Traffic congestion

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Mon Mar 28, 2011 2:21 pm UTC

@Azrael: I think ald was referring to metropolitan area. If it is just a town, that wouldn't make sense, but a big enough city can surround suburbs or be big enough that it might be a vacant at night business city and suburb ring, but it is all incorporated into the same city.
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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Azrael » Mon Mar 28, 2011 2:49 pm UTC

Sure, if you define a study area to be sufficiently large that all traffic in the study area is therefore from the study area. But that is thoroughly meaningless.

More useful would be the otherwise predefined Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Combined Statistical Areas or even just urbanization lines. Now, perhaps, one can say that the majority of traffic within those zones both starts and finishes within those zones, but certainly not *all*. Also note that all of these groupings are geographically large; to leave Boston's CSA from Boston itself would take 75-125 miles of driving. That's far enough to question the validity of the boundary in terms of commuter congestion. Plus these areas cross town, county and even state lines. Furthermore, they can encompass distinct cities, each with their own suburban ring and with drastically different major traffic flows that have little driver-based crosstalk (i.e. Boston, Worcester, Manchester, Providence).

Using such groupings not only thoroughly trounces The Aldonius Corollary, but from a far more important aspect, complicates funding, planning and responsibility.

(As an example)
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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby aldonius » Tue Mar 29, 2011 7:28 am UTC

Ahh, my "Australian" definitions are perhaps confusing things for me - what I think of as a metro area is the entire built-up stretch from CBD through to the suburbs, and then some.
Could be that I'm overgeneralising my experience - freeways near where I live are dominated at peak hour by commuter traffic.
My "corollary" really is just common sense - "intra-city traffic dwarfs inter-city traffic".

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Zamfir » Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:34 am UTC

aldonius wrote:My "corollary" really is just common sense - "intra-city traffic dwarfs inter-city traffic".

Perhaps it is in Australia. Here in the Netherlands for example, it's as far from common sense as you can get. Around here, a lot of peak traffic is caused by people moving between towns and cities. Smaller towns are often not suburbs of a larger one, but distinct places that are not necessarily oriented towards one single larger hub.

Some parts of the country do behave more like a hub-and-spoke system that could be seen as a single metropolitan city. But even these regions touch each other, and it would be hard to draw the line between one such area and the next.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby BotoBoto » Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:11 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:
aldonius wrote:My "corollary" really is just common sense - "intra-city traffic dwarfs inter-city traffic".

Perhaps it is in Australia. Here in the Netherlands for example, it's as far from common sense as you can get. Around here, a lot of peak traffic is caused by people moving between towns and cities. Smaller towns are often not suburbs of a larger one, but distinct places that are not necessarily oriented towards one single larger hub.

Some parts of the country do behave more like a hub-and-spoke system that could be seen as a single metropolitan city. But even these regions touch each other, and it would be hard to draw the line between one such area and the next.


That's mostly because of our people/area ratio. I mean look at "de randstad" and you'll see that that it is actually just a big blob of cities/towns. Intersected with medium to large strokes of green. Which is in great contrast to the east/north. (Gelderland/Groningen enzo.)

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby aldonius » Thu Jun 02, 2011 11:29 am UTC

Digging up dead threads and all, but here's some more fuel for the fire:

http://dc.streetsblog.org/2011/05/31/st ... -futility/

Spoiler:
Study: Building Roads to Cure Congestion Is an Exercise in Futility
Published on May 31st, 2011
Written by: Tanya Snyder
We hear it all the time: The road lobby insists that the only way to reduce mind-numbing traffic congestion on the roads they built is to build new roads. Federal funding gives huge blank checks to state DOTs, which tend to prioritize road building over transit, bridge maintenance or anything else. But mounting evidence suggests that building new roads won’t do anything to alleviate congestion.

In a paper to be published soon in the American Economic Review, two University of Toronto professors have added to the body of evidence showing that highway and road expansion increases traffic by increasing demand. On the flip side, they show that transit expansion doesn’t help cure congestion either.

