IELTS Essay: Traffic, Pollution, Cities, Governments, Sustainable Public Transport, Road Pricing

Latest IELTS writing questions & answers

IELTS Writing Task 2

Some people believe that governments should be responsible for solving the problems of traffic and pollution in cities.

Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this, and give your own opinion?

Give reasons for your answers and use examples from your own knowledge or experience.

Write at least 250 words.

Sample Answer

While there is no doubt that solutions need to be found to combat growing traffic problems and pollution in urban areas, should this be the sole responsibility of the government? Clearly, the answer is yes, for the reasons which are outlined below.

Firstly, public roads are essential infrastructure, funded by the government, and, as such, can only be optimally controlled by the government or an agency authorized by the government. No individual or private company can simply implement traffic calming measures or traffic restrictions; such actions require government legislation and funding.

Secondly, the pollution caused by traffic in urban areas is not the only type of pollution, as there also exist noise and air pollution caused by other commercial and business activities within such zones. Again, only through legislation can business be incentivized to change their working practices, or through financial penalties, carbon, taxes, or similar which must have the backing of the government to be effective.

With regard to the advantages and disadvantages of government intervention; it could be assumed that any reduction of traffic in urban areas is good. But it is not so simple. Many businesses, especially retail outlets, located in city centers rely on consumers having access through the use of private transports, cars. Making certain areas hostile to private cars through whatever restrictions or prohibitive measures are implemented can have a severely negative impact on many such businesses.

While the ideal solution is sustainable public transport (buses, trams, bikes. etc. ), this again can only be achieved primarily through government backing, and in many cases, such schemes already implemented have proven to be less than effective in terms of actually appealing to the public to use them as an option when visiting cities.

Overall. The government’s role in dealing with these two problems needs to be prioritized; however, private companies and innovative solutions need to be considered as a means to actually implement a solution which is both sustainable, practical, and will actually be used by the public.

Mobility Policies against Vehicular Transit and Pollution

Traditionally it was thought that taxes on gasoline, new cars, and vehicle ownership served this purpose, which is incorrect.

So, what is the solution? The economic tool that can capture the social costs produced by motorists is urban road pricing, experts say.

The private vehicle is NOT the great invention that our grandparents were led to believe. Without a doubt, it has its advantages, such as comfort, the flexibility of schedule and route, speed, and space for cargo.

However, it also produces social costs such as traffic congestion, noise, accidents, stress, productivity losses, and air pollution, aggravating the health of those suffering from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and is one of the great causes responsible for global warming.

So, why do we keep using cars? On the one hand, because the available public transport is not of the quality that we expect, but on the other, because we continue to build more infrastructure for the car, such as bridges, tunnels and second floors, which only lead to greater negative externalities in the medium-long term.

How to reverse this trend? Transport economists respond that there are two major strategies. The first is to increase the supply of sustainable transport. Examples abound, such as subways, trams, exclusive bus lanes, and RTB (Rapid Transit Bus) systems, among others, but also by encouraging mobility on bicycles with infrastructure and shared bike systems, as well as improving mobility conditions for pedestrians, with benches, without obstacles, and well lit, and give priority to pedestrians on public roads.

The second strategy is to reduce the demand for transport, that is, reducing the number of trips we make. How to achieve it? There are also many alternatives. For example:
  • work from home for those who do not need to be in an office,
  • adjust the work schedules to 40 hours in 4 days instead of 40 hours in 5 days,
  • use online services for banking, government procedures, and trade,
  • make the motorist pay for the externalities they produce.

Traditionally it was thought that taxes on gasoline, new cars, and vehicle ownership served this purpose, which is incorrect. Taxes on gasoline are associated with the use of the vehicle, but not with the congestion they produce, and taxes on the purchase of new cars and possession are a fixed cost. In fact, they encourage the use of the car since the tax calculated per kilometer traveled is less as the car is used more.

The economic tool that can capture the social costs produced by motorists is urban road pricing. There are four types. The first two: parking meters and charging for use of specific roads, are widely known.

The third is to apply the tariffs in an area delimited by a cordon, these can be fixed and applicable once a day (as in London, England), they can be applied every time the cordon is crossed (as in Stockholm, Sweden), or they may vary by the time of the day the cordon is crossed (as in Singapore). Its disadvantage is that the fare is not associated with the distance traveled. The cost per kilometer is lower for vehicles that travel longer distances, thus encouraging the use of the car.

The fourth modality, which best represents the social costs, is applied to each kilometer traveled, where the fare may vary by zone according to its level of congestion, by the time of day, and by the polluting emissions of each vehicle. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland apply fares per kilometer traveled to freight trucks that use interurban roads.

Today, thanks to the technology for the detection of the use of the vehicle (such as cameras with automatic identification of the number plate, dedicated short-range communications, global positioning systems, and tachometers), there are dozens of cities with urban road pricing programs in the world.

These programs have proven to be effective in reducing vehicular traffic and air pollution, as well as providing additional resources for local governments, which in most cases have been used to improve the quantity and quality of transportation infrastructure. Public and not motorized.

Faced with scenarios of scarcity of resources to invest in more and better sustainable transport, it seems that thinking about road pricing is not so far-fetched to reduce the high levels of congestion in large cities, as well as its negative externalities that harm us all.