Traffic and congestion in inner cities

Congestion (air quality and journey time)

Photograph of traffic

Large cities have massive problems with congestion. From the 1950s, car ownership has grown at a very quick rate. For example:

  • In the 1970s - most families had access to 1 car.
  • In the 1990s - usually 2 cars per household.
  • In the 2000s - average of 3.1 cars or vans per household.

In 1975, a number of motorway roads ran through the heart of Belfast. However, these became over-crowded. So, a number of road developments were introduced to reduce congestion.

  • The Westlink was built in 1981 to connect the M1 and M2 motorways. However, further widening and extension upgrades were carried out in 2002 and again between 2006 and 2009.
  • The M3 cross-harbour project began in 1995 to join the M2 with the Sydenham Bypass.

Both projects resulted in delays and diversions and when the roads were opened the congestion was as bad as ever.

This has meant that the journey time from one place in the city to another has increased considerably.

The longer cars are sitting in traffic jams, the bigger the impact on air pollution caused by the engines.

Vehicle exhausts can have negative effects on people who live in urban areas and on the environment.