Traffic Essay Research Paper PUBLIC VS PRIVATE

Traffic Essay, Research Paper PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE – THE PROBLEM OF CITY TRAFFIC. As disposable income has increased over the decades, and the cost, in real terms, of the mass produced vehicle has come down, the numbers of private cars on our roads has increased, whilst the public transport system has become under used, and under funded.

Traffic Essay, Research Paper


As disposable income has increased over the decades, and the cost, in real terms, of the mass produced vehicle has come down, the numbers of private cars on our roads has increased, whilst the public transport system has become under used, and under funded.

Urbanisation in the latter part of the 20th century has caused the concentration of these vehicles within our cities.

This project will use Edinburgh as an example of a growing, modern city, with, like many of our cities, an old infrastructure that is incapable of coping with the demands now placed upon it.

Public transport is one of the main methods of easing congestion with in an urban area. What level dose public transport reach in the city? What do the people who use it feel about it? How many cars use the roads in Edinburgh on an average weekday? Why is congestion and overuse of the roads a problem that needs to be addressed? These are some questions this report will attempt to answer.

Finally, we will look at the plans currently being explored to improve the situation, and we will look abroad to see examples found there.

The public transport system in Edinburgh.

There are 37 commercial bus companies in the Lothian district, Lothian Regional Council contracts these companies to provide the services. They make the arrangements for routes, and for elderly and disabled passengers to travel at reduced rates on all modes of public transport, and fund this.

According to Council figures, buses account for around 31% of journeys to work in Edinburgh. Lothian public transport provides for 150million passengers a year (council figures). The council estimates that bus journey times are sometimes 60% longer for the same car journey. Congested streets mean that bus journey times increase and reliability deteriorates.

Private Transport in Edinburgh:

In 1991, 48% of journeys to work in Edinburgh were by car, 34% by public transport, 16% by walking and 2% by bike.

Between 1981 and 1991, cars per 1000 in Edinburgh rose from 220 – 320, while bus passengers (millions) fell from 180 – 140 in the same period.

Why is congestion a problem?

Air pollution is a major problem particularly in cities, where the majority of pollution comes from vehicle exhausts. These contain chemicals such as:

Carbon Monoxide, which impairs brain activity and heart function, by combining with haemoglobin instead of Oxygen.

Carbon dioxide, which is increasing global warming.

Lead, which even at reduced levels, leads to brain damage in children. The lead, added to petrol as an anti cracking agent accumulates in the body and interferes with enzyme activity.

Lead also creates a thin layer on the leaves of plants, reducing photosynthesis, and productivity.

Particulates, Aldehydes and other volatile organic substances, which can cause cancer.

Oxides of Sulphur and Nitrogen, which produces acid rain when mixed with water vapor in the high atmosphere, and creates toxic ground level ozone which, in turn, increases the levels of acids and free radicals in the air. These, when inhaled damage the lungs.

Chronic asthma, bronchitis and heart disease are common consequences of the air pollution. Many streets in Edinburgh have failed the air quality levels that were set by the government in 1995. This level includes the limit of 40micrograms of Nitrogen per cubic metre by 2005.This was trebled on some streets in Edinburgh when recorded in 1996, all streets that had the air quality test did have lower levels than those in 1995.


A survey of the numbers of cars traveling in to Edinburgh on Clerk Street, identified by Lothian Council as one of the busiest routs in to Edinburgh, was carried out.

Six separate traffic counts, lasting one hour each, took place on the road, taken on weekdays, at separate times during the day.

A short questionnaire was devised, directed at people waiting at bus stops. 100 questioners were filled out, a sample questionnaire is shown in fig.2 and the results can be seen in fig. 3.


The graph above shows us that there is a very large percentage difference between the amounts of car s, buses and taxis on the roads of Edinburgh. With only 14% of traffic being buses this even further concludes that few people use public transport and most have access to a private car.

The graph above shows that the majority of car users consist of only the driver and approximately half of that figure contain passengers. Only 1/9 of the 1987 cars counted contained 3 or more people, showing

The results of the public transport passenger questionnaire as follows:

51% of passengers use public transport more than once a week, 49% less than once a week.

Of those who use PT less than once a week, 24% felt it was of very poor poor standard, 37% felt it was satisfactory, and 39% felt the public transport in Edinburgh was good very good.

Of those who use more than once a week, 30% felt PT was very poor poor, 27% satisfactory, and 43% felt that public transport in Edinburgh was good to very good.

37% of people asked owned a car, 63% had no car.

When asked which they would prefer to travel by, if both cost the same, 66% of passengers said taxi, stating it was more convenient. 34% said bus.

35% of people spend less than 5 minutes waiting for a bus, 31% spend 6 10 minutes, 21% 11 15, 7% 16 20 minutes, and 6% over 20 minutes.

Plans for Traffic control in Edinburgh:

The increasing dependence on private cars is the biggest transport issue today. In Lothian the numbers of cars are doubling every 20yrs. Lothian Regonal Council is looking at the establishment of areas of car-free housing. Each resident of the estate would agree not to own a car, extra space would be created from the land normally used for roads and parking. Public transport links to the estate would be improved. For long journeys, residents could form a car pool that would be available to every one. Also preferential rates with local car hire companies could be arranged.

In the past two years an Urban Traffic Control (UTC) has been set up in the Edinburgh area. It involves electronically tagging buses so that they can turn traffic light from red to green if they are running late.

The council plans to create more Park and Ride facilities; five sites are in preparation, mainly in close proximity to the A720 ring road. They plan to increase bus numbers t these sites, increase parking area, and install CCTV to reduce car crime.

Methods of traffic control around the world:

Many attempts have been made to cut city traffic volumes worldwide. Japanese and American counter urbanisation would seem to limit the problem, but increasing populations have still led to increased congestion.

Success has been achieved in Gothenburg s “environmental free zones” which only allow buses and taxis in certain areas. Zurich has also had success using its network of trams, trolleys and buses. Novel attempts have been made by other cities, notably Athens, including only allowing odd number plated cars on the road one day and even the next. Failure was brought about when it was discovered that many commuters bought both types of car


Those who use Edinburgh public transport seem to be satisfied with the service, as seen from the graphs in fig.1. The council has set out comprehensive, if ambitious schemes to alleviate the problem, but the benefits will take a few years to become obvious. From our data, it can be seen that cars predominate on our roads, of these, the majority contains one person, a great waste of space. The attitude of the public seems to be towards the ease of travel, rather than concern for the environment or heath, illustrated by the graph that shows 66% of people would prefer to take a taxi rather than a bus, if both were priced the same. The reasons given by the 34% who said buses were mainly concerns over the environment.

37% of public transport passengers had cars, reasons for not using them included, not being able to start it, the car being in the garage, their partner had the car, and problems with parking at work.

We therefor conclude that public apathy is one of the greatest barriers that traffic planners will come across when aiming to reduce car numbers on the roads. Unless people begin to use public transport more, and increase the number of people in private cars by car sharing methods, the problem will not be alleviated.