“Dr. Gridlock” Talks Transportation with SMTA and Smart Growth Coalition
July 11, 2011 |
In the Metro section in Sunday’s Washington Post, transportation reporter Robert Thompson invited the two groups to “define the problem, propose solutions and tell us how we would know if their ideas worked.” While there were commonalities in the solutions proposed, only SMTA had a realistic answer to addressing all modes of transportation and measurably reducing congestion, which continues to be the top threat to our economy and quality of life. Here’s a brief summary:
SMTA Lays Out Balanced List of Transportation Priorities: Citing the need for comprehensive solutions to our traffic problems in the Washington area, SMTA President Richard Parsons defines our top transportation problem as “too much traffic congestion.” He cites years of traffic studies which show the primary cause is the lack of suburb-to-suburb transit and road capacity connecting our major activity centers in the region. For solutions, most transportation experts recommend a combination of: Investing in Metro reliability, new transit lines (Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway, regional bus-rapid-transit network), new highway and bridge capacity (including a regional network of high-occupancy-toll lanes on the Beltway and other key corridors), and more sustainable “transit-oriented-development” to concentrate future jobs and housing and reduce the need for future auto trips. Studies show using all the tools in our toolbox would significantly reduce congestion, make travel times both shorter and more predictable for commuters, and keep our region more liveable, sustainable and economically vibrant. One of the key problems, Parsons notes, is that “we’ve clouded the debate, allowing popular myths and wishful thinking to supersede sound research and expert analysis.” View the entire article here.
Smart Growth Coalition Offers Familiar “Wishful Thinking” Approach that Won’t Reduce Congestion: Coalition for Smarter Growth President Stewart Schwartz blames congestion on “bad land-use planning and poor location decisions by major employers.” For solutions, he lays out a familiar list of land-use changes, most of which are good ideas, but are either already being done in Maryland (e.g. concentrating new development near metro stations), or too vague and unrealistic, like shifting employment from the 270 corridor to the east. He offers no specifics on how these might impact future congestion levels. Recent data from the Transportation Planning Board indicate that smart-growth land-use changes alone, without new transportation capacity, actually makes traffic congestion slightly worse. Schwartz does cite the need for new transit capacity, which is a good thing. However, transit only works for those relatively few commuters who can use it, and does nothing to address all the other non-commuting trips for which we also need to plan (interstate traffic, shipping and freight deliveries, errands, business-to-business travel, etc.), and which make up most of our daily trips. By ignoring the mode of travel that accounts for roughly 90% of all daily trips in our State and region — our heavily congested roads — such prescriptions are simply not realistic and will have no impact on congestion in our lifetimes.