Monday, October 12, 2009

Congestion is GOOD?

Provocative piece on Saturday in the Wall Street Journal by New Yorker writer David Owen, author of the new "Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability."

Here's his point, in a nutshell: Measures to ease traffic congestion are not good for the environment, because congestion is what makes people decide to opt for mass transit, which is decidedly better than driving.

He's right, of course, although his seeming prescription – just let them sit in traffic if they won't take the subway – seems a bit New York-o-centric. After all, in only a tiny handful of U.S. cities is taking mass transit much of an option. But there's much merit in the idea of figuring out how to funnel more money into transit revenue, through such ideas as bridge access fees (well, not in Charlotte) or congestion pricing scenarios.


Jumper said...

Well, by that logic, whipping the galley slaves is good, because they get motivated. This is the writing of someone who is unfamiliar with "managed change." Which is perhaps not his fault, managing change is difficult.

I should add that the frustrations of commuting delays are compounded by waste of resources such as imported gasoline. Not to mention the poison spread by road-rage people.

JAT said...

A-ha! Finally an adult admission that anti-car planning and transportation policies -- see Campbell, Debra -- are intended to make driving so painful there is no alternative but to abandon it.

But guess what? Congestion pricing STILL solves many issues. In fact, were Charlotte to junk the dreamland $470m. North heavy rail "solution" to LKN in exchange for a HOT/BRT system with a congestion pricing component -- say $5 to use the HOT lane in rush hour, ZERO non-rush with non-booth transponder tech -- I-77 emissions would fall AND congestion would improve.

Yet as long as the MTC exists in its current train fetish mode, won't happen.

Anonymous said...

^Um, HOT lanes (and an additional general purpose lane) are planned for I-77 to Lake Norman. That's partly why the North line doesn't generate enough riders to qualify for New Starts funding.

consultant said...

The movement to privatize public transportation is one of the more cancerous neocon ideas out here; building more toll roads, managed and in some cases owned by private companies with leases for 99 years.

We've always had toll roads, but historically, they were a small part of all of our roads.

We don't need anymore of these "deals".

Public transportation works best in dense areas, but it will also work in less dense places with park/ride arrangements.

The biggest block to investment in public transit is the outcry from the same people who will throw away a trillion dollars on a "war" in Iraq, but go absolutely nuts when you talk about expanding mass transit options in our metropolitan areas. In our own country!

If we want to greatly reduce the number of petro dollars we send overseas, further bankrupting ourselves, we'd better start investing in public mass transit.

When the oil crunch hits again, watch the people who hate mass transit start screaming for something, anything, to get around.

It's like all the red meat Republicans in suburban Atlanta who had homes damaged by the recent flood. They're crying foul because the Federal govt. wasn't giving them help fast enough. These are the same people who vote AGAINST creation or expansion of ANY programs to help people.

Republicans=help me, but don't help anyone else. Same thing with transportation. Selfish to the core. They only care about their transporation needs.

JAT said...

Consultant, you wouldn't know a neocon if Irving Kristol rose from the grave and bit you on the ass.

Don't tell me, $8 a gallon gas will fix everything.

Please tell no govt $$$ have gone into your pockets for such wisdom.

consultant said...


Please write a more coherent post. Please.

You haven't countered part of my argument:

Modern Republicon=extreme selfishness

consultant said...

Forgot to add,

Modern Republicon Party=extreme idiocy, violence and love for private toll roads with long leases.

rick b said...


Thank you for this: "The biggest block to investment in public transit is the outcry from the same people who will throw away a trillion dollars on a "war" in Iraq, but go absolutely nuts when you talk about expanding mass transit options in our metropolitan areas. In our own country!"

I once ran the numbers on your analogy, and the results were sobering. And no, I didn't misplace a zero...these almost unbelievable numbers are correct!

Cost of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 through 9/30/09 (based on appropriated funds): $920 billion

Cost of the CATS Lynx Blue Line in Charlotte: $462.7 million

Cost of the 9.6-mile Lynx Blue line per mile: $48.2 million

Number of miles of Lynx-type commuter light rail that could be built for $920 billion: 19,087 miles

Remember, the Lynx cost includes engineering, stations, the cars themselves...everything.

The wars have been fought since 2001; the Lynx construction began in February 2005 and was complete in November 2007. So, if we as a nation had allocated the wasted $920 billion to light rail in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in our own country, we could have built a staggering 191 miles of light rail in each of those 100 metropolitan areas.

That's metropolitan areas from NYC/NJ/LI (#1) through Pensacola, FL (#100).

There are lots of small ones in there: Syracuse, #60; Honolulu, #56; Baton Rouge, #70; Charleston, #77; Chattanooga, #90; Ft. Myers, FL, #95.

Just imagine that Charlotte (#34) built the average 191 miles...a line from the southern Lynx terminus past Carolina Place, through Ballantyne, on to Blakeney, down to Waxhaw via Marvin and Weddington, and on to Monroe, to serve "Charlotte's Bedroom" of Union County...160 miles left.

The coveted line to the University...and then on, all the way north into Cabarrus county...past the speedway, past Concord Mills...into Concord and on to Kannapolis...130 miles left.

