Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Commuting gridlock

U.S. News & World Report has some good articles about gridlock and possible solutions. Here are some interesting snippets:
The status of the City of Angels as a commuting hell is nothing new. But by 2030, according to some estimates, driving in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and nine other urban areas will be worse than present-day Los Angeles.

Americans spent 3.7 billion hours in traffic in 2003, the last year for which such figures are available-more than a fivefold increase from just 21 years earlier. The amount of free-flowing travel is less than half what it was in the '80s, and the average commuter now loses 47 hours to congested traffic every year.

The issue mainly boils down to population growth outpacing road building. America has about 70 million more people than it did a quarter century ago, but highway miles have increased by a little more than 5 percent in that time. The Department of Transportation estimates that the demand for ground transportation-either by road or rail-will be 2½ times as great by 2050, while highway capacity is projected to increase by only 10 percent during that time.

Commuters to New York City increasingly call the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, two hours away, home, while workers in Washington have streamed into Gettysburg, Pa., a full 85 miles away. Folks in places like these are considered "extreme commuters," those traveling 90 minutes or more to work every day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 3 million people-about 2.8 percent of workers- now have such commutes, a 95 percent increase from 1990.

. . . London Mayor Ken Livingstone's solution: a congestion-charge zone. In 2003, with the support of the business community, he surrounded 8 square miles of central London with traffic cameras and began charging cars and trucks about $16 a day to enter. The cameras photograph the vehicles and match license plates against payments made in advance.

Daily traffic into central London fell by 20 percent (70,000 fewer vehicles). Emissions were cut about 15 percent. Average speeds inched up from 8.5 mph to 10 mph. And last year, the fee generated some $212 million in profits, which funded better bus services.

1 comment:

Andy in Germany said...

Hello. I've just run into this blog, and I'll be bookmarking it. It's great to hear some ideas applicable to our situation, and a believer who can see the environment is something we need to care for. Just one thought though., The answer to congestion isn't highways- that just increases car usage and compounds the problem. Congestion charges, as you mention are a far better solution provided the money generated is aggresively ploughed into public transport: busses in rural areas car-share, and rail transport, preferably integrated, so people don't need to use their cars as much. Than we will see a difference.