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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • Hi. I'm here to talk about congestion,

  • namely road congestion.

  • Road congestion is a pervasive phenomenon.

  • It exists in basically all of the cities all around the world,

  • which is a little bit surprising when you think about it.

  • I mean, think about how different cities are, actually.

  • I mean, you have the typical European cities,

  • with a dense urban core, good public transportation

  • mostly, not a lot of road capacity.

  • But then, on the other hand, you have the American cities.

  • It's moving by itself, okay.

  • Anyway, the American cities:

  • lots of roads dispersed over large areas,

  • almost no public transportation.

  • And then you have the emerging world cities,

  • with a mixed variety of vehicles,

  • mixed land-use patterns, also rather dispersed

  • but often with a very dense urban core.

  • And traffic planners all around the world have tried

  • lots of different measures: dense cities or dispersed cities,

  • lots of roads or lots of public transport

  • or lots of bike lanes or more information,

  • or lots of different things, but nothing seems to work.

  • But all of these attempts have one thing in common.

  • They're basically attempts at figuring out

  • what people should do instead of rush hour car driving.

  • They're essentially, to a point, attempts at planning

  • what other people should do, planning their life for them.

  • Now, planning a complex social system

  • is a very hard thing to do, and let me tell you a story.

  • Back in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell,

  • an urban planner in London got a phone call

  • from a colleague in Moscow saying, basically,

  • "Hi, this is Vladimir. I'd like to know,

  • who's in charge of London's bread supply?"

  • And the urban planner in London goes,

  • "What do you mean, who's in charge of London's —

  • I mean, no one is in charge."

  • "Oh, but surely someone must be in charge.

  • I mean, it's a very complicated system. Someone must control all of this."

  • "No. No. No one is in charge.

  • I mean, it basically -- I haven't really thought of it.

  • It basically organizes itself."

  • It organizes itself.

  • That's an example of a complex social system

  • which has the ability of self-organizing,

  • and this is a very deep insight.

  • When you try to solve really complex social problems,

  • the right thing to do is most of the time

  • to create the incentives.

  • You don't plan the details,

  • and people will figure out what to do,

  • how to adapt to this new framework.

  • And let's now look at how we can use this insight

  • to combat road congestion.

  • This is a map of Stockholm, my hometown.

  • Now, Stockholm is a medium-sized city, roughly two million people,

  • but Stockholm also has lots of water and lots of water

  • means lots of bridges -- narrow bridges, old bridges --

  • which means lots of road congestion.

  • And these red dots show the most congested parts,

  • which are the bridges that lead into the inner city.

  • And then someone came up with the idea that,

  • apart from good public transport,

  • apart from spending money on roads,

  • let's try to charge drivers one or two euros at these bottlenecks.

  • Now, one or two euros, that isn't really a lot of money,

  • I mean compared to parking charges and running costs, etc.,

  • so you would probably expect that car drivers

  • wouldn't really react to this fairly small charge.

  • You would be wrong.

  • One or two euros was enough to make 20 percent of cars

  • disappear from rush hours.

  • Now, 20 percent, well, that's a fairly huge figure, you might think,

  • but you've still got 80 percent left of the problem, right?

  • Because you still have 80 percent of the traffic.

  • Now, that's also wrong, because traffic happens to be

  • a nonlinear phenomenon, meaning that

  • once you reach above a certain capacity threshold

  • then congestion starts to increase really, really rapidly.

  • But fortunately, it also works the other way around.

  • If you can reduce traffic even somewhat, then congestion

  • will go down much faster than you might think.

  • Now, congestion charges were introduced in Stockholm

  • on January 3, 2006, and the first picture here is a picture

  • of Stockholm, one of the typical streets, January 2.

  • The first day with the congestion charges looked like this.

  • This is what happens when you take away

  • 20 percent of the cars from the streets.

  • You really reduce congestion quite substantially.

  • But, well, as I said, I mean, car drivers adapt, right?

  • So after a while they would all come back because they

  • have sort of gotten used to charges.

  • Wrong again. It's now six and a half years ago

  • since the congestion charges were introduced in Stockholm,

  • and we basically have the same low traffic levels still.

  • But you see, there's an interesting gap here in the time series

  • in 2007.

  • Well, the thing is that, the congestion charges,

  • they were introduced first as a trial, so they were introduced

  • in January and then abolished again at the end of July,

  • followed by a referendum, and then they were reintroduced

  • again in 2007, which of course was a wonderful scientific opportunity.

  • I mean, this was a really fun experiment to start with,

  • and we actually got to do it twice.

  • And personally, I would like to do this every once a year or so,

  • but they won't let me do that.

  • But it was fun anyway.

  • So, we followed up. What happened?

  • This is the last day with the congestion charges, July 31,

  • and you see the same street but now it's summer,

  • and summer in Stockholm is a very nice

  • and light time of the year,

  • and the first day without the congestion charges

  • looked like this.

  • All the cars were back again, and you even have to admire

  • the car drivers. They adapt so extremely quickly.

  • The first day they all came back.

  • And this effect hanged on. So 2007 figures looked like this.

  • Now these traffic figures are really exciting

  • and a little bit surprising and very useful to know,

  • but I would say that the most surprising slide here

  • I'm going to show you today is not this one. It's this one.

  • This shows public support for congestion pricing of Stockholm,

  • and you see that when congestion pricing were introduced

  • in the beginning of Spring 2006, people were fiercely against it.

  • Seventy percent of the population didn't want this.

  • But what happened when the congestion charges

  • were there is not what you would expect, that people hated it more and more.

  • No, on the contrary, they changed, up to a point

  • where we now have 70 percent support for keeping the charges,

  • meaning that -- I mean, let me repeat that:

  • 70 percent of the population in Stockholm

  • want to keep a price for something that used to be free.

  • Okay. So why can that be? Why is that?

  • Well, think about it this way. Who changed?

  • I mean, the 20 percent of the car drivers that disappeared,

  • surely they must be discontent in a way.

  • And where did they go? If we can understand this,

  • then maybe we can figure out how people can be so happy with this.

  • Well, so we did this huge interview survey

  • with lots of travel services, and tried to figure out

  • who changed, and where did they go?

  • And it turned out that they don't know themselves. (Laughter)

  • For some reason, the car drivers are --

  • they are confident they actually drive the same way that they used to do.

  • And why is that? It's because that travel patterns

  • are much less stable than you might think.

  • Each day, people make new decisions, and people change

  • and the world changes around them, and each day

  • all of these decisions are sort of nudged ever so slightly

  • away from rush hour car driving

  • in a way that people don't even notice.

  • They're not even aware of this themselves.

  • And the other question, who changed their mind?

  • Who changed their opinion, and why?

  • So we did another interview survey, tried to figure out

  • why people changed their mind, and what type of group changed their minds?

  • And after analyzing the answers, it turned out that

  • more than half of them believe that they haven't changed their minds.

  • They're actually confident that they have

  • liked congestion pricing all along.

  • Which means that we are now in a position

  • where we have reduced traffic across this toll cordon

  • with 20 percent, and reduced congestion by enormous numbers,

  • and people aren't even aware that they have changed,

  • and they honestly believe that they have liked this all along.

  • This is the power of nudges when trying to solve

  • complex social problems, and when you do that,

  • you shouldn't try to tell people how to adapt.

  • You should just nudge them in the right direction.

  • And if you do it right,

  • people will actually embrace the change,

  • and if you do it right, people will actually even like it.

  • Thank you. (Applause)

Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

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【TED】Jonas Eliasson: How to solve traffic jams (Jonas Eliasson: How to solve traffic jams)

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