Smart steps Hong Kong can take to break traffic gridlock - South China Morning Post



Smart steps Hong Kong can take to break traffic gridlock

The government has proposed a new toll mechanism aiming to ease congestion in the three cross-harbour tunnels. Different charging schemes at different time slots, and "transition periods" with a small increase or decrease of HK$2 every two minutes to prevent drivers from hurrying or slowing down to enjoy lower toll, are breakthroughs.

To further enhance smart mobility, I would like to put forward three suggestions.

In the near term, use AI to analyse data. As we have just returned to normality, the traffic flow data in the past three years may not reflect the current traffic pattern. Furthermore, there is a significant difference between the labour force figures in 2021 and the current numbers, so it is necessary to conduct in-depth analysis of spatial data and labour force data to support policy formulation.

Geographic information systems are effective in providing a single source of truth (SSOT), a platform with reliable information for analysis, helping decision-makers with flexible resource allocation and policy optimisation.

Further, using AI algorithms together with spatial data obtained through sources like closed-circuit television, drones and low-earth orbit satellite imagery can provide the authorities with a deeper understanding of past and present traffic patterns. For example, by counting the number of vehicles entering a designated area and their length of stay, the authorities can assess in more detail their impact on road capacity and the environment. This helps predict future trends more precisely.

In the medium term, encourage flexible working hours. To incentivise drivers to commute through the tunnels during non-peak hours, the government, as the city's largest employer, should take the lead in implementing flexible working hours. The A and B team arrangement during the pandemic, with public officers reporting for and leaving duty at different times, can also resume. This would encourage businesses to follow suit.

In the long term, Hong Kong should introduce a new central business district. With a population of nearly 4 million in the New Territories and another 1 million in the Northern Metropolis in the future, the government should plan for a new CBD in the north to serve local and cross-border enterprises, especially those of the new economy. This would not only shorten residents' commute to work, but also help channel the traffic of the three tunnels.




Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong