Dealing with Auto Traffic Congestion

highway traffic(image: Strong Town Blog)

A recent Strong Town post draws an excellent analogy between how we control flooding, something humans intuitively understand through thousands of years of trial and error, and how we deal with auto traffic congestion.

In a natural watershed system, ditches flow into small creeks, creeks flow into streams, streams flow into rivers, and rivers eventually flow into waterways. When millions of tiny raindrops fall into the ditches along the watershed, they collect and end up in a flood in the rivers and waterways down below.

Humans understand that it is much more effective and less costly to control upstream the amount of water released into the system – as close to the source as possible – than trying to mitigate a flood downstream when it occurs.

The modern day road network hierarchy bears the same characteristics as a natural watershed system. Small, local streets empty into collector streets, local collectors feed into arterials, and arterials empty into major arterials which eventually end up pouring into highways.

More from Dealing with Congestion:

For automobile flooding (congestion), the only way to deal with it and still have a successful economy is to address it at the source. We need to absorb those trips locally before they become a flood. Instead of building lanes, we need to be building corner stores. We need local economic ecosystems that create jobs, opportunity and destinations for people as an alternative to those they can only get to by driving.

For nearly seven decades, our national transportation obsession has been about maximizing the amount that you can drive. We now need to focus on minimizing the amount you are forced to drive. If we develop a system that responds to congestion by creating local options, we will not only waste less money on transportation projects that accomplish little, but we will be strengthening the finances of our cities. We can spend way less and get back way more.

Read the full article here.

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