We’ll spare you the calculus in the report. Here’s the upshot: “Roads cause traffic.”


Duranton and Turner: If you build it, you will sit in traffic on it. Photo: Arch and the Environment
Professors Gilles Duranton and Matthew Turner analyzed travel data from hundreds of metro areas in the U.S., resulting in what they call the most comprehensive dataset ever assembled on the traffic impacts of road construction. They write:

For interstate highways in metropolitan areas we find that VKT [vehicle kilometers traveled] increases one for one with interstate highways, confirming the “fundamental law of highway congestion” suggested by Anthony Downs (1962; 1992). We also uncover suggestive evidence that this law may extend beyond interstate highways to a broad class of major urban roads, a “fundamental law of road congestion”. These results suggest that increased provision of interstate highways and major urban roads is unlikely to relieve congestion of these roads.

Duranton and Turner say building more roads results in more driving for a number of reasons: People drive more when there are more roads to drive on, commercial driving and trucking increases with the number of roads, and, to a lesser extent, people migrate to areas with lots of roads. Given that new capacity just increases driving, they find that “a new lane kilometer of roadway diverts little traffic from other roads.”

Given the huge amount of time consumed by driving (the average American household spent nearly three hours per day in a car in 2001), the authors note that “the costs of congestion are large.” Considering the economic value of time spent doing anything but sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, that becomes an economic problem of the first order.

“Transportation accounts for about one dollar in five that Americans spend,” Turner said in an interview with Streetsblog. “The interstate highway system eats up on the order of two dollars of every $100 of every market transaction in the United States. That’s a huge part of the economy and a huge part of people’s lives. Understanding how that works is really important; you don’t want to make mistakes on something that important. You don’t want to build roads and have them not deliver the effects that you expect them to.”

The implications for this research are significant, especially as Congress considers whether to integrate performance measures into federal transportation spending decisions. These findings make a strong case that Congress should not allocate too many scarce resources to road expansion when that’s not a real solution for congestion.

Duranton and Turner say that metropolitan areas tend to get new roads regardless of whether or not the prevailing level of traffic warrants expansion. They urge the establishment of transportation policies based on their findings and the data they compiled, rather than the “claims of advocacy groups”:

Unfortunately, there is currently little empirical basis for accepting or rejecting the claims by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association that “adding highway capacity is key to helping to reduce traffic congestion”, or of the American Public Transit Association that without new investment in public transit, highways will become so congested that they “will no longer work”. Our results do not support either of these claims.

They didn’t find that transit reduces congestion. But that doesn’t mean that metro areas shouldn’t build transit as a way to maximize the efficiency of their transportation networks, they say. Turner said transit is a good way to get more “person-miles” out of roads. But more buses and trains won’t reduce congestion, he added, because regardless of how many drivers switch to transit, other drivers will fill the vacuum.

“If you think about the result that we’re finding for roads – if you add a little bit of capacity, someone uses it, right?” Turner said. “So there are all these people out there waiting to take trips as soon as there’s space on the roads. So if somebody stays home, or if you add capacity to the road, there’s somebody there waiting to use that space. Well you should expect the same thing to happen if somebody gets out of their car and gets on the bus, it’s bringing up a little bit more room on the roads, and there’s somebody out there waiting to use it.”

Still, Turner says transit plays a vital role in maximizing the value of our transportation networks. “Transportation infrastructure is just so expensive,” he said. It’s important to use it efficiently.

The researchers didn’t discern between light rail, commuter rail, and buses. Turner said he feels that buses allow cities to move just as many people with a much cheaper infrastructure network, but there are passionate arguments on both sides of the bus vs. rail debate, and the authors don’t choose one over the other in their paper. In fact, they only have one significant policy recommendation:

These findings suggest that both road capacity expansions and extensions to public transit are not appropriate policies with which to combat traffic congestion. This leaves congestion pricing as the main candidate tool to curb traffic congestion.

