Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Congestion worsening, so buy more asphalt?

A new report from a Washington think tank and transportation research group says 44 percent of Charlotte’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and increasing congestion is costing local drivers a work-week’s worth of delay. Read more at Eric Frazier's article here. And here's a link to the press release about the report.

The group is TRIP. But before you read it, check who's on the board of directors: construction companies, asphalt and cement executives, road builder associations, etc. Its website says the group "is sponsored by insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, businesses involved in highway and transit engineering and construction, labor unions, and organizations concerned with an efficient and safe surface transportation network that promotes economic development and quality of life."

There is no denying that in many areas, especially high-growth suburban spots, traffic congestion is worsening. And no question that many roads and bridges need repairs, as do many city streets. This winter's cold-warm-cold spells has certainly not helped.

But to assess congestion and to think road-building is the only solution is simplistic, even for places that unlike
Charlotte don't have public transit systems and aren't planing to. Other important tools are:
  • Connectivity. Policies that require plenty of interconnecting streets, even in the far fringes of a suburbanizing area.
  • Proximity. Land use policies that allow, or even require, more things to be closer to each other, not just so people can walk places easily, but so they don't always have to drive 5 miles on a thoroughfare to get there.
  • Controlling where commercial goes. Land use policies that don't allow highway-oriented  businesses to clog roads that have already been built. Examples: Independence Boulevard in Charlotte, North Tryon Street in Charlotte's University City, the Monroe Bypass, Wilkinson/Franklin boulevard through Belmont and Gastonia, U.S. 24-27 in Albemarle. The list could go on.
  • Bike-ped projects. Making walking and bicycling easier using sidewalks, crossing lights and crosswalks, safe bicycle lanes (especially off-road) greenways, etc.
  • Downtowns. Making centrally located neighborhoods in other words, downtowns attractive places for people to live, work and shop means those residents are not out driving on overburdened roads nearly as often. 
When those conditions exist, along with good public transportation, sometimes people with choices will, in fact, choose not to drive. Read about four Charlotteans who have made that choice: "They'd rather not drive, thank you."   



Anonymous said...

Interesting. As I've heard before and agree, solving traffic problems by widening roads is like "solving" a growing waistline by buying new pants and bigger belt....

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