Copper’s Charlotte Minett explores the UK’s congestion problem and how working together to promote habitual change may be the first step in the right direction to combat this issue.

Recent research shows that upgrading public transport is one of the top three priorities for Londoners, alongside upgrading utilities and improving environmental sustainability, according to AECOM’s Future of Infrastructure report. This will not come as a shock to most, with many local authorities in towns and cities around the UK experiencing pressures from the public to make journeys more reliable and more enjoyable by improving urban transport.

Adding to this, research collated by Inrix shows that congestion is a major issue that needs to be addressed as it found that the average road user in London lost up to £1,680 last year due to traffic jams. If this isn’t a wake-up call, then I don’t know what is.

It is clear that to improve urban transport systems, reducing private car use on heavily congested roads is a good place to start, but to do so will take serious habitual change.

Promoting this habitual change will not come easily. Fast-paced advances in technology mean we are now living in a convenience-led society; we track congestion, order taxis on the go, and pay for public transport using our smart phones. For this reason, it is refreshing to see that local authorities and businesses are joining efforts to make the important infrastructure decisions to encourage us to change our commuting habits.

These infrastructure decisions are designed to encourage the use of shared mobility and sustainable transport by creating more reliable and fast paced transport systems.  Examples of these plans across the UK include Hereford’s Transport Package, Cambridge’s Smart City plans and the West of England’s Joint Local Transport Plan. However, it is important to remember that a lack of available government funding and long timescales for a number of these improvement projects will mean many people will continue to choose their private cars as there is no other alternative.

In January Bristol saw influential transport leaders, including Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, James Durie, CEO of Business West, Colin Stanbridge, Chief Executive of London Chamber of Commerce, and David Carter, Director of Infrastructure at West of England Combined Authority, come together and call on local authorities and businesses to use one voice to promote the need to kick-start urban transport improvements and habitual change for the city’s private car users.

At the same event, James Freeman, Managing Director of First Bus, spoke about how Bristol can combat traffic jams and said that congestion is our friend because “it is making us stop and think about what we are doing”.

In essence, it comes down to involving residents in these infrastructure decisions to ensure that people are encouraged to choose shared mobility and sustainable transport that will reduce the country-wide bugbear of urban congestion and benefit quality of living for communities.