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Revealed: Europe's Most Congested Cities - And How To Cut Traffic Jams

Traffic jam on a motorway


The top 10 most congested European cities have been revealed in a new survey by a satellite navigation company. At the same time new systems are being developed to help drivers easily find vacant parking places and routes which avoid congestion.

The most congested city in Europe is Warsaw in Poland, this month being experienced by delegates to the UN climate change talks which are taking place in the city.

Warsaw is followed by Marseille, Rome, Brussels, Paris, Dublin, Bradford-Leeds, London, Stockholm and Hamburg.

 LisbonThe survey by a prominent satellite navigation company also identifies which cities are doing a great job in reducing congestion and which ones are going from bad to worse. The cities which are doing the most to combat congestion are Lisbon, Bern, Amsterdam, Milan and Rome.

The worst cities to live for increasing congestion are Bradford-Leeds in the UK, Munich in Germany, Berlin, Marseille and Vienna.

The figures are arrived at by comparing travel times during non-congested periods with travel times at peak hours. The difference is expressed as a percentage increase in travel time.

All data is based on actual GPS measurements for each city. The sample size is expressed in total number of measured miles for the period.

The study also compares the travel times during the most recent quarter with the same period a year previously and this is used to determine whether congestion is increasing or decreasing.

 Lisbon congestion pattern during the weekAs well as ranking the overall congestion levels of over 50 cities, the report evaluates the congestion levels in cities at different times of the day and on different days of the week, as can be seen by the example for Lisbon on the right. This should enable commuters to plan their journeys better.

Independent studies show that about 30% of road congestion is due to parking search, which on average requires 15 to 20 minutes, increasing driving time by up to 40%, distance travelled by up to 20% and CO2 emissions by up to 10% for each vehicle.

In France alone, for example, every year 70 million hours are spent looking for a place to park. Road congestion costs Europe 1% of GDP every year. It has a highly negative impact on shops and other businesses. There is an estimated negative impact of over €700 million.

Congestion also increases driver frustration and affects the quality-of-life, reduces air quality causing an increase in respiratory problems.

It's been calculated that 50% of people who can't find a free parking lot in a few minutes leave the area and refrain from shopping.

Parking management solutions

It's not surprising therefore that parking management is a hot topic in most cities and urban areas around the world. Any smart solution which can direct drivers to vacant lots will help to reduce congestion.

One such solution, from PE.AMI Parking Management, features hardware which needs to be installed in car parks together with a suite of software, that combine to build a wireless network. This smart network is "self-configuring and self-healing" say its manufacturers. It collects, stores and delivers advanced information about parking lots, specifically the presence of a car, the duration of the parking and the payment amount.

Real time information about parking from systems like this can then be made available to drivers in advance of and during their trips via LED message displays, static directional signs, web and smartphone apps, and SMS text messages. This means that drivers can make more informed travel choices and, if driving, find a parking space faster.

Moreover the systematic collection of information on how the parking resources are used over time will allow cities to develop predictive models, which can be used in future traffic management planning, thereby supporting livability and sustainability for cities.

Satellite navigation-based systems for cars are also being developed to help them find a destination by avoiding traffic congestion, a complex task. Advanced routing technologists can help motorists by providing dynamic navigation which quickly reacts and adjusts routes to the ever-changing traffic situations.

Even if just a small percentage of drivers use different and faster routes, conditions can be alleviated across the entire road network.

Of course is also necessary to take drivers out of cars and help them to make their journeys by other modes of transport. But often buses, too, need to have fewer other vehicles sharing their throughways.

Cities in the developed world are beginning to curb the number of cars on the roads. In Copenhagen the trend for car traffic has been reversed by investment in cycle routes. But in the developing world car traffic is increasing dramatically. Mumbai, for example, has seen a 51% increase in the last six years.

Municipalities in these areas need to learn from the experience of cities in Europe and America and plan their cities accordingly to minimise travel delays.