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FHWA > Programs > Office of Policy > Office of International Programs  > Managing Travel Demand: Applying European Perspectives to U.S. Practice > Chapter 1

Chapter 1: Introduction and Background

Introduction

Managing the demand for automobile use is becoming increasingly important as a strategy to address the negative consequences of traffic congestion. Managing peak-period demand has been used successfully in other consumer areas such as electricity, with strategies that are voluntary (such as the "Flex Your Power" media campaign in California) or mandatory (such as rolling blackouts during periods of peak energy demand). Managing demand on roads during congested periods is increasingly vital as the growth in travel far outpaces society's ability or tolerance to add more road capacity.

Scan Context

Managing travel demand was the subject of an international scan designed to explore innovative techniques used in Europe to manage demand. The International Technology Scanning Program is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) of the Transportation Research Board (TRB).

Of particular interest to the scan team were the roles and benefits that traveler information, advanced technology applications, and financial mechanisms play in managing traffic congestion and demand for both passenger and freight movements on highway systems, arterial road networks, public transport services, parking facilities, and freight centers.

The lessons learned could assist U.S. planners, engineers, and policymakers in addressing the distinct role that demand management might play in alleviating some of the negative effects of congestion, including air pollution, noise, depletion of energy resources, and travel delay, which can result in lost workforce productivity.

Panel Composition

Traditionally in the United States, efforts to manage demand have been initiated at the regional and local levels, especially when it comes to commuters. However, policies developed at the Federal and State levels, especially resource allocation guidelines, will affect the types of strategies used at the regional and local levels to manage demand and address congestion. The managing travel demand scan involved representatives from FHWA and State transportation agencies in Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Utah. Representatives from a metropolitan planning organization and a private consultancy were also included in the scan.

Scan Itinerary

The scan team visited five countries and several cities (shown in figure 2). The scan originated in Rome, Italy, in part to enable the scan team to learn about automobile restrictions in the historic core. The scan team then traveled to Stockholm, Sweden, to investigate the pending cordon charging scheme. Next on the itinerary was Lund, Sweden, a moderate-sized university town, where the team learned about an integrated program to decouple travel growth from economic growth. The scan team then traveled to Cologne, Germany, to examine parking management and traveler information programs. The second week of the trip began in Rotterdam and Delft, Netherlands, where the team learned about Dutch research projects on travel time prediction, traffic management, and mobility management. The scanning trip concluded in London, England, where congestion charging was examined along with national programs to influence travel behavior by promoting smarter choices among travelers. Before the scan trip, the scan team sent the host organizations a set of amplifying questions (see Appendix C) to clarify the types of information and case examples desired.

Figure 2. Map of scan on managing travel demand.
Map of Europe with locations of scan team visits marked: Rome, Italy; Stockholm and Lund, Sweden; Cologne, Germany; Rotterdam and Delft, Netherlands; and London, United Kingdom.

Purpose and Organization of Report

The purpose of this report is to describe the innovative demand management measures examined in each city, summarize the findings from the scan trip, suggest lessons that might be applicable to the United States, and recommend activities that might increase awareness and knowledge of the need to and means for managing demand in light of this European experience.

The remainder of this chapter provides a conceptual framework for understanding the U.S. and European perspectives on managing demand. It also provides a European policy context to assist U.S. audiences in understanding the reasons that some of these demand management strategies are being undertaken. Chapter 2 presents case studies on the cities (Rome, Stockholm, Lund, and Cologne) and countries (the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) visited both to provide a context for implementation and to reveal the full range of strategies and techniques explored. The key findings from the scan are presented in Chapter 3, organized by four types of demand management measures. Lessons for the United States are enumerated in Chapter 4 and a summary of implementation recommendations is provided in Chapter 5.

This report also serves as a companion to the FHWA report Mitigating Traffic Congestion-The Role of Demand-Side Strategies (FHWA-HOP-05-001), which provides an overview and case studies of demand-side measures in the United States. The report is available at www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/mitig_traf_cong/index.htm.