“The menu of policy responses to congestion is not really that long,” Turner said in our interview. “You’ve got building more roads, building more transit, and congestion pricing, and if you’d like you can put smart growth on there. We looked at two of those really carefully and found that they didn’t perform as advertised. So if you’re thinking about these things purely as responses to congestion, it doesn’t look like they work. There is some evidence that congestion taxes work. So if you were going to pick one of these things to go for, that would be it.”

They’re working on research now to investigate the impacts of smart growth on traffic.


Basically, supports my earlier point ("Traffic expands to fill the available space").

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Yakk » Thu Jun 02, 2011 12:59 pm UTC

So, when you build a road, economic activity springs up (people and trade) that fills the demand left by not enough roads elsewhere?
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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby aldonius » Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:03 am UTC

So it would seem. Nice world, eh?

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Yakk » Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:21 pm UTC

aldonius wrote:So it would seem. Nice world, eh?

Yes it is! How much economic activity? Are roads a cheap way to boost your cities GDP?
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Arrian » Fri Jun 03, 2011 2:05 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:So, when you build a road, economic activity springs up (people and trade) that fills the demand left by not enough roads elsewhere?


Light rail advocates use that same line of reasoning to support their projects, and they're always quoting massive numbers. Same for advocates of publicly funded sports stadiums. A light rail project tying Minneapolis to St. Paul expects to lead to an additional 2.7 million square feet of retail space, for example. (Section 5.1.1.)

I'm not sure if it's truly new economic activity or mainly shifting activity from one place to another, concentrating it and making it more visible. If that's the case, you get very little net benefit, most of which wouldn't be counted in GDP. (Like lower search costs for consumers or network effects.) What would be captured would be the zero sum game of shifting activity from one polity to another, which isn't particularly valuable. (Is it really a win for anyone to take a dozen stores out of one suburb and move them into a strip mall in the next suburb over?)

As a corollary to "Traffic expands with road capacity," I've noticed recently that traffic might also decrease in response to lowered road capacity. There is a road construction project that started up this week shutting down a lane on Interstate heading into Minneapolis. The first couple days, the road was a parking lot as far as the eye could see during the morning commute, but today it's moving, albeit slowly. Is traffic adjusting? Are people taking alternate routes? Carpooling? Or is this just lower usage due to it being Friday? It'll be interesting to watch over the next couple weeks to see if the trend continues.

(And note that the reduced traffic almost certainly isn't due to reduced economic activity.)

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Azrael » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:21 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:I'm not sure if it's truly new economic activity or mainly shifting activity from one place to another, concentrating it and making it more visible.

From a completely unscientific standpoint, there always seems to be a large surplus of somewhat aged strip malls along the sides of secondary routes. So sure, the retail space is developed because of it's convenience to whichever transit infrastructure project pops up, but I'd bet that overall vacancy rates increase. Businesses just move to newer, nicer and more traveled centers. Certainly there's some apparent growth (i.e. a new Chipotle next to the train station) but I'm far from convinced that it isn't just shifting transactions away from other retailers.

Perhaps those old, empty commercial spaces are converted to housing (residential growth is certainly real) or non-retail commercial units, which keeps the numbers balanced. Either way, there is going to be an economic value that can be assigned to the construction of the new space and (maybe) renovation or conversion of the old.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Yakk » Fri Jun 03, 2011 3:43 pm UTC

The study claimed that traffic was not lowered elsewhere by the creation of these new routes. So that means it cannot be a simple shifting. Maybe it is rather that "traffic wasn't lowered by a detectable amount" -- if traffic lowers by a ridiculously small amount over a huge area...

On the other hand, if the area is large enough, then shifting economic activity to your region might be very much "worth it" locally.
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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby pizzazz » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:18 pm UTC

I think the rails/roads have a better case than stadiums, because they claim that economic activity will be generated along the road, rather than by its construction. On the other hand, Azrael brought up a good point. In order for economic activity to increase this way, there has to be sufficient demand for accessible space. On the other other hand, even if businesses are just shifting, if they can lower prices this way, there could still be growth.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Arrian » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:27 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:The study claimed that traffic was not lowered elsewhere by the creation of these new routes. So that means it cannot be a simple shifting. Maybe it is rather that "traffic wasn't lowered by a detectable amount" -- if traffic lowers by a ridiculously small amount over a huge area...