The inner-city streetcar from Beatties Ford Road to the Eastland Mall area...115 miles left.

On to Gastonia...through Belmont, Mount Holly...a stop at Belmont Abbey...90 miles left.

Right down I-77...past Ft. Mill, all the way into downtown Rock Hill...60 miles left.

On and on and well-spent instead of money wasted...

and I'd venture to guess that some 4,500 rail constructioon workers wouldn't have been killed in the endeavor, either.

It's about priorities: regional priorities and national priorities. Obviously, the money is there...or was there. It's been wasted, forever, and we will not recover quickly from that waste.

Meanwhile, we throw more money at new and unnecessary roads that lead to spec land owned by favored developers and land speculators...we build toll roads to serve yet other developers...we add lanes to roads that shouldn't have been built in the first place...

Not to mention more money into escalation of the same old wars...

And we listen to the incessant whining from those who say "transit doesn't work".

Anonymous said...

JAT just doesn't get it. Not only is he a peak oil denier, he, like many of his ilk, will only change course once the Titanic has hit the iceberg. Those who favor slavery to oil are like addicts who will do anything to get their next fix.

"Don't tell me, $8 a gallon gas will fix everything."

No, it won't "fix" everything, but when it will chance everything.

Waiting until gas is $8 to change is backwards and lacks foresight. The conservative thing to do would be to start now in moving our cities from oil dependency to more sustainable energy.

JAT love to squawk about the cost of transit (or perhaps civilization in general), but why continue to subsidize roads?

For example, did you know that the I-85 Yadkin river bridge project will cost as much as the ENTIRE streetcar transit network? We could get and entire transit system for the cost of ONE bridge project!

Why not change the state law and place a $5 toll on this new bridge and let only the people who use it pay for it? Why not a $5 toll for ALL lanes on I-77? Oh wait, because the JAT crowd wants the government to subsidized anything they use, and privatize what they don't. In Greed We Trust is stamped on these fat cats' bucks.

Of course the JAT crowd will NEVER mention air quality. Look at the platform of every single Republican running for Charlotte City council - you will not see a SINGLE mention of their non-existent plan to improve air quality.

I mean, with Charlotte having the 8th worse air quality in the nation, you'd think they would address it? Nope. Maybe the JAT crowd will support government issued gas masks as a solution? Or perhaps the Republican candidates will host a "Pray Away the Pollution Day" on city council?

Building more roads will only exacerbate the problem, promoting more driving instead of easing congestion. Their plan will actually cut roads because when Charlotte fails air quality standards again we'll be cut off from transpiration funds.

If we refuse to address the issues of sustainability now, our city will fail. We cannot afford to continue to design our cities to meet the challenges 1950 instead of 2050. Those cities who are prepared for the post-oil will survive and thrive. Those who continue to plan according to 1950's design will wither and die.

Anonymous said...

OK, let's all calm down and proceed logically. We cannot completely abandon funding for roads. EVERYONE benefits from roads, even people like me who cannot drive. Consider how much of the food you buy in the grocery store got to the store by highway. When you buy things online, those things WILL spend part of their journey to your front door on a road.

Along with this, we must build up legitimate alternatives to the car-oriented focus we have now. We do need to find ways to improve our air quality and depend less on foreign oil. Mass transit, as well as infastructure to encourage walking and biking, will help do that. (It will also help if the drivers show at least an ounce of respect to pedestrians and stop trying to run them over, like they do now.)

Consultant - I'm a Republican and believe your assessment of Republicans is incorrect. The more conservative ones think almost anything can be done OUTSIDE of government intervention, not just the things that don't affect us. But as for the party itself, it's almost exactly like the Deomcrat party - the Democrats want to tax and spend with no limit. The Republicans want to borrow and spend with no limit. In other words, they're both parties led by idiots.

Jumper said...

It's good to point out how the freight industry has benefited from the highway dollars.

What I can't figure out is why we can't put some commuter rail on existing tracks around Charlotte. Apparently the shadowy state railroad commission won't help a bit with light rail, even though the state owns the tracks but leases them out, and the leaseholders won't give up a minute of travel time on "their" tracks, even if modern scheduling techniques could or should allow freight trains, AMTRAK, and light rail cars to co-exist on the same tracks. My own suspicions are that it would be TOO INEXPENSIVE. By that I mean ripping off the government would become too low-paying. Whereas if we pay to build brand new tracks, then there will be plenty of baksheesh to go around. But that's just me.

Anonymous said...

My SUV loves Iraqi oil.

Cato said...

The biggest block to investment in public transit is the outcry from the same people who will throw away a trillion dollars on a "war" in Iraq, but go absolutely nuts when you talk about expanding mass transit options in our metropolitan areas. In our own country!

Is the "progressive" standard for funding transportation projects that they only have to be marginally less stupid than the decision to invade Iraq?

...did you know that the I-85 Yadkin river bridge project will cost as much as the ENTIRE streetcar transit network? We could get and entire transit system for the cost of ONE bridge project!

