Smart Ways to Ease Traffic Congestion

smallest car in the world

Yesterday I brought up the topic of congestion in cities and Scotland’s proposal to ban gas-powered vehicles in city centers.

I don’t meant to dwell on a topic that remains decades away, but it brings up some interesting questions about the problems of transportation in busy areas. A couple of commenters on that post got me wondering if the solution to urban congestion lies in bigger roads, smaller cars, or no cars at all.

The implications of whatever happens will directly influence the cars we buy in the future. Maybe that great bargain on a used Suburban won’t be as great when it can’t be driven to the office parking garage downtown.

One of yesterday’s commenters proposed only allowing small cars, such as the smart fortwo and Scion iQ, into city centers. That’s interesting, and would probably result in the sale of many more diminutive vehicles. Which, in turn, would result in just as many traffic jams. Only tinier. And a lot more humorous.

On second thought, maybe that’s the idea we need to roll with. It would be truly difficult to get all worked up and unleash road rage on a street full of cars that look like they were made by Mattel. It’s hard to act macho in a miniature vehicle or be mad at the guy driving the Power Wheels smallest street-legal car in the world.

Tiny cars will get better fuel economy and reduce emissions in cities, but they won’t fix the issue of congestion. Most small cars still take up an entire lane, so the only way to reduce congestion is to either reduce the amount of traffic or put more cars in each lane.

If more people owned a Tango we could put two cars in each lane, which would help until everyone owned a Tango and the streets got clogged again. Better yet, there could be a fee charged to enter a city in a motor vehicle, which would encourage people to use public transportation and reduce the amount of cars on the street.

I think I have an even better solution, though: Don’t do anything. Let people buy whatever cars they want and let them go wherever they want. Those who don’t want to deal with the congestion and stress of downtown areas will avoid them, and the problem will fix itself naturally.

Brilliant, I know.

Would you pay to drive your car downtown?


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  1. how about overhead tram systems that use small pods and hase an extensive grid of routes? Step up to a station, buy a ticket for your destination, and step into the pod and have a seat. The pod is automatically routed through the system and arrives at your destination. Rather than long trains of cars, big busses and other mass transit solutions, the pods go above street level (or even below) and route passengers more quickly and directly that mass transit. How about “trains” that load masses of pods from remote locations for movement into the city, then automatically offload the pods and routh them to their local destinations?

  2. A tiny little car like in the pic would work, but regardless congestion in cities is going to have to be addressed. It may be an outright ban on all but public transport and deliver vehicles or some half measure. But it can’t go on as it is.

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