• Oct 20th 2009 at 11:56AM
  • 20
Traffic congestion is good for the environment. Wait, come again? Are we talking about Bizarro World here? Actually, according to Wall Street Journal writer David Owen, excessive congestion can actually be a good thing when it convinces drivers to explorer transportation alternatives instead of sitting in endless traffic jams.

Further, some studies show that decreasing travel time with metered freeway entrance ramps actually increases overall vehicle emissions and fuel usage as the volume of vehicles using the expressways goes up. Poor traffic conditions in the New York metropolitan area turn many commuters and city dwellers into transit users. In fact, New York users account for a third of all public-transit miles in the United States.

Further, increasing roadway capacity can also have a negative impact on vehicle usage as drivers are lured back into their cars for trips they would otherwise have avoided. So, what's the solution? Really, there doesn't seem to be any one answer that will fix all of our traffic woes adequately, which is why individual city planners often come up with differing ideas, depending on local conditions.

[Source: Wall Street Journal via Wired]
Photo by flickrized. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.


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  • 20 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      When transportation is "umwelt friendly", people will use it even more. Obesity the net result, and an increased energy consumption, which will never be CO2 neutral.

      Utilities will benefit, that's a plus. If you're promoting EV's :-) Let's cycle!
      • 5 Years Ago
      This point was made a while ago by former Bogota, Columbia mayor Enrique Penalosa. He did great things to build "public spaces" in Bogota instead of building freeways. His premise is that you can continue to build freeways to alleviate congestion but it's a never-ending cycle as more people will use the freeways and create more congestion. One of the most frustrating things for people is sitting in traffic. Wouldn't it be better to build nice wide sidewalks, parks, libraries, hospitals and light rail that do more for the common good? He established bike paths that aren't in the streets (safer and kid friendly) and can get you all over the city and made light rail easily accessible from anywhere in the city (I believe it's within 1km of anyone's home). Some people say a good freeway network makes a city livable. Penalosa feels that a better public infrastructure can be built that actually gets people outside of their homes and their cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Wow, this article is actually more pointless than I had even expected...
      • 5 Years Ago
      ... but but but ...

      That argument contradicts its own premise:

      -Traffic jams make people seek other transportation solutions.
      -This requires that other forms of transportation are better for the environment than driving.
      -This requires that driving is (comparatively) bad for the environment.
      -Which requires that traffic jams are bad for the environment.


      Personally, I blame the schools.
      • 5 Years Ago
      NYC also has an excellent mass transit system which I think is more of an inducement to use the subway. Growing up in NYC we used the subway because it was faster AND cheaper than driving and parking. However, I don't think that translates to other major metro areas. The NY area is not thatas spread out as say, Phoenix or LA.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I live in the suburbs of NYC, and my friends and I always go by train unless we can get a full car not because it's easy (even though it's easier than almost any city in the world), in fact, it still takes a bit longer and is quite expensive. The thing that tips us over the edge is that DRIVING is stressful, is impractical in Manhattan, tolls and parking are horrendously expensive, and a car just becomes something you have to worry about.

        It's more important for driving to be difficult and than public transport be easy and expensive to get people to take public transportation.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The problem is not just traffic, but also public transport options.
      • 5 Years Ago
      i think the biggest problem is that the world is overpopulated. that's where we need to start first. more people means more CO2 emissions and pollution of all kinds. there needs to be a limit on how many children a couple can have everywhere. i think it should be based on IQ, because as we all know stupid people procreate more often. if your IQ is below, let's say 70, you shouldn't be allowed to reproduce at all. sounds like a damn good plan to me.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The solution is to stop building giant highways, start deconstructing what we already have, build out mass transit systems and jack fuel prices - that'll get people out of their cars. Building human societies around transportation technology and systems over the past 100-200 years is a project whose time has come and gone. Now it's time in the 21st Century to put humans and communities in the center of our transportation system and build it all around *us*, not us around *it*. Enough of these giant roads with giant cars cutting our communities into a million fragmented pieces where we can't walk anywhere because it's either too far or simply too congested/dangerous to walk across the roads and expressways to get there. Hopefully suburbia and car-centered transportation will all be torn down by the 22nd and 23rd Centuries and we humans can return to a pre-industrial inspired high-tech future where human spaces dominate and our vehicles blend into the background.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The problem is that most public transit is such a PITA that even high fuel prices won't cause many to embrace public transit, they'll just go for more fuel efficient cars and drive less.

        The problems with existing busses, light rail and trains is that it requires waiting for the vehicles, if a transfer is needed there is even more waiting, routes are complicated and confusing, the vehicles are slow with multiple stops before reaching the desired destination, and the service shuts down late at night potentially stranding those working late or having a night out. That tends to seriously discourage use.

        But supposing there was a public transit that was always there when you need it, no waiting, fully automated for ease of use, no transfers, goes direct to your desired destination, and in operation 24/7. That is "Personal Rapid Transit" or PRT. See:
        http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/prtquick.htm
        for a quick overview.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I know this is a green site, but its a green car site. Green solutions to keeping our cars while doing less harm.

      The analyzed article, although green, is definitely just anti-car as the solution. Seems counter to the purpose of this website.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree the goal is to "keeping our cars while doing less harm." But perhaps the best way to do that is to reduce our car usage. Just use our cars less often. Use them only when you have a lot of stuff to carry, or going to places that are inaccessible by public transport.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I cant stand traffic jams, years ago I realized it was killing our planet, how it's taking so long for conservatives to accept it is disturbing, I think a lot of conservatives think that earth is just some stopover God made for us to destroy and that heavens going to be so much better, kinda like the suicide bombers think, only more dangerous and damaging than that
        • 5 Years Ago
        The rapture is coming soon so it doesn't matter if we trash the planet, actually trashing the planet will hasten the rapture so the more we foul the earth the better!

        Making plants and animals extinct is just our way of bringing them closer to god!
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't think its conservatives here. At least in California, we reduce the percentage of gasoline taxes that go into transportation every year with alternative transportation getting more and more money. The result is that Automotive transportation is neglected, freeways aren't expanded to keep up with the population and we all suffer in traffic. I don't agree with WSJ on this at all. If a 100,000 cars a day sit on the freeway 91 freeway trying to get from Riverside to Orange County for 120 minutes when the commute should take 30 minutes, that's 9 million minutes of vehicle exhaust polluting the community. This is a big problem for the environment, the economy and for our sanity.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm glad someone agrees with me! I happen to love our planet and I also think people are intrinsically good, which is counter to religious right dogma, they all seem to think we are bad to the core and only through blah blah blah, but seriously I think the problem is that they're half right, yes people who believe that crap are bad, but not everybody, I've always been nice, when you think about it religion is often to blame for the evil in the world, ironic, and a shame because I love the teachings of Jesus and my church only preaches love and forgiveness. period, there is nothing else, and I think that should extend to animals and our planet especially
      • 5 Years Ago
      Solution: ban cars. Duh. This is not a hard idea to grasp - no cars means no congestion means no pollution. SIMPLE.
      • 5 Years Ago
      When transportation is "umwelt friendly", people will use it even more. Obesity the net result, and an increased energy consumption, which will never be CO2 neutral.

      Utilities will benefit, that's a plus. If you're promoting EV's :-) Let's cycle!
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