We can't build our way out
Dear PD Letters:
Your article on traffic congestion (April 14, 2002) pointed out that Cleveland-area commuters are experiencing more rush-hour delays. It also suggested that we will have a hard time building our way out of the problem. There isn't enough money to pay for all the major new highway projects currently proposed. And we're running out of room to widen roads (as evident in the recent decision not to widen I-77 north of I-480).
Even if we could widen all the roads we wanted, it probably wouldn't help reduce congestion in the long run. Adding capacity to highways actually generates additional travel, as people take additional car trips and new development creates even more demand.
So what's the solution? The article mentioned that new technology -- video cameras, sensors, and advanced communications -- can make the present highway system operate more efficiently by reducing delays from accidents.
But the only way to reduce congestion in the long term is to provide more transportation choices. That means offering convenient transit service and bicycle facilities. And it means creating walkable communities where people have easier access to daily needs.
The presence of transit service, for instance, makes a significant difference in the number of residents who are subject to driving in congested conditions. In places with more transit service, more people can choose whether to fight through congestion in their cars or avoid it by using less stressful ways to get to work.
Overall, Northeast Ohio is fortunate to have relatively low levels of traffic congestion in comparison to other metropolitan areas. By investing in transportation choices we can maintain that competitive edge.
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