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krazeeboi

Why we have congestion

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Here's a piece from the Washington Post entitled, "Can Congestion Be Cured?" The writer is basically arguing that (increasing) congestion is a sign of prosperity, and that it "should be considered the price Americans and others around the world pay to achieve and sustain high-level economic efficiency and to provide millions of households with varied choices of where to live and work and the means to move between them."

What say ye?

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Somehow this feels a little off base. He's right, of course, that congestion is a symptom of economic activity. But to accept it as an inevitable consequence of prosperity is pretty short-sighted.

A good point that he approaches but doesn't quite make is that, in a relatively prosperous city, it takes a minimum level of congestion to encourage mass transit. In a city like New York, for instance, his assumption that increased affluence = increased rates of driving to work doesn't quite hold up. The places where mass transit is accepted by people of all economic strata are the places where car congestion is so bad and driving is such a pain that the costs, financial and otherwise, aren't worth the benefit. If we were to "solve" highway congestion in New York somehow, then people would certainly start driving to work more often... so there is an inevitable equilibrium it seems.

So yeah, I guess if people can afford to drive, they will, unless outside forces make it undesirable to do so, like traffic congestion or expensive/limited parking. And I don't think that THAT is a bad thing, but it should be coupled with widely-available transit options. If both mass transit and highway networks are stretched beyond their capacities that does seem like a very bad situation, but one that should be fixable with better infrastructure...

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Somehow this feels a little off base. He's right, of course, that congestion is a symptom of economic activity. But to accept it as an inevitable consequence of prosperity is pretty short-sighted.

A good point that he approaches but doesn't quite make is that, in a relatively prosperous city, it takes a minimum level of congestion to encourage mass transit. In a city like New York, for instance, his assumption that increased affluence = increased rates of driving to work doesn't quite hold up. The places where mass transit is accepted by people of all economic strata are the places where car congestion is so bad and driving is such a pain that the costs, financial and otherwise, aren't worth the benefit. If we were to "solve" highway congestion in New York somehow, then people would certainly start driving to work more often... so there is an inevitable equilibrium it seems.

So yeah, I guess if people can afford to drive, they will, unless outside forces make it undesirable to do so, like traffic congestion or expensive/limited parking. And I don't think that THAT is a bad thing, but it should be coupled with widely-available transit options. If both mass transit and highway networks are stretched beyond their capacities that does seem like a very bad situation, but one that should be fixable with better infrastructure...

Birmingham, Alabama already has massive level of congestion, yet the Alabama constitution still requires that all gas tax be used to build roadways. Driving through that town stinks. The widest a single interstate gets in Birmingham is 6 lanes. It pretty much the same in every other town in the metro area of over 1.1 Million.

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