Commuters wait in a traffic jam during afternoon rush hour in Jakarta BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

Which Traffic Policies Work Best for Megacities?

Efforts to reduce urban traffic congestion, and the air pollution that comes with it, have not always gone well, especially in the world's poorer cities. But an approach implemented in Jakarta showed promise – that is, until the government, failing to examine the evidence, suspended it in the face of drivers' wrath.

CAMBRIDGE – Urbanization has many advantages. By bringing people together physically, cities inspire innovation and fuel opportunity. They bring workers closer to jobs and facilitate the diffusion of arts and culture. But the benefits of urban life are often accompanied by costs.

Perhaps none feels more burdensome – and downright infuriating – than traffic congestion. Packed roads and bumper-to-bumper traffic mean time wasted and workdays shortened. And stationary vehicles still emit huge quantities of exhaust fumes, damaging the environment and human health.

Many governments have tried to develop policies to reduce traffic congestion by making it more expensive to get behind the wheel. Since 2003, London has successfully implemented a congestion charge, while Singapore wants to use GPS technology to police its own congestion-pricing strategy.

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