Monday, December 17, 2012

Is Traffic Congestion a Good Thing?

Why Congestion Is Good (Damien Newton , LA Streets Blog, Feb. 1, 2008)

Also discussed here: What Do These Things Have in Common: Smog, Highway Widenings and Congestion? ( Damien Newton , LA Streets Blog, Apr. 29, 2010)

 And here : Congestion as policy. (I have seen worse.) (Eric Britton, WorldStreets, Nov. 28, 2012)

Being stuck in traffic for many commuters is a bad experience and anything that can be done to alleviate it is a good thing- widening the road, increasing the speed limit or even adding a toll road with faster flowing traffic. All of these things come with a price and sometimes are counter-productive as more traffic is attracted to these alternatives resulting in even bigger traffic jams and more vehicle emissions and poorer air quality. In today’s review, we examine some of the benefits of congestion and even consider allowing congestion to grow is a deliberate policy option- the do nothing option, if you wish. Certainly would be cheaper than building a new road or maintaining an old one that does not meet maximum capacity!

road congestion

 Key Quotes: Some Benefits of Traffic Congestion:
  • "one of the few restraints on excessive automobile use.
  • can increase public support for investments in more fuel-efficient, environmentally sustainable travel modes such as public transportation, cycling and walking
  • Roads with slow moving traffic are more conducive to walking, shopping, outdoor dining, conversing, crossing the street, children’s play on sidewalks, etc.
  • Slow traffic is safer.
  • When traffic slows down or stalls, drivers have more opportunity to take note of and stop to visit businesses.
  • The speed at which motor vehicles achieve their greatest fuel efficiency and lowest emission levels is around 30mph
  • 25-35mph is the speed at which roadways achieve their greatest carrying capacity. Above that, it diminishes as the space between cars increases”
“the key to becoming less burdened by traffic is to build and retrofit our communities so we can meet an increasing number of our daily needs without driving.”

“one way or another congestion is policy, or at the very least a policy option. And in some cases quite possibly a wise one”
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