Figure 3. FHWA report on Mitigating Traffic Congestion-The Role of Demand-Side Strategies.
Cover of FHWA report: Mitigating Traffic Congestion-the Role of Demand-Side Strategies.

Background and Conceptual Framework

The Need for Demand Management

Traffic congestion is often one of the top concerns Americans cite in surveys covering metropolitan issues. Annual rankings of the most congested U.S cities are now headline news. The causes and impacts of congestion are well documented, yet there is no widespread agreement among planners, engineers, and politicians on solutions.

Traffic congestion in the United States has worsened significantly in the past 20 years. Two-thirds of all peak-period travel is in congested conditions, compared with one-third 20 years ago. Sixty percent of the urban freeway system is congested and travelers in the largest U.S. cities spend 3.76 billion hours a year stuck in traffic (compared to 0.72 billion hours in 1982). The average commuter spends 46 hours stuck in traffic each year. This costs the United States more than US$68 billion per year in lost productivity and excess fuel consumption.

Congestion lasts longer as well, with travelers subject to delay for more than 7 hours per day today, compared to 4.5 hours some 20 years ago. Recurring congestion accounts for over half of the delay-too many cars trying to use too few lane miles of highway at the same time.

The capacity of the Nation's road system clearly has not kept pace with this tremendous growth in travel demand. While the amount of vehicular travel in the United States has increased by almost 90 percent since 1980, the supply of roadway capacity has increased by only 5 percent. Vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT) have increased by 4 percent a year, while new road capacity has increased by only 0.2 percent.

Figure 4. Challenges of congestion.
Graph comparing vehicle miles traveled with lane miles. Vehicle miles traveled grew 88 percent, or 4 percent a year, between 1980 and 2003, from an index of 100 in 1980 to 190 in 2003. Road capacity increased 5 percent, or 0.2 percent a year, from an index of 100 in 1980 to 105 in 2003. Caption reads: "No longer just a big city problem-congestion in small areas grew 300 percent.

Likewise, traffic congestion is a prevalent and growing issue in Europe. A survey of Europeans revealed that 80 percent of urban dwellers believe traffic congestion, crashes, and pollution are very serious problems that need to be addressed urgently. Europe experiences 7,000 to 10,000 kilometers (km) of congestion daily, even though the rate of increase in travel is somewhat less than that in the United States. In Sweden, volumes on the road system have been increasing by 1.5 percent per year for the past several years, and in Stockholm they are increasing by 4 percent annually. In the United Kingdom, 85 percent of all travel is by car, compared to 79 percent some 20 years ago. Since 1980, vehicle use has risen by 80 percent in the United Kingdom.

So why manage demand? If road capacity cannot keep pace with growing demand, we need to use the infrastructure we have more efficiently. One way is to reduce the number of vehicles using the road network at the same time, while maintaining the ability of people and goods to travel and information to be exchanged. One way to accomplish that is through alternative modes of travel, such as public transport and carpooling. Another way is to induce travelers to use other, less congested routes and times of the day. In some cases, the need to travel at all can be reduced through various means, including telecommuting and home shopping. Demand management just makes good sense to encourage better use of what we have and to influence the way we travel, especially during congested periods.

Defining Demand Management

Traditionally in the United States, transportation demand management (TDM) has involved strategies to induce commuters to shift to higher occupancy modes, such as carpooling, vanpooling, and public transport. However, this view is no longer consistent with the broad variety of measures being implemented in the United States and Europe to manage demand. According to the FHWA report Mitigating Traffic Congestion-The Role of Demand-Side Strategies, demand management is designed to better balance people's needs to travel a particular route at a particular time with the capacity of available facilities to efficiently handle this demand. A contemporary understanding of demand-side strategies is broader in scope than prior, more traditional views of TDM. Managing demand in the 21st century is about providing travelers, regardless of whether they drive alone, with travel choices, such as work location, route, time of travel, and mode.

In its broadest sense, demand management is defined as providing travelers with effective choices to improve travel reliability.

