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Times Square in New York City. Photo: Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Cities are adopting tolling and closed-loop shuttle buses to mitigate traffic, to integrate AVs into public transit, and to prepare for the possibility that AVs used in ride-hailing could exacerbate urban congestion.

The big picture: Reducing congestion in densely populated, trafficked metro areas will require distributing people more strategically across transit options and routes.

What's happening:

  • New York City recently announced a plan to charge a toll on vehicles entering Manhattan south of 61st Street. The revenue would be used to improve transit services in the city, in particular the city's 100-year-old subway system.
  • San Francisco's Treasure Island, a former Naval Air Station in San Francisco Bay, is the site of an expansive new development that includes 8,000 new residential units. Transportation plans include tolling and an autonomous circulator shuttle around the island that connects to public transit.
  • Jacksonville, Florida, has plans for a fleet of autonomous circulator buses to connect the city’s downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Ideally, these buses will eliminate the need for people to drive or hail AVs for short trips downtown, minimizing congestion.

What we're watching: Two tools for managing traffic could be especially helpful when AVs are eventually deployed, and could complement existing efforts.

Congestion pricing, as New York has proposed, uses tolling to dissuade vehicles from entering certain districts during select hours. In London, Singapore and Stockholm, electronic mechanisms mounted above roads and highways collect fees as cars approach the center of the city.

  • Tolling AVs could encourage shared rides and reliance on other transit options, which would keep congestion in check. It could also serve to replace funds from fuel taxes, which won’t apply to electrically powered AVs.

Optimization software can distribute vehicles across various routes, like Waze does today, to help alleviate congestion.

  • It could also minimize the frequency of passenger-less trips that ride-hailing AVs must make to pick up new passengers.

The bottom line: Cities will need to take multiple approaches to addressing congestion and encouraging new transportation patterns in advance of AVs. The cities starting to experiment now will likely be best positioned to adapt.

Jim Barbaresso is SVP of intelligent transportation systems at HNTB, an infrastructure advisory firm.

Go deeper

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

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