Free Essay On Traffic Congestion

This is one of my model IELTS essays lessons where you can

  • read the essay
  • do a vocabulary exercise
  • get a full lesson on how to write the essay

Read the IELTS  traffic essay

In cities and towns all over the world the high volume of traffic is a problem. What are the causes of this and what actions can be taken to solve this problem?

It is undoubtedly the case that urban areas around the world increasingly suffer from congestion. In this essay, I examine the reasons for this trend and suggest some practical policies the authorities could implement to reduce the level of traffic in our cities.

The first step is to understand why traffic has increased in towns and cities. Broadly speaking, there are three main reasons for this. One is that cars have become more affordable for the average consumer and they are no longer a luxury item, but something that most families expect to own. A second reason is that public transport has become increasingly unreliable in recent years, not least because many bus and train services have been reduced because of the difficulty in funding them. The third reason is that society has in general become more mobile and this means more people are prepared to commute to work by car than they were before.

There is almost certainly no one solution to this problem given the complexity of its causes. However, one option has to be to improve the reliability of public transport to encourage people to take the bus or the train rather than get in the car. It would also be possible to discourage people from driving to work by introducing special tariffs for using the roads, especially during peak periods. A successful example of this is the congestion charge scheme in London which has certainly reduced the level of trafficin inner-city areas.

In conclusion, there are a variety of different factors that have led to rising levels of traffic in urban areas. While it may not be possible to find a complete solution, any action should probably involve encouraging greater use of public transport and making it more expensive for the motorist to drive in urban areas.

Practise using the essay language

Do a lesson to help you write it

In this lesson you will find guidance on:

  • structuring the essay so that you answer the question fully
  • getting ideas for the essay
  • organising your paragraphs
  • choosing the right vocabulary

There are also two vocabulary exercises to help you write the essay yourself.

Getting the essay question right

In cities and towns all over the world the high volume of traffic is a problem. What are the causes of this and what actions can be taken to solve this problem?

This is a “double question” question. The one point to focus on here is to make sure that you answer both halves of the question throughout the essay. This means that you want to identify both halves of the question in your introduction and your conclusion.

Essay structure

With this type of essay question with a double question, the natural structure is to deal with each question in a content separate paragraph – dealing with the causes and the policies separately. It is often quite hard to summarise your position quickly in relation to two question and so it can make sense to just say that you are going to discuss the questions in the introduction as opposed to stating your position to both of them. You do want to make sure, however, that your conclusion does summarise your main points.

A key tip here is to make sure that you use the introduction, topic sentences and the conclusion to form the spine of your essay. Just reading those should be enough to tell the reader what it is about.

Introduction

Here you can see the situation behind the question/the topic is identified in red. While in the next sentence, it is clear that the essay is going to look at both the causes of and solutions to this problem (blue and green)

It is undoubtedly the case that urban areas around the world increasingly suffer from congestion. In this essay, I examine the reasons for this trend and suggest some practical policies the authorities could implement to reduce the level of traffic in our cities.

Content 1

The first two sentences clearly link back to the introduction and outline what the paragraph is going to be about. Here I  choose to use two quick and short sentences, rather than one long one. Clarity is the main goal here.

The first step is to understand why traffic has increased in towns and cities. Broadly speaking, there are three main reasons for this.

Content 2

Again, I use a quick short sentence to start that clearly links back to the introduction. The goal is to make my structure clear, I don’t worry about introducing details of my argument in my first sentence.

There is almost certainly no one solution to this problem given the complexity of its causes.

Conclusion

My conclusion is split into two halves to make sure I answer both halves of the question. It also borrows some language from the introduction to improve coherence. I choose to add more detail about the solutions as this neatly links back to the second of my topic paragraphs.

In conclusion, there are a variety of different factors that have led to rising levels of traffic in urban areas. While it may not be possible to find a complete solution, any action should probably involve encouraging greater use of public transport and making it more expensive for the motorist to drive in urban areas.

Ideas for the essay

Here are some possible ideas for the essay. You should note that I have not used all these ideas in my own essay. The idea is to select those ideas that work best for you – meaning those that you can expand with reasons and examples. A top tip is NOT to include ALL your ideas.

More cars

  • cars are more affordable than ever before
  • cars have become a status symbol
  • people need cars to commute to work
  • people do not share car journeys
  • improved road networks make it easier to travel
  • many families now own two cars (both husband and wife work)
  • public transport is inconvenient
  • public transport is unavailable in some areas

Solutions

  • improve public transport by adding more bus routes
  • give incentives to drivers to share journeys
  • add more cycle routes
  • put tariffs on using roads in peak periods
  • advertising campaigns to highlight negatives of using cars
  • have more pedestrianised areas in towns to prevent cars from entering them

Structuring your paragraphs when you have more than one idea

When you have a number of different ideas to include in one paragraph, you probably want to choose a “listing paragraph” structure. The way to do this is simply to start your paragraph by saying that it will include a number of related points. This way it is clear to the examiner what you are saying. So in this example it is clear that I have three things to say about why traffic has increased in cities.

The first step is to understand why traffic has increased in towns and cities. Broadly speaking, there are three main reasons for this. One is that cars have become more affordable for the average consumer and they are no longer a luxury item, but something that most families expect to own. A second reason is that public transport has become increasingly unreliable in recent years, not least because many bus and train services have been reduced because of the difficulty in funding them. The third reason is that society has in general become more mobile and this means more people are prepared to commute to work by car than they were before.

If this appears “too simple” for you. You can also look at the structure of my second topic paragraph where I also use more than one reason. The pattern is much the same though. I start by saying that there is more than one point I wish to make.You may want to notice how “also” is a natural linking word.

There is almost certainly no one solution to this problem given the complexity of its causes. However, one option has to be to improve the reliability of public transport to encourage people to take the bus or the train rather than get in the car. It would also be possible to discourage people from driving to work by introducing special tariffs for using the roads, especially during peak periods. A successful example of this is the congestion charge scheme in London which has certainly reduced the level of traffic in inner-city areas.

Vocabulary

Academic vocabulary

Almost certainly the most useful vocab to focus on in IELTS essays comes from the academic word list. These are words that can be used in ANY essay and the idea is that IELTS essays should be formal in language.

It is undoubtedly the case that urban areas around the world increasingly suffer from congestion. In this essay, I examine the reasons for this trend and suggest some practical policies the authorities could implement to reduce the level of traffic in our cities.

The first step is to understand why traffic has increased in towns and cities. Broadly speaking, there are three main reasons for this. One is that cars have become more affordable for the average consumer and they are no longer a luxury item, but something that most families expect to own. A second reason is that public transport has become increasingly unreliable in recent years, not least because many bus and train services have been reduced because of the difficulty in funding them. The third reason is that society has in general become more mobile and this means more people are prepared to commute to work by car than they were before.

There is almost certainly no one solution to this problem given the complexity of its causes. However, one option has to be to improve the reliability of public transport to encourage people to take the bus or the train rather than get in the car. It would also be possible to discourage people from driving to work by introducing special tariffs for using the roads, especially during peak periods. A successful example of this is the congestion charge scheme in London which has certainly reduced the level of traffic in inner-city areas.

In conclusion, there are a variety of different factors that have led to rising levels of traffic in urban areas. While it may not be possible to find a complete solution, any action should probably involve encouraging greater use of public transport and making it more expensive for the motorist to drive in urban areas.

Topic vocabulary

You also want, however, to use a good range of topic vocabulary. Here the vocabulary you want falls into these areas:

  • transport
  • cities
  • problem/solution
  • cause
  • general academic language

You should see in the essay that I both vary and repeat language. Varying language is good for range of vocabulary, repetition is good for cohesion.

It is undoubtedly the case that urban areas around the world increasingly suffer from congestion. In this essay, I examine the reasons for this trend and suggest some practical policies the authorities could implement to reduce the level of trafficin our cities.

The first step isto understand why traffic has increased in towns and cities. Broadly speaking, there are three main reasons for this. One is that cars have become more affordable for the average consumer and they are no longer a luxury item, but something that most families expect to own. A second reason is that public transport has become increasingly unreliable in recent years, not least because many bus and train services have been reduced because of the difficulty in funding them. The third reason is that society has in general become more mobile and this means more people are prepared to commute to work by car than they were before.