The purpose of the managing travel demand scan was to investigate European experience with managing the demand for vehicular travel, both for passenger and freight and for commuting as well as other trip purposes. Traveler choices might also include a priced option that provides a more reliable travel time. As the next section discusses, many European transportation professionals also differentiate "demand management" from "traffic management."

This broader view of demand management goes beyond traditional commuter markets to include other travel markets and situations, including the following:

  • Special events
  • Road construction traffic mitigation
  • Tourist and visitor accommodation
  • School and university travel (student and employee)
  • Employment centers and economic development areas, including airports
  • Intermodal transfer facilities for passengers and freight
  • Incidents and emergencies of a long duration
Types of Demand Management

When assessing European experience with demand management, the scan team categorized four types of demand management strategies:

  • Operational (such as dynamic route information on highways)
  • Physical (such as auto restrictions in city centers)
  • Financial/pricing (such as congestion charging)
  • Organizational (such as sustainable travel planning)

This typology serves as the basis for summarizing the key findings of the scan and is used as a means to organize the case studies and overall findings in this report.

Performance Measurement

In looking at various ways to manage demand, the scan team was also keenly interested in assessing how their European counterparts measured success. Thus, during the course of the scan, the issue of performance measurement was identified as a key aspect of efforts to manage demand, more efficiently operate the transport system, and enhance travel time reliability. Performance measurement includes defining objectives, data requirements, and evaluation methods and determining how results are used and reported to policymakers. A 2004 International Technology Scanning Program scan report, Transportation Performance Measures in Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand (FHWA-PL-05-001), focused on performance measurement.

European Perspectives on Demand Management

During the scan, several unique and intriguing European perspectives on demand management were presented. These perspectives focused on the concepts of accessibility versus mobility, traffic management versus demand management, and the need to plan for sustainable travel. They are discussed here to provide an understanding of how different perspectives on the issue of congestion essentially all lead to a philosophy of managing demand. These evolving perspectives on managing demand are a principal finding of the scan and the basis for an evolution in thinking. Therefore, it is useful to introduce some of the unique features of these perspectives to illustrate the differences in how Europeans interpret the role and impact of demand management.

Definitions-Before presenting these new perspectives, it is important to define several terms used in Europe when discussing demand management. The term "mobility management," as used in Europe, is more narrowly focused on measures such as information, marketing, partnerships, communications, and promotion of sustainable modes. In a sense, mobility management might be viewed as a subset of measures within the broader U.S definition of transportation demand management. In addition, many Europeans use the term "measure" when referring to a demand management strategy or technique, such as congestion pricing or improved public transport information. It is helpful to recognize the use of these terms when exploring the European experience with demand management. A glossary of European terms is in Appendix D.

Swedish Perspective-In Sweden, one researcher encouraged the scan team to consider and assess its definitions of "accessibility" and "mobility" when considering demand management. The researcher suggested that mobility relates to moving (the possibility to move oneself), while accessibility involves the possibility of reaching something desirable (which does not necessarily involve moving cars or even people). Within this context, demand management includes measures to assure accessibility by influencing travel needs and decisions before trips are made.

The Swedish presented a conceptual framework titled "TOAST" (Temple Of A Sustainable Transport System, figure 5), which includes six tenets to a more sustainable transport system:

  • Plan for the long-term, more sustainable future.
  • Develop the bicycle as a primary mode.
  • Develop public transport to serve many types of travel.
  • Work with companies on employee and business travel.
  • Make car traffic more sustainable.
  • Support the process with mobility management to influence travel before it starts.

Figure 5. Temple of a Sustainable Transport System (TOAST).
Illustration of the Temple of a Sustainable Transport System. The roof of the temple is labeled sustainable transport system. The ceiling is labeled clean air, better health, less noise, and less congestion. The columns are labeled plan the society long term, develop bicycle traffic, develop public transport, work with the transport of companies, make car traffic more sustainable, and support the process with mobility management. The foundation is labeled create resources, set goals, and map the present.

