Tuesday, January 7, 2014

An Odd Way To Even Things Out.

Just a few weeks back the government announced that the speed limit on the Boulevard Périphérique (the 'peripheral' ring-shaped highway that encircles Paris) would drop from 80 km/h to 70 km/h. The goal of this drop in the speed limit, which has been studied for years and tested on certain stretches of the boulevard since 2011, is to reduce accidents and lower noise and air pollution. It would seem the results are positive, as, since January 1st, 2014, the official speed limit is 70 km/h.
While a car fan rarely approves of the tightening of speed limits, in the case of the 'Périph', it really doesn't make all that much difference, as the amount of traffic on this very busy road will make even 70 km/h hard to attain.

A different proposal being studied for Paris drivers is much more problematic for motorists. The law being considered (apparently similar laws are being studied on other European cities as well) would effectively cut in half the number of cars on the road on any given day. Vehicles with odd-numbered licence plates would be allowed to drive on, for example, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while those with even-numbered plates would be allowed to drive on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Feel free to take a moment and let that sink in. Try to picture planning your daily commute to work, a trip to the grocery store, dropping the kids off at the pool, an emergency run to the hospital, a surprise call from Grandma who needs a ride to Bingo... basically, any of the dozens of reasons you might want to use your car at any given moment if you can't use your car half of those days.

Few people would disagree that limiting traffic and the resultant pollution and accidents and headaches is important, but I simply can't see how this could work. At all. In certain cases it would push people to carpool with coworkers, but not everyone has the chance to easily take advantage of such a situation. Ever-climbing housing prices in Paris (like in most major cities) push people further and further outside the city, into the suburbs, with often limited public transit options. And for those lucky enough to live near a train or bus route, there's still the over-crowding that already exists on many routes to contend with.
Many argue that two-car families will simply make sure that they have an odd and even-numbered car, or will arrange to borrow the opposite-plated car from friends and family to be able to drive every day. There's no question that this plan would reduce the number of cars on the roads, but at what cost? The gain is clear (less time wasted, less pollution, potentially fewer accidents), but what about the loss? Will businesses and companies suffer if employees and customers can't easily get to where they need to go? Will the cars kept off the roads on certain days simply be replaced by other cars that have the correct plate for that day? Will an influx of taxis cancel out the reduction in cars every day.

It's a potentially messy situation. I will be watching closely to see if this plan gets put into law. For now I will concentrate on keeping my speed below 70 km/h, and worry about which days I'm allowed to drive when and if it happens.

1 comment:

  1. A friend attended a presentation recently that talked about this idea and others to solve traffic problems, and apparently it has already been tried in several South American cities. It seems that, as I predicted, many people simply have two cars with different licence plates so that they can drive every day. She DID say that there are apparently many other ideas being tested that seem to work. I'm going to talk more with her and find out, as it is a very interesting and pertinent subject!


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