There is almost certainly no one solution to this problem given the complexity of its causes. However, one option has to be to improve the reliability of public transport to encourage people to take the bus or the train rather than get in the car. It would also be possible to discourage people from driving to work by introducing special tariffs for using the roads, especially during peak periods. A successful example of this is the congestion charge scheme in London which has certainly reduced the level of trafficin inner-city areas.

In conclusion, there are a variety of different factors that have led to rising levels of traffic in urban areas. While it may not be possible to find a complete solution, any action should probably involve encouraging greater use of public transport and making it more expensive for the motorist to drive in urban areas.

Traffic jams are the bane of motorists’ lives, whether it’s the daily bottleneck during the commute to work, or endless delays on motorways at the start of the holidays. If you think your journey is bad, spare a thought for drivers in Sao Paolo, Brazil – one evening in May this year, the traffic jams during rush hour added up to a 344km (214-mile) cumulative queue, according to the city’s traffic management agency.

Jams are not only frustrating, they are also a major contributor to air pollution, and that’s bad not just for our climate, but everybody’s health too. According to researchers at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, congestion in the 83 largest urban areas in the United States caused more than 2,200 premature deaths in 2010 and added $18bn to public health costs.

Then there is the economic cost of lost hours (both work and leisure) and delayed shipments. Drivers in the 10 most-congested cities in the United States sit around 42 hours in traffic jams every year, wasting more than $121bn in time and fuel while doing so.

View image of (Thinkstock) (Credit: Thinkstock)

This isn’t a new problem, of course. During the car boom of the 1960s, city planners had one seemingly obvious solution: build more and wider roads. But it didn’t work. The more roads created, the more cars they attracted. In California, for example, a 1997 study found that new, additional traffic will fill up to 90% of any increase in highway capacity within just five years.

While every city – whether London, Beijing or New York – has its unique set of traffic problems, there are a few common issues: many people insist on driving their own car, instead of sharing rides or using a bicycle; up to a third of cars on roads are drivers looking for a place to park; and then there’s the human factor: most of us simply are not very efficient drivers.

So what’s the solution? Some traffic planners are betting on car-pooling lanes, more park-and-ride opportunities, and improved public transport to ease congestion. Several cities have resorted to less subtle methods, like banning cars from driving on certain days, alternating between cars with licence plates that end in, say, even or uneven numbers.

Aggression vs timidity

But understanding what causes congestion in the first place may be the first step. Bottlenecks in the road and the sheer volume of cars are obvious sources. However, some traffic jams appear seemingly spontaneously, maybe caused by the “butterfly effect” of a single driver suddenly switching lanes, which results in cars behind him braking suddenly, with the ripple effect rapidly snarling up the highway.

A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta blamed a combination of aggressive drivers – too fast and too close to the car in front – and timid drivers, who leave large gaps in traffic; both kinds force other drivers to brake, resulting in yet more ripples bringing traffic to a standstill.

Scientists have used many analogies to try to model traffic flows, from fluid and gas flow, to the movement of birds and skiers. However, says Gabor Orosz of the University of Michigan, “although such analogies may help scientists to gain some understanding, it is becoming more and more obvious that traffic flows like no other flow in the Newtonian universe”.

View image of (Thinkstock) (Credit: Thinkstock)

As much of this traffic is drivers looking for a place to park, some cities are trying to manage flow with systems that use sensors to determine whether a particular spot on the street, or in a car park, is occupied or vacant. Link these smart sensors with a system that guides drivers quickly and efficiently to vacant parking spots and the hope is this will ease congestion. The first trial of these sensors started in San Francisco, with Los Angeles not far behind, both cities currently being serviced by ACS, a Xerox subsidiary.

Two years ago in Russia, Moscow trialled smart parking providers and is now using a system developed by Worldsensing, says Mischa Dohler, professor at King’s College London and co-founder of the company. He says that with nearly 20,000 smart parking spaces, Moscow is by far the largest smart parking smart city deployment in the world.

The number of traffic jams has gone down, Dohler says, “mainly because people are being informed about the non-availability of parking, and they thus keep out of the narrow one-way streets in the centre.”

Cascades of congestion

However, ending this curse of congested city streets may need more of a radical rethink. What if the solutions begin not with the roads – but with the cars themselves?