Are they judging traffic by number of vehicles on the road or number of people moving? I thought one of the main reasons traffic increased was because people substituted personal cars for other forms of transportation like carpooling and mass transit. Just think of the impact on traffic from the change of one car families to two car families, even if the number of people actually moving isn't that large.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:28 pm UTC

aldonius wrote:Digging up dead threads and all, but here's some more fuel for the fire:

Basically, supports my earlier point ("Traffic expands to fill the available space").


This should not be surprising. Road space is a resource that has value, but no price. One should therefore expect that simply increasing the supply of the resource will not significantly reduce congestion because demand will always exceed supply. If you actually want to reduce demand, you need to increase the price of road space, rather than increasing supply. This has been done somewhat effectively in various cities through congestion pricing--essentially, you put a toll major thoroughfares that escalates during peak hours and reduces (to zero if desired) during off hours. This provides an economic incentive for drivers to reduce their driving, drive during off-hours, carpool or use public transit rather than drive. By pricing road space correctly (or as near as possible), you actually have a lever that you can use to control congestion. In a perfect world, the fees gained from these tolls would then be funneled into improving roads or public transit infrastructure.

An alternative measure that has proven to be extremely effective and is considered to be more fair (in the sense that tolls tend to be a regressive tax) is road space rationing--a system whereby vehicles with a specific license plate are restricted from travel on certain days. For example, in San Jose, Costa Rica, drivers whose license plates end in a 0 or 1 may not access certain roads on Mondays, and drivers with plates ending in 6 or 7 cannot access those same roads on Thursdays. In the extreme case, prior to the Beijing Olympics, only commuters with even-numbered license plates were to drive on some days, and odd numbered on the others. These measures have the effect of constraining demand without imposing a real price on road space.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby pizzazz » Fri Jun 03, 2011 4:37 pm UTC

Alternatively, one could tax gasoline, which also puts a price on use of roads but doesn't require the infrastructure of tolls, and puts a price on inefficient gas usage to boot.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Yakk » Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:27 pm UTC

Arrian wrote:
Yakk wrote:The study claimed that traffic was not lowered elsewhere by the creation of these new routes. So that means it cannot be a simple shifting. Maybe it is rather that "traffic wasn't lowered by a detectable amount" -- if traffic lowers by a ridiculously small amount over a huge area...


Are they judging traffic by number of vehicles on the road or number of people moving? I thought one of the main reasons traffic increased was because people substituted personal cars for other forms of transportation like carpooling and mass transit. Just think of the impact on traffic from the change of one car families to two car families, even if the number of people actually moving isn't that large.

Sure. Except, all things being equal, carpooling is less convienient than driving yourself usually. And mass transit is, outside of a handful of places (like NYC) and methods (flight), a lower-class lower-quality form of transportation compared to just driving (it takes longer, requires "more work" to prep for, and is less reliable if you want to rely on it (strikes FTW), etc), even if it is "more efficient" and greener.
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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Jun 03, 2011 6:53 pm UTC

pizzazz wrote:Alternatively, one could tax gasoline, which also puts a price on use of roads but doesn't require the infrastructure of tolls, and puts a price on inefficient gas usage to boot.


Gasoline taxes aren't targeted in the same way. If you set your gasoline tax high enough, you may see some overall reduction in the number of drivers, but if the specific problem you want to get rid of is traffic congestion, you're far better off just taxing the people causing the congestion, rather than taxing everybody.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Azrael » Fri Jun 03, 2011 7:27 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Gasoline taxes aren't targeted in the same way. If you set your gasoline tax high enough, you may see some overall reduction in the number of drivers, but if the specific problem you want to get rid of is traffic congestion, you're far better off just taxing the people causing the congestion, rather than taxing everybody.