These activities are viewed as leading to less congestion, less noise, better health, and cleaner air. This framework to support accessibility has encouraged, in part, many Swedish cities to develop comprehensive, sustainable transport plans and institutionalize demand management into planning activities, as described in Chapter 2. The most recent transportation infrastructure legislation in Sweden (2001) challenged the Swedish Road Administration (SRA) to do the following:

"Work with measures influencing the demand for transport towards a sustainable transport system, i.e., travel that is more effective, more environmentally sound, and more safe than travel by car."

Dutch Perspective-Researchers in the Netherlands provided a more targeted conceptual framework, one that differentiates demand management from traffic management (see schematic in figure 6). This schematic differentiates travel demand from traffic demand and capacity (network) demand. In between these types of demand are choices that travelers can make, such as mode choice between transport demand and traffic demand, route choice between traffic demand and capacity demand, and even lane choice once the user is on a given facility.

Figure 6. Demand versus traffic management: Dutch model.
Illustration of Dutch model of demand management versus traffic management. At left is a circle labeled transport demand, which links by an arrow to the right to a box labeled mode choice, which links by arrow to route choice, which links by arrow to lane choice, which links to a column of boxes labeled roadside systems, incident management, intelligent vehicles, monitoring and control centers, dedicated lanes, invehicle information, information at home/office, and pricing schemes. A circle labeled traffic demand links by arrow to the arrow between the mode choice and route choice boxes. A circle labeled capacity demand links by arrow to the arrow between the route choice and lane choice boxes. The mode choice box links by arrows to the dedicated lanes, information at home/office, and pricing schemes boxes. Route choice links to invehicle information, information at home/office, and roadside systems. Lane choice links to roadside systems, incident management, intelligent vehicles, and dedicated lanes. Roadside systems, incident management, and intelligent vehicles boxes are colored yellow to indicate traffic management measures; information at home/office and pricing schemes boxes are green to indicate demand management measures; and dedicated lanes and invehicle information boxes are green and yellow to indicate both traffic management and demand management.

According to the Dutch framework, demand management measures (in green) include special facilities (e.g., HOV lanes), on-trip or invehicle information, pretrip or near-trip information from work or home, and pricing. Traffic management measures include dynamic road signs, incident management, and intelligent vehicles. Data and information to manage these systems flow through control centers.

This perspective helped the scan team differentiate demand management measures from certain traffic or network management techniques by providing a litmus test of travel choice. If travelers are presented with a choice of mode, route, time of day, or even destination before they choose to get into their cars, this is considered demand management. If, however, users have no choice in their travel (for example, they are diverted around congestion via closures, directional signage, or enforcement), then this is deemed network management. In between these forms of management is traffic management, where choices on when or where to travel can be affected, but mode and destination choice are often already determined. In fact, the Dutch clearly delineate pretrip, near-trip, and on-trip decisions, based on traveler information needs for each.

British Perspective-The British government has launched an initiative to encourage citizens, businesses, schools, and other government agencies to "do their bit" by "making smarter choices." At the heart of the campaign is the notion of influencing travel decisions that people make to help cut congestion. In its new brochure, "Making Smarter Choices Work," the government acknowledges that "persuading people to break the habit of simply getting in their car for almost every journey is not easy." However, measures have been developed to influence behavior toward more sustainable modes, including walking, cycling, public transport, carpooling, and new options to reduce the need to travel at all. The measures are applied to work, school, shopping, and other trips.

Figure 7. "Making Smarter Choices Work" brochure.
Cover of "Making Smarter Choices Work" brochure.

These European perspectives are interesting in their emphasis on sustainability, accessibility, demand versus traffic management, and smarter choices. They all, however, are founded on the same underlying notion that we need to manage demand to more efficiently use our transport system, enhance travel time reliability, and provide travel choices, be they mode, location, route, or time of travel. This is at the heart of demand management. These new perspectives on demand management may foreshadow a new way of thinking in the United States, an evolution that moves us from simply accommodating vehicles on an increasingly congested road system to managing the demand for travel-for some trips, perhaps before people even get into their cars.