Using wireless vehicle-to-vehicle communication, cars could talk to each other in an attempt to keep traffic flowing more smoothly. “In many cases, congestion is triggered by human behaviour,” says Orosz. “Humans react to the motions of the vehicles immediately in front with a reaction time delay. The impact of this is that they often amplify the ripples created by other drivers tapping the brake. As the congestion wave cascades along the chain of vehicles, eventually it grinds traffic to a halt.”

But if cars could communicate with each other in real time, these ripples could be smoothed out. “Your car may monitor the motion of a vehicle five vehicles ahead and prepare for what is going to happen – by braking earlier but less intensively,” says Orosz. “The information received may be presented to the driver, such as advised speed, or used by controllers in the automobile to assist the driver.”

View image of (AFP/Getty Images) (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Orosz is now conducting a safety pilot model deployment with about 3,000 vehicles equipped with the technology that broadcasts their GPS location and speed every 100 milliseconds.

Other ideas are trying to enlist the help of drivers negotiating their way through the clogged roads. Israeli start-up Waze, bought by Google last year, uses crowdsourcing to make clever use of our congested roads. The Waze smartphone app works like a social network for drivers, combining online maps with updates from other drivers about traffic jams, road works and accidents. “Waze takes advantage of side streets, surface roads and empty pockets of space to route cars via the least congested passages of road, spreading traffic across the grid rather than only one major road,” says Waze’s spokeswoman Julie Mossler.

Platooning vehicles

Another company, Urban Engines, has a slightly different approach. “For commuters, we’re providing an online game that offers trip suggestions and randomised rewards through a micro-raffle to incentivise commuter behaviour changes, including shifting travel from peak to off-peak times,” says Shiva Shivakumar, Urban Engines’ co-founder and chief executive. 

For the past two-and-a-half years, the company has conducted pilot studies on public transport or driving in major cities, including Bangalore and Singapore. In Bangalore, one-in-six people who took part in the trial started travelling off-peak, and in Singapore – up to one-in-eight.

One other option to get rid of traffic jams, some think, would be to automate the driving process itself. Google recently unveiled its smiley-faced prototype of a driverless car; one of the computing giant’s intentions is that the car will help cut down congestion.

View image of (Getty Images) (Credit: Getty Images)

“Having automated driving in cities allows for platooning – a much denser packing of cars in streets and also through junctions – which, if the total amount of cars is controlled, allows one to significantly reduce jams,” says Dohler.

But others think this solution doesn’t go far enough – and that we should provide more reasons for putting less cars on the road. “The only effective long-term solutions are to improve alternative modes – walking, cycling and particularly high quality public transit,” says Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in Canada. Road pricing that charges motorists extra if they drive during times of congestion could be one option. Cities like Singapore, London and Stockholm have successfully used road pricing to cut the amount of traffic. The carrot, in turn, would be a great public transport system, say with extra bus lanes, nicer train stations and “cup-holders” and on-board wi-fi on commuter buses, says Litman.

And, he adds, this solution could be implemented within a few months. It is routinely done during major events such as Olympics and World Cups, when host cities convert general traffic lanes into special event lanes to insure that athletes, coaches and officials arrive at the venues on time. “During the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics there were no traffic problems, and even affluent commuters such as my downtown lawyer brother-in-law took the bus to work. Yet, once the event was over, the lanes reverted to general traffic and traffic problems returned,” he adds.

View image of (Getty Images) (Credit: Getty Images)

Perhaps it’s also time to return to our pre-car roots. Before the age of cars and trains, rivers and lakes were important inland waterways in countries such as Britain and Sweden.

Karl Garme, a researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, is now conducting a study called Waterway 365. Funded by the Swedish Maritime Administration, the current initial phase aims to research the issues crucial to making use of waterways “as an infrastructural resource for public transport and city logistic systems over the 365 days a year”, says Garme. Vancouver, Sydney and Istanbul are already cities making good use of their waterways. “The question is not land or water, but integrating the waterways in the present system and incorporating it when planning new,” he says. “It means that the traveller shall easily change from commuter train to underground or boat or bus or… preferably not even thinking about means of travel, simply take the suggested route from a travel planner.”

The solution to beating traffic congestion in cities, if it comes, will probably take a long time to reap rewards. But if at least some of these new ideas are a success – whether it’s driverless cars, smart parking spaces or commuter apps – the days of Sao Paolo’s epic tailbacks may finally be consigned to history.

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