Didn't London pretty thoroughly demonstrate this when they added the congestion charge in 2007 -- traffic dropped by 30% or so.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby pizzazz » Fri Jun 03, 2011 8:42 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
pizzazz wrote:Alternatively, one could tax gasoline, which also puts a price on use of roads but doesn't require the infrastructure of tolls, and puts a price on inefficient gas usage to boot.


Gasoline taxes aren't targeted in the same way. If you set your gasoline tax high enough, you may see some overall reduction in the number of drivers, but if the specific problem you want to get rid of is traffic congestion, you're far better off just taxing the people causing the congestion, rather than taxing everybody.


A gasoline tax is not quite as targeted as a toll, sure, but anyone on the road when there's already plenty of cars (ie, most people who drive on a regular basis), contributes to congestion. Plus, a gasoline tax limits easily travel on all roads in the affected area, rather than tolls which require you to build additional infrastructure on every road you want to limit congestion, and which can even contribute to congestion by forcing everyone to slow down. That being said, tolls are probably more efficient if decreasing traffic is your only goal.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby LaserGuy » Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:00 pm UTC

pizzazz wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
pizzazz wrote:Alternatively, one could tax gasoline, which also puts a price on use of roads but doesn't require the infrastructure of tolls, and puts a price on inefficient gas usage to boot.


Gasoline taxes aren't targeted in the same way. If you set your gasoline tax high enough, you may see some overall reduction in the number of drivers, but if the specific problem you want to get rid of is traffic congestion, you're far better off just taxing the people causing the congestion, rather than taxing everybody.


A gasoline tax is not quite as targeted as a toll, sure, but anyone on the road when there's already plenty of cars (ie, most people who drive on a regular basis), contributes to congestion. Plus, a gasoline tax limits easily travel on all roads in the affected area, rather than tolls which require you to build additional infrastructure on every road you want to limit congestion, and which can even contribute to congestion by forcing everyone to slow down. That being said, tolls are probably more efficient if decreasing traffic is your only goal.


Modern tolls don't force people to slow down. They're electronically controlled and trigger on your license plate or something in/on your car. And while it is true that all cars contribute to congestion, not all cars contribute to congestion equally. If I'm driving at 2:00am, the amount of congestion is pretty negligible. Tolls can take this into account. The question is, how high do gasoline taxes need to be before we see an impact?

Don't get me wrong, I think that gasoline taxes are a very good thing and have a lot of other benefits (GHG emission reductions, for example); however, on the narrow point of traffic congestion, you're probably better off with congestion tax. From a practical point of view, you'd probably want to use both.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby pizzazz » Fri Jun 03, 2011 10:34 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
pizzazz wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:
pizzazz wrote:Alternatively, one could tax gasoline, which also puts a price on use of roads but doesn't require the infrastructure of tolls, and puts a price on inefficient gas usage to boot.


Gasoline taxes aren't targeted in the same way. If you set your gasoline tax high enough, you may see some overall reduction in the number of drivers, but if the specific problem you want to get rid of is traffic congestion, you're far better off just taxing the people causing the congestion, rather than taxing everybody.


A gasoline tax is not quite as targeted as a toll, sure, but anyone on the road when there's already plenty of cars (ie, most people who drive on a regular basis), contributes to congestion. Plus, a gasoline tax limits easily travel on all roads in the affected area, rather than tolls which require you to build additional infrastructure on every road you want to limit congestion, and which can even contribute to congestion by forcing everyone to slow down. That being said, tolls are probably more efficient if decreasing traffic is your only goal.


Modern tolls don't force people to slow down. They're electronically controlled and trigger on your license plate or something in/on your car. And while it is true that all cars contribute to congestion, not all cars contribute to congestion equally. If I'm driving at 2:00am, the amount of congestion is pretty negligible. Tolls can take this into account. The question is, how high do gasoline taxes need to be before we see an impact?

