Improving Our Cities: Is tackling congestion really the answer?

Too often solving traffic congestion is help up as the number one solution for improving life in our urban centres. We look into the validity of this.

What is the problem?

When we look at urban centres today often one of the primary areas of focus and concern is traffic, including congestion and public transportation. From this comes the secondary concerns of pollution and a subsequent reduced quality of life for urban dwellers who battle daily with traffic congestion and in some places inadequate public transportation services and networks too. 

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When we look at urban centres today often one of the primary areas of focus and concern is traffic. Image by Nabeel Syed.

Generally the initial reaction, from city planners, local councils and governments, is to tackle the congestion. This might mean building more roads, implementing tolls and charges for driving into certain parts of the city, it might involve expanding transport links including bus and train lines, and it might also involve seemingly creative and successful approaches to transportation- think more bike lanes, shared bicycle renting and car sharing services. 

However these are ultimately only short term solutions to a very long term problem, and the solution to improving congestion within a city is not through ways to ease the congestion but involves ways to prevent people from having to travel long distances in the first place. Reducing the number of people travelling, and reducing the distances people travel in the course of their daily lives instantly reduces the congestion and traffic without needing to resort to stop gap solutions or solutions that require intensive planning and resources to make them happen.

It doesn’t mean that stop gap solutions aren’t good ones. Improving public transportation within a city benefits its residents and the environment, as does the promotion of bike sharing and the building of more bike lanes. But in terms of a long term solution to congestion, these approaches are not the answer.

What is the answer?

The answer lies in redesigning our cities and redeveloping our neighbourhoods in a way that ends the current segregation of the different areas where we live, work and play. 

One of the main causes of congested city centres is commuters. Commuters travelling around the city for work, but also commuters travelling in from residential suburban areas in order to work in the city. If we can reduce this number of commuters and the distances they must travel in a day between work and home, we automatically tackle the congestion at the same time. We also improve the quality of a lot of people's lives. 

How do we do this?

Remote working and working from home is one solution. And both of these are on the rise in urban centres around the world. It is a working trend that is here to stay and one that is expected to increase moving into 2021 and beyond. This naturally cuts commuter numbers.

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Working from home is expected to increase. Image by Wocintechchat.

But what we also need is a more creative and revolutionary approach to living and working that brings together the residential and the commercial in shared, organic communities. This means combining residential and coworking spaces, it means turning unused office spaces into a mix of commercial and residential, it means doing away with an approach to city planning that views this area as only for commercial, this for leisure and this for residential. Urban dwellers benefit when their city is accessible, and developing sharing living, working and leisure communities and complexes is what makes a city truly accessible.

For several years co-living has been at the vanguard of this new approach to urban living. It has long believed in the importance of connected communities that merge together home, work and play. It understands that it is not just about cutting congestion by granting people more freedom to be able to walk to work, it is about transforming cities into something more connected and dynamic. It is about eliminating the commute and the congestion, with a more integrated approach to creating and developing residential and work spaces.

At Vonder are proud of our merging of how we live, work and play with the development of our co-living London, Berlin and Warsaw complexes. 

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