My Solution to Traffic Jams

I hate traffic jams, and that’s why we’ve started to Waze. We tried to solve that at waze, but traffic jams are much more severe today than they were in 2007 when we started. So, my mission is not complete yet.

Are we a part of it? People told me that waze empowered more people to drive. So, in a sense, we increased traffic.

I’d like to share with you the essence of the traffic problem. Essentially, when there is a road with 5 lanes of traffic, but in fact, there are 200 people sitting in 177 vehicles, if I do magic and make those cars disappear, those 200 people will occupy a very small space. I could take these people and fit them into 3 buses.

If we think the direction we are heading is better – it is NOT. Uber actually makes it worse, because some of the time it’s only the driver in the car. With autonomous vehicles, it’s going to be worse because in many cases they will drive around with no one there.

Imagine one kilometer of one lane of a highway, in that 1 KM there are 40-45 vehicles with 50 people, and we simply don’t have enough roads. The average ratio of passengers per vehicle in the western world is 1.1. This is simply too much space.

The user (driver or passenger) has 3 factors that influence their choice of mobility: the most important is convenience, which is something individual and subjective, the second is speed, and the third is cost.

To solve the traffic jams, we need to change the ratio of the number of passengers to vehicle, and the best way to do it is by providing a public transportation solution that will be convenient, fast, and inexpensive – free is even better.

I live in Tel-Aviv, and I can get to places faster on my bicycle than in any other vehicle. But if I can get people faster and more conveniently than anything else, they will choose that option. If I can give you something fast, free, convenient that can get you from anywhere to anywhere, you will prefer it.

Think of NYC, where the subway actually provides that. It is convenient, fast, and inexpensive. The reason that the subway can provide that is very simple – they have their own separate lanes (tracks).

If we want to convert a city into an efficient mobility system, we need to provide dedicated roads for public transportation, and then it can be fast.

Simply allocate half of the avenues and the streets only for public transportation, you will have something that could get you from anywhere to anywhere. On those avenues and streets run back and forth a line which is like an elevator, a fleet of van-sized vehicles in a very high frequency and make them autonomous so you can afford the operational costs. It will be convenient, as there is a service a block away, it will be fast as there are no other cars on those streets and avenues, and it should be free.

At the same time, it’s really hard, show me the mayor that will tell all of the citizens in their city that they’ll take half of the streets for public transportation. Making hard decisions is hard, but we need someone to make the right decisions.

If we don’t do that, if you think that traffic jams today are bad, in the coming years it’s going to be worse. In Israel, we have a 10% vehicle increase every year. These people use the same roads at the same time as everyone and we’re going to have a major problem.

It’s not up to the innovators but up to the authorities. Entrepreneurs and Innovators can change many things, but not the regulation, and we can dramatically improve traffic in a few areas: What can we do? We can do quite a lot.

This is something we measured during my waze and moovit days. What happens to someone who works in NY and lives in Long Island? That person gets out at 7:30 go to the train station, goes to the parking lot, there is no parking, and therefore drives all the way to the city. This happens everywhere. If you could reduce 10-20% of the vehicles driving to the cities and reduce the first mile, the way to the train, for instance, you could get a dramatic result.

This goes back to the early days of waze trying to enter the market. We saw people going to the destination and driving past the destinations. And we understood that people were looking for a parking space and had to go past it to look for it. In Tel Aviv, one-third of vehicles are looking for parking and that creates traffic. Anything that could improve residential parking will be dramatic.

If you think of solutions that will make an impact, the first mile is one. On-street residential parking is the second. I’m trying to address the issue of parking because I hate that.

Watch the video on Israel’s Prime Ministers’ Smart Mobility Summit, 2021

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