I've read about these but I didn't know they were so commonplace; all the tolls near where I live force you to slow down. And how many people do most of their driving at 2:00 AM? Not many, which is why there's no congestion! Still, I do think congestion taxes are a good idea, you just need other taxes as well.
How high do they need to be? Probably somewhere between the current US taxes and current Europe taxes.
Don't get me wrong, I think that gasoline taxes are a very good thing and have a lot of other benefits (GHG emission reductions, for example); however, on the narrow point of traffic congestion, you're probably better off with congestion tax. From a practical point of view, you'd probably want to use both.


On major roads, definitely, but it's hard to put tolls everywhere. I agree you want to use both.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Abgrund » Tue Jun 07, 2011 12:54 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:An alternative measure that has proven to be extremely effective and is considered to be more fair (in the sense that tolls tend to be a regressive tax)...


What kind of a moron would consider that a regressive tax is fair? It's the exact opposite of fair.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Jun 07, 2011 2:09 am UTC

Abgrund wrote:
LaserGuy wrote:An alternative measure that has proven to be extremely effective and is considered to be more fair (in the sense that tolls tend to be a regressive tax)...


What kind of a moron would consider that a regressive tax is fair? It's the exact opposite of fair.


Read the rest of the sentence after the ...

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Beardhammer » Wed Jun 08, 2011 9:19 am UTC

Yakk wrote:Sure. Except, all things being equal, carpooling is less convienient than driving yourself usually. And mass transit is, outside of a handful of places (like NYC) and methods (flight), a lower-class lower-quality form of transportation compared to just driving (it takes longer, requires "more work" to prep for, and is less reliable if you want to rely on it (strikes FTW), etc), even if it is "more efficient" and greener.


And more to the point, not even every decent-sized city has viable public transportation. Tulsa only has a little bus system. I'd love to use it - it's certainly a hell of a lot cheaper than owning, operating, and maintaining my little Malibu - but it's horribly inconvenient for anyone that doesn't work a normal 9-5 job, and for people like me who work the stickup shift, it's not an option at all.

There's certainly plenty of talk in the editorials and letters-to-the-editor section of the local papers about how to improve the public transportation here, but the simple answer is that while our roads are too small for the amount of vehicles on them, the city itself is too large for the bus system in place... even if they were to run the busses 24 hours a day. Like a lot of cities I've seen, Tulsa is surrounded by multiple smaller cities - I just consider them extensions of Tulsa itself, since that's what they are in practical terms. Problem is, if you live in one of those places and you work inside Tulsa proper, you have absolutely no choice but to drive on the roads, and I don't see it being feasible (and depending on how the "we're an independent town you asshats!" works) to try and extend the public transportation system, such as it is, out that far.

I don't know how it works in really big cities (Tulsa's the biggest place I've ever lived and it's only like, what, 2 million?), but the short answer for here is that there's too many cars on too few roads, and too few practical methods of getting those cars off the roads. The only option is to expand the roads, which ironically makes the roads SMALLER while they kill themselves trying to build and open new lanes.

As far as just instituting some kind of generic gas tax, I don't see how it'd be a good thing at all for places like Tulsa. As much as I love the idea of cornholing idiots that drive an Excursion (while talking on their iPhone and drinking a latte from Starbucks) when they'd be just fine with a Smartcar, it wouldn't really solve any problems and wouldn't really get many cars off the road here. More, since people would end up spending more on gas, they'd have less money to spend on other things, like eating out, furniture, or the other random useless crap we dispose our disposable income on. Sure, I guess the local government would get more money, but judging by the state of road construction here, the issue is simply manpower, not lack of funds - and in the meantime local businesses would suffer (less money spent means less revenue mixed with higher costs for shipping/receiving equals mom and pop businesses going under.)

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Zamfir » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:13 am UTC

@Beardhammer, the trick that moves a lot of people around here (not that we don't have traffic jams, dear god) is to combine bikes and trains. It's hard to build a dense enough network of rail stations if you have to rely on walking, but a 5 to 10 minute bike ride gives you a radius of a few miles around a station. Many people have a second bike parked at their work destination, if their job is not in the denser areas near a station.