European Context

During the scanning study, it became apparent that many of the plans and programs being implemented were, in part, influenced by the European Union (EU) and other international perspectives. This European context is important to understanding the motivations for many of the specific demand management strategies observed on the scan. All of the countries visited are EU members, although two (Sweden and the United Kingdom) are not part of the euro zone (i.e., countries that have adopted the euro as their currency).

The European Commission (EC) is the administrative body of EU and one of the three main governing institutions; the other two are the European Council and the European Parliament. Europe is a very urbanized region of the world and it is in these urban areas (which comprise 80 percent of Europe) that transportation, environmental, and energy policies meet. EC desires comprehensive, coordinated solutions to these problems and has set policies and developed programs to accomplish this. EC is also committed to improving safety on roads. European transport policy set two crucial targets: freeze modal split at 1998 levels by 2010 and reduce road fatalities by 50 percent (toward a goal of zero deaths). In energy policy, EC desires the substitution of 20 percent of transport fuels by alternative fuels. Environmental policy sets new air quality standards, in part to assist member states in fulfilling their commitments to the Kyoto Protocol (an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases) and to address the long-term health effects of transport-related pollution. The overall objective of EC's 2001 Transport Policy is to do the following:

"Meet the demand for accessibility, while minimizing the negative effects of transport, with an expectation of strong economic growth that should not be minimized."

This policy, contained in the 2001 White Paper on Transport, was undergoing a midterm review in 2005, after which more results on progress toward these objectives were expected to be available (www.europa.eu.int).

At the heart of this policy is the concept of decoupling traffic growth from economic growth. Historically, growth in transport use has paralleled economic growth, since transport demand is generally derived from the economy. However, some economists have forwarded the notion that this consistent relationship does not need to occur. Indeed, transport demand (in terms of demand for vehicles and roads) can be decoupled from economic growth if appropriate measures are in place to assure accessibility without restricting mobility of people and goods. This concept of decoupling is central to the notion of sustainable growth and transport. The long-term aim of the internalization of external costs for all modes of transport, and particularly road pricing, is one central strategy to induce users to pay for a higher share of the negative impacts of traffic. While transport growth (i.e., VKT) is still increasing in the EU at a rate close to gross domestic product (GDP), there are early signs that decoupling may be occurring.

One concrete way in which the EC is working to fulfill its transport, energy, and environmental objectives is through extensive research and the dissemination of findings and technology transfer. EU spends a significant part of its budget on research and development. A comprehensive research and development "framework programme" is in its sixth iteration and has funded large-scale pilot programs on advanced traveler information, marketing, mobility management, pricing, ITS, and many of the other topics of interest to the scan team. These initiatives mainly come from the Directorate General for Transport and Energy. A critical part of these European research projects is evaluation. For example, project MOST ("MObility STrategies for the next decades" found at http://mo.st) produced a standardized monitoring and evaluation toolkit for mobility management projects, and it has been customized for use in Sweden (see Chapter 2).

One example of EU-supported research is the CIVITAS (CIty VITAlity Sustainability) Initiative, which tests integrated strategies for clean transport (www.civitas-initiative.org). CIVITAS supports the packaging of technology and policy measures in the area of energy and transport. This results in packages of strategies implemented at the local level, including clean vehicles, public transit innovations, demand management, pricing, traveler information, etc. CIVITAS initiatives are being implemented in 36 cities in 17 countries, using local partners and independent evaluators. The program aims to test and evaluate new policies and packages of measures in real-world settings to assess the technological as well as political issues involved in the adoption and use of cleaner and more sustainable modes. These programs also allow EC to perform benchmarking for other localities. Two CIVITAS projects, in Bristol and Winchester, England, are discussed in Chapter 2. CIVITAS projects are also underway in Rome, Stockholm, and Rotterdam, and are linked with the strategies described in the case studies that follow.

Figure 8. CIVITAS logo.
CIVITAS logo.

Information on other European research projects and findings is available at www.cordis.lu and www.eltis.org.

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