digits to achieve greater reductions in air pollution, and even the prohibition can be for more than one day a week. In 2009, Bogota, Columbia, the plate restriction was extended from peak periods to the whole day (from 06:00 to 20:00 hours) in the whole city.

In 2005, the Mayor of Paris, proposed to impose a complete ban on motor vehicles in the city’s inner districts, with exemptions only for residents, businesses, and the disabled, as a three-part plan to implement during a seven-year period. Is this a reasonable approach?

Dublin (1.8 Million) is the worlds 14th most congested city and Europe’s 6th most congested, behind Moscow (12.412 Million) Istanbul (14.968 Million), Bucharest (1.812,290 Million), Saint Petersburg (5.427 Million) and Kiev (2.887.974). It is also the slowest city in Europe with  speeds in the city centre dropping to as low as 6kmph, and drivers spending around 246 hours in traffic in 2018. Most of the cities that had the worst congestion are old cities, that were not designed for this volume of vehicles. Yes, Dublin has taken certain trucks out of the city centre is encouraging people to walk, cycle, take public transport.

Electric cars could be allowed in to the city with no restrictions applied, this could help with the pollution element, but not the congestion problem. 

People have worked around road space rationing by have more than one car, what would happen if they rationed the cars on the base of the Pantone colour matching system. Only vehicles in the blue spectrum are allowed in on Mondays, Red on Tuesdays etc. People would not buy a full spectrum of cars to make sure that they could drive in to the city every days. Black and white cars could drive on Sundays, to be kind to the eyes and minds of hungover people.

Could or Should Dublin adopt this system? 

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