And if we decided not to replace the Yadkin bridge, and used those funds to build the streetcar, what would the effect be? Would the resulting decline in towns like Spencer, Salisbury and Lexington be offset by the gains in Charlotte's inner suburbs? Or does the decline in those areas not matter?

What are you, a selfish Republican who only wants projects that benefit you?

consultant said...

A) "OK, let's all calm down and proceed logically."

I agree. But your plea would carry more weight if you asked Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, those men who showed up with guns at the health care forum, Sarah Palin, Joe "you lie" Wilson and many participants at those Tea Bag rallies to "calm down".

B) "We cannot completely abandon funding for roads."

I don't see where anyone here advocated that.

C) "EVERYONE benefits from roads.."

The same can be said for public transit. If you don't want to ride a train, don't. There are roads I will never have to drive on, but part of my taxes paid for them. It's called being a citizen and part of a "community".

And speaking of benefits of mass transit. Can you imagine the relief young people would feel if they didn't have to own and insure a car to get around? What if instead of 2 cars, a family only needed 1? How much money would they save? Maybe with the savings we could afford to pay down some of our other debt, since we aren't getting any breaks from the bailed out banks.

D) "In other words, they're both parties led by idiots."

True. BOTH political parties have failed the American people. But here's the rub: while most Democrats in Washington have enabled our decline over the last 35 years, the Republicans have been the architects, cheerleaders and drivers of it.

Today's Republican Party represents the extreme right wing of what a few decades ago was a broader Republican Party. It has become a Party of purity. That's how you get McCain picking a Palin.

But unlike most of today's Republican Party, most Democrats still believe in the proper role of government-to do the work that unites all of us as a people.

E) Excellent points by Rick B and others.

The Republican Party has entered the Twilight Zone. To them, it is okay to spend taxpayer dollars overseas building the infrastructure of another country, but it is Socialism to spend our money, in our country, doing the same thing.

That's what I would call, "Going Rogue".

consultant said...

What can I say Cato?

You are the modern Republican voter.

Cato said...

What can I say Cato?

You are the modern Republican voter.

Well, if you're going to say anything, I'd appreciate it if you were at least accurate. For the record I'm an Independent. I never voted for George W. Bush or McCain, and I opposed the Iraq war from the start - back when most Democrats supported it. And I agree that the GOP's bluster about fiscal responsibility is pretty much a crock. If that makes me the modern Republican voter, then our modern political history needs some serious revision.

That said, I still think that Charlotte's mass transit plans (and I say this as a regular bus rider) are simply too expensive and will have too little effect to be justified.

Given the penchant you've displayed for easy labels and cheap sloganeering, your head will probably explode at the incongruity to which you've just been exposed. I apologize.

Anonymous said...

Both Parties have increased the role of the federal gov't, taxes, and have put us in the current economic situtation we are in today. To blame one person or party is foolish. To get to the point we are at today took many years and many bad policies.

Anonymous said...

Great Leftist Leaders: Hitler, Lenin, Mao, and Chavez. How many people have died for the leftist cause??????

consultant said...

"Well, if you're going to say anything, I'd appreciate it if you were at least accurate."

I only had your earlier post to go on,
and it sounded like today's Republican Party to me. So...I will call you an Independent-Republican.

Anonymous said...

Consultant, so you are a communist. You are entitled to your opinion. However, have you ever considered how many lives have been lost for your cause?

Cato said...

And I will call myself Steve effing McQueen, but that don't make it so (alas).

Anonymous said...

When is consultant going to learn to have a respectable debate? Wow this individual has some serious issues.

consultant said...

Would you rather I call you Independent-Republicons?

How about Tea Baggers?

What about posters who can't follow written arguments? Too wordy?

Maybe angy, communist hatin', oil addicted community college dropouts?

Anonymous said...

as a disgruntled republican it's true the republican party has become a joke! It is a extremely selfish party. However I still think the democrats could be more PRO public transit. The whole country is in serious need of a upgrade.

Cato said...

...the proper role of government-to do the work that unites all of us as a people...

What about dissent being the highest form of patriotism? Please explain what you think government is allowed to do to "unite us as a people?" What provision of the Constitution makes this a legitimate government interest?

Or, again, does it only have to do with you getting what you want and forcing everyone else to go along?

But who am I to ask? Based on your multiple gratuitous assertions (Swiftian wit from which I'm still reeling), I'm utterly convinced you're my cultural and intellectual better. I feel embarrassed that our exchange almost certainly distracted you from perusing Le Monde, contemplating Heidegger, or some other pursuit worthy of your singular talents. I'm also sure that you're not a sack of white liberal cliches who, despite steeping himself in self-congratulation, is frustrated that he's stuck here because he lacks the talent to make a decent living in San Francisco or Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

Cato Thank you. I', amazed Mary allows some of consultant's comments to remain. Don't get me wrong I don't think they should be deleted, but if the comments were on the other side of the aisle I doubt they would remain posted long.

Anonymous said...

So, the goal of the urban planners is to NOT serve the needs of the citizenry by encouraging traffic congestion?

Gotta love the public sector. It's the only place where poor service is embraced as a positive.