Traffic Congestion and Parking Challenges: Innovation, Policy and Regulation

Tel Aviv is a vibrant cosmopolitan city, a beautiful international city that never sleeps.  It is also a city where traffic and parking have been increasingly challenging.  Recently, the city’s council expanded the restrictions and limits on parking spaces for Tel Aviv residents, while allocating parking spaces across the city out of the already limited spaces that were previously available to the public to shared transportation services and electric scooters. Both decisions contributed to the growing frustration of the residents.  Following the remarkable success of Mobileye and the numerous mobility tech startups that it inspired, Israel has been positioned as a hub of mobility innovation.  Could tech innovation come to the rescue and solve pressing infrastructure challenges in the near future?

One of the key markets for deployment of advanced technologies is the US where transportation policy and regulation is often debated.  For advanced transportation solutions such as connected transportation to be successful in the US, an appropriate regulatory framework will have to be in place.  That includes for example, the push on keeping the 5.9 GHz wireless spectrum for transportation communication needs. While automakers in the US would like to make sure sufficient spectrum band is allocated, other interest groups argue it should be shared for Wi-Fi use.  Another recent development to be followed is the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act that the US Senate introduced in July of this year.  The new proposed legislation aims to be a five-year transportation infrastructure bill authorizing $287 billion from the Highway Trust Fund for various programs and tackling a slew of issues including improving freight connectivity, guidelines for autonomous vehicle technology and access to transit systems.  With the derailed last year of the AV START, American Vision for Safer Transportation Through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies bill – all eyes are now set on those two policies.

A report published in June of this year, the 2018 Traffic Index, by TomTom International BV, found that in major U.S. cities, commuters are spending more time stuck behind the wheel. The report reviewed road congestion levels in 403 cities across 56 countries.  Tel-Aviv by the way, was ranked 19 at a 42% congestion level, surpassing Los Angeles which was ranked 24 and New York which was ranked 42.  Mumbai was ranked 1 at a 65% congestion level.  According to the report, two U.S. cities, Salt Lake City and Portland, showed measurable progress in making traffic less frustrating. Both invested in traffic light optimization, bike infrastructure, light rail, and reducing parking availability. Other cities are following suit with the goal of strengthening car-free transit.  Among the many benefits of easing congestion levels, is increased productivity due to time no longer wasted in traffic, and reducing the environmental impact of car pollution.   Texas A&M 2019 Urban Mobility Report estimates the annual cost of congestion for urban American at $166 billion.

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The question though, is what will it take to encourage drivers to use such alternative means of transportation.  The 2018 Masabi Mass Transit Rider Research Report suggested one key priority for passengers -convenience.  This priority explains for example why ride-share services are so popular in the U.S. and why car-pooling options offered to ride-share riders don’t seem to be as successful as expected. Riders prefer to pay more than having to delay their arrival at the destination due to additional stops on the way.  And whether autonomous vehicles (AVs) will solve traffic congestion levels is also a good question.  One report, published in March of this year at the Transport Policy raised a valid dilemma.  The report titled “The autonomous Vehicle parking problem”, suggested that AVs may contribute to congestion when instead of paying high parking fees in major cities, they will just keep cruising around the block.  However, if a creative way is found to both use ride-share and AVs, that may be a different story.  A 2017 study by MIT, found that 3,000 four-passenger cars could serve 98% of taxi demand in New York City, with an average wait-time of only 2.7 minutes. The MIT researcher in fact developed an algorithm which could possibly, over-time, optimize car-pooling and speed traffic times by as much as 40%.

Israeli companies are leading the pact with end-to-end solutions that allow for a convenient personalized use of public and shared transportation as well as smart management tools of traffic, connected and autonomous vehicles and cybersecurity. Technology is oftentimes way ahead of the regulatory curve.  However policy and regulation plays an important role and the wide-adoption of such advanced technologies.  A careful review of what shall transpire in both federal and key states legation over the coming year will be a good indication on how fast such advanced mobility solutions may be adopted in the U.S. market.

About the Author
Meital Stavinsky is a Miami and Washington D.C. attorney, member of Holland & Knight's Public Policy & Regulation Group and Co-Chair of the firm's Israel Practice. Meital focuses her practice on business, public policy and regulation, with a particular emphasis on Israeli emerging and advanced technologies companies in the areas of AgriTech, FoodTech, CleanTech and Advanced Transpiration Technologies. Meital assists Israeli companies seeking to enter the U.S. market and expand their operations in the U.S. She has successfully advocated on behalf of leading innovative Israeli AgriTech companies in raising their profile and advancing their goals before the U.S. Congress and key U.S. federal agencies, most recently in connection with the 2018 Farm Bill.
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