This combination is usually slower than the same trip by car outside of rush hour, but often very competitive (and more predictable) during rush hour. And for many people a bit of movement in the open air followed by reading (or smartphoning) on the train is more pleasant than driving the whole trip in busy traffic. Of course, many people prefer to take or need to take a car anyway, but it spreads the load around.

I see on Google Maps that there is lot of railway track in Tulsa, but it looks like mostly freight rail, right?

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Yakk » Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:12 pm UTC

Sure, but comparing a country the size of (say) Denmark, or even England, with its ecologically destructive population density, to the US is unrealistic.

England: 383 / km^2
Israel: 292 / km^2
UK: 246 / km^2
Denmark: 127 / km^2
City of Ottawa: ~286 / km^2 (not metro area -- just city)

The entire country of UK has a population density that rivals a North American city. And the pollution emissions per km^2 of the UK/Denmark/Israel and other such dense population areas is just ridiculous -- far more than their share of the world ecosystem can absorb.

(Admittedly, the City of Ottawa is a bit ridiculous in land area).

Ie: I'm not sure if building population to the point where density is that high works reasonably.

Then again, the budgets that cities get to maintain transportation networks pale next to the amount people spend on automobiles -- with a reasonable budget, possibly public transportation could be good even without ridiculous population densities.
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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby pizzazz » Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:17 pm UTC

Choosing Ottowa is rather misleading. Wikipedia says that cities like Boston and New York have population densities in the thousands.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Eyat » Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:28 pm UTC

pizzazz wrote:Choosing Ottowa is rather misleading. Wikipedia says that cities like Boston and New York have population densities in the thousands.


Not so misleading when you take into account that he is comparing a city density to densities of entire countries. New York has a high density and a successful train system, Boston also has a rail system and so does Chicago but the US has a total population density of 33.7 per km^2 so using commuter trains as a panacea is not going to work it won't be profitable and no one will do it which is why all these artificial ways of controlling car traffic are being talked about, i.e. tolls and congestion pricing because it won't happen naturally.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Zamfir » Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:44 am UTC

I wasn't thinking about the within-city railway systems you find in large and dense cities (those are rare around here), I was thinking about between-city railways. The tyical train commute here is 30 kms or so, from commuter towns to other towns or to larger cities. That regional scale maps reasonably well to Tulsa, both in distance and number of people within a region.

Don't forget, those country-wide numbers can be deeply misleading. They mostly tell you that there are large areas with very little people, but not really much about the places where most people actually live.

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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby lutzj » Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:41 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:I wasn't thinking about the within-city railway systems you find in large and dense cities (those are rare around here), I was thinking about between-city railways. The tyical train commute here is 30 kms or so, from commuter towns to other towns or to larger cities. That regional scale maps reasonably well to Tulsa, both in distance and number of people within a region.

Don't forget, those country-wide numbers can be deeply misleading. They mostly tell you that there are large areas with very little people, but not really much about the places where most people actually live.


Distance between major cities is probably a bigger deal than population density (you did a good job explaining why density can be misleading). It both increases the passenger-train speed to make intercity rail travel economical and useful and makes it much harder to actually construct the new railroads needed (the alternative is sharing railways with freight, but that's bound to cause accidents and schedule issues and the railroad companies will fight it to the death because freight is actually doing pretty well right now).
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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby Yakk » Fri Jun 10, 2011 12:07 am UTC

In North America, the railways are first freight and second passenger. In Europe, the railways are first passenger and second freight.

From what I can tell, EU rail shipping is worse than NA rail shipping, and opposite for passenger.

And yes, population density doesn't tell you everything: but when you have a country with the population density of a North American city, you are going to have far more economical mass transit solutions.

There are regions in North America with crazy-ass unsustainable population densities, and they tend to have decent mass transit.
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Re: Traffic congestion

Postby pizzazz » Sat Jun 11, 2011 6:17 pm UTC

There is feasible public transportation in some places in the US, but even in major cities the local government often makes it difficult. I do know a bunch of people who live in NYC, and only 1 has a driver's license.

There actually are cross-country trains, it just takes so long that air travel is cheaper for most people.


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