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Thread: Should we even help ease highway traffic?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Should we even help ease highway traffic?

    Or should we let traffic simmer to push up demand for public transit? Not sure on my answer, but I'm leaning towards the latter. I'm sure some planners are 'forced' because of their jobs to attempt to solve traffic problems, but this is more of an ideological question. Anyone have an opinion?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I agree with you.

    However, when you are employed by a city and your ultimate boss is a city council who is elected by 95% of people that drive personal vehicles everyday in that traffic... good luck!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    "There must be some way out of here,
    Said the joker to the thief..."

    Having just returned from a brief trip across the northwestern quadrant of Italy I am pretty envious of their passenger rail system. Clean, full but not crowded, on time and inexpensive. We could do as well if we had the energy.

  4. #4
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by fringe View post
    "There must be some way out of here,
    Said the joker to the thief..."

    Having just returned from a brief trip across the northwestern quadrant of Italy I am pretty envious of their passenger rail system. Clean, full but not crowded, on time and inexpensive. We could do as well if we had the energy.
    Only OT in the slightest:
    "The good Earth--we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy." -- Kurt Vonnegut

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    As far as I'm concerned we should do both. It is not a one or the other thing.

    Easing congestion helps the economy and improves air quality. It allows products to get to market much more efficiently, and engines that run at a consistent speed have far lower emissions than those that run at inconsistent speeds. To those that say that will cause sprawl, I will just remind you it is land-use policy that probably plays a bigger role in this.

    Transit is needed for those who cannot drive. Increasingly this country is getting older and poorer, without a good transit system it is growing further impossible for many to get around. Transit also reinforces good land use policy by creating higher land values at places other than freeway exit ramps (TOD). I have found that most lay people need a lot of education about transit. I am flabbergasted by the public meetings where the majority of the comments are from people who say they would take public transit if it were available (by which they mean trolley or streetcar) yet they have never been on a bus.

    Transit benefits from an easing of congestion as well because most transit trips in this country are still by bus. Once you get outside of places like New York, Chicago, DC or Boston you don't have densities or the capital to begin developing a proper all grade separated network. Therefore you will always need some sort of bus transit and transit relies on the road network.

    We are seeing not only huge increases in demand for buses in our region, but for other non-traditional modes. For example new car pool lots are being built wherever feasible, older ones are being expanded, and bicycle networks (both on street and path) are being developed at a rate I have not seen in my last 18 years as a transportation planner. A combining of modes is becomming commonplace. Every bus authority in my area now has bicycle racks on their buses in order to support non-car linked trips.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    As far as I'm concerned we should do both. It is not a one or the other thing.

    Easing congestion helps the economy and improves air quality. It allows products to get to market much more efficiently, and engines that run at a consistent speed have far lower emissions than those that run at inconsistent speeds. To those that say that will cause sprawl, I will just remind you it is land-use policy that probably plays a bigger role in this.
    This analysis is spot-on. We can't neglect road traffic because there is more at stake than just demand for transit. Use land-use stategies to combat sprawl, not transportation neglect.

  7. #7
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    This analysis is spot-on. We can't neglect road traffic because there is more at stake than just demand for transit. Use land-use stategies to combat sprawl, not transportation neglect.
    I agree to a point, but the expanded infrastructure will just congest due to induced demand, in my view, without extra effort to reduce congestion.

    We certainly need to upgrade existing infra to a decent LOS, and our land-use patterns are key in this respect. IMHO better to price externalities with carbon taxes to 'fix' congestion (provided alternatives are provisioned, LU patterns changed, etc).

  8. #8
    Cyburbian RPfresh's avatar
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    Thanks DetroitPlanner, those are excellent points.

  9. #9
    Member P645N's avatar
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    Book Recommendation

    You should find a copy of Anthony Down's "Still Stuck in Traffic". I don't totally agree with his conclusions, but he argues that congestion is near impossible to relieve in regions experiencing economic and population growth. That improvements to the transportation infrastructure (widening, etc) only serves to induce greater demand.

    It is a fairly quick read and certainly thought provoking.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by RPfresh View post
    Or should we let traffic simmer to push up demand for public transit? Not sure on my answer, but I'm leaning towards the latter. I'm sure some planners are 'forced' because of their jobs to attempt to solve traffic problems, but this is more of an ideological question. Anyone have an opinion?
    YES! We should be moving towards increasing mobility and access for everyone. After all, everyone stuck in that traffic jam is after all a person, just as deserving as anyone else.

    I feel like our... apathy towards the needs of drivers is equivalent towards apathy towards issues facing the poor, facing the disabled, etc. Sure, we can all agree that we need less people driving, we need urban forms that don't encourage constant automobile use, etc. But we still have drivers, they still need to get places in a timely manner.

    We should approach driving in a similar manner as we approach smoking: try to reduce the harm drivers to others (externalities) and encourage alternative modes for young people who will be the drivers of tomorrow. I'm convinced that the current tactic - essentially shaming drivers - is only polarizing users rather than gaining converts. blah blah blah.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Spend some effort to look at the congestion issue, but push examining transit improvements in compaison to the road improvements. Quite often, the economy of transit network increases as compared to the cost of road infrastructure will be very favorable to transit.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian big_g's avatar
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    I see your point in suggesting letting traffic congestion push up mass transit demand. In fact I would lean toward that route also. One of the things that we should remember is that in reality, the type, scope, planning, and implementation of transportation projects are driven largely by available funding at all levels of government. At the federal level, the federal grants, pork barrel funding and earmarks have historically gone to highway projects. Public transportation only gets a small piece of that. Id like to see a more even split. Until this disproportionate policy is corrected by Congress the majority of funding will continue to go to worrying about easing highway traffic congestion. Unfortunately, funding policy is typically out of the realm of planner influence on a significant level.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Doohickie's avatar
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    There's an urban legend here in Fort Worth that the lights along Bryant Irvin Road and Hulen Street on the southwest side of town are timed to actually impede traffic even when the streets aren't crowded in order to build public support for the Southwest Parkway toll road that is being built parallel to and between those two streets. If the legend is true, I guess you get your answer as far as Fort Worth planners go. Except that it's not to encourage public transit, it's get get support for a toll road.

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