Traffic Congestion Is Like the Weather…

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…everybody bitches about it but nobody does a goddamn thing about it. Except for the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit publisher of Reason Online and Reason magazine.

If you're in Los Angeles tomorrow, leave the house extra early to make sure you get a seat for:

Reason Foundation and the Los Angeles Press Club cordially invite you to an evening of debate on solutions for solving traffic congestion in Los Angeles.

When: Thursday, March 29
            Reception: 6:30—7:30 p.m.; Panel: 7:30—9:30 p.m.

Where: Los Angeles Press Club
            Steve Allen Theatre; 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90027
            (approximately 1¼ miles east of the 101 Fwy. between Normandie and Vermont)

Parking: Free in the Press Club lot (enter off of Berendo Street)

RSVP: to Mary Toledo at 310-391-2245 or mary.toledo@reason.org

You'll hear lively discussion from each of our three panelists:

  • Ted Balaker, Reason's Jacobs' Transportation Fellow and co-author of The Road More Traveled: Why the Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It;
  • Thomas Rubin, who has over thirty years of public transit experience in major transit agencies and as an auditor, consultant, and author;
  • James Moore II, Chair of the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at USC.

The panel will be moderated by Rory Johnston, a Los Angeles-based journalist who has reported widely on transportation issues for NPR, BBC World Service Radio, and the London Times. Johnston is the co-author of The Knowledge Machine: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Man.

NEXT: "I'd have to tell my students, 'This is all now bullshit.'"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The Reason Foundation is unveiling a practical and safe flying car? About danged time, I say.

  2. Get off your fat asses and ride a bicycle to work! How’s that for a solution?

    Just doing my part as a cycling enthusiast 🙂

    In the last year and a half, I haven’t spent more than $5 total worth of gas commuting to work. Only a few times have I had to ask my fiance to pick me up…and that was only during some incredibly intense rain/thunder storms.

    Just be sure to pack a gun…and if you think a car is about to hit you, shoot first and ask questions later 😉

  3. God damnit PL, I was all about to post my own lame wisecrack, but you had to go and set the bar too high.

    *grumble grumble*

  4. Well, if you don’t like flying cars, there’s always the Gossamer Albatross option–flying bikes! Woo-hoo!

  5. Parking: Free in the Press Club lot (enter off of Berendo Street)

    Heh.

    Though, to be fair, free parking is still a likely Coase solution.

    It’s driving that needs to be priced if road congestion is to fall to efficient levels.

  6. Traffic is caused by all of those people who do not drive properly, i.e. like me.

    There ought to be a law…

  7. More lanes, more roads? That is the only solution.

  8. I like that, PL. I’d make it to work in under 10 minutes 🙂

    Taktix | March 28, 2007, 4:11pm | #
    Traffic is caused by all of those people who do not drive properly, i.e. like me.

    There ought to be a law…

    That is something I’ve noticed when driving on the interstate; Traffic will be slow for miles, then you pass the moron driving 45mph in the “fast” lane and, lo-and-behold, traffic flows quite well afterwards. Go figure…

  9. Strangely enough, the comparison between traffic and weather holds doubly true here. I live in Ft. Lauderdale and sometimes need to go to Miami for work.

    After driving on I-95, I feel like I just rode out a Cat 3 Hurricane.

  10. Leaving Pompano Beach in 10 minutes, Taktix. What pleasures does I-95 hold for me today? At least it’s not raining.

  11. It’s not too bad, but I hope you aren’t taking the Pametto Expressway…

  12. More lanes, more roads? That is the only solution.

    That is a solution. Pricing the roads would be a better solution and would indicate whether new lanes or roads are needed.

    One thing that is mighty irritating is when people claim that widening roads doesn’t work. They say things like, “A year or two after you add a fifth lane, the road becomes just as congested as before.”

    No doubt. Yet, as a result of adding the new lane, 20% more people are using the road to go places they want to go. The drivers on the road have already priced the cost of congestion into their decision to use the road, or they wouldn’t be there.

    One should not treat the second order cost (congestion) by reducing the first order benefit (travel) without extraordinarily sound reasoning.

  13. edit: Palmetto Expressway

    *preview, brain, preview*

  14. Speaking of Florida driving, I have to drive home on I-275 across Tampa Bay to Tampa (on the Howard Frankland bridge)–it totally sucks. Which is why I’m on about flying cars so often.

    Or, if I can’t have a flying car, there’s always the Gibbs Aquada. I have visions of me driving it across the bay while waving at the hoi polloi trapped on the bridge.

  15. PL,

    Yes, the Franklin is quite crap, I had to drive it when I worked at the Castaway last year.

    By the way, how many of you Rascally Reasonoids are from FL?

  16. I-95 in the Miami / Ft. Lauderdale area is pretty fucked up…

    PL…try Memorial HWY after getting off I-275 (around where the airport is) during rush hour. You’ll definitely get a, well, rush…if you don’t die.

  17. Taktix,

    Native Floridian here…born and raised in Homestead…live in strawberry festival town now :/

  18. JimmyDaGeek,

    I actually live in that direction, though I take the Veterans’ Expressway. Memorial is like sludge, in my experience.

  19. Jimmy,

    Native Floridan, eh? That’s rarer than a real libertarian. It even looks funny typing it.

  20. Oh, it looks funny because i misspelled Floridian. Sorry guys, I’ve been working on a roof all day. Brain dumb now.

  21. Hey Florida crew:

    do people go 35 in the left hand lane? and do you have the style of driver who gets “competitive” when you then try to pass?

    Just perfect beaming technology. Then we could make Portnoy and Hodge Podge’s dream of beaming Opus into a wall reality!

  22. I’ll be there. My commute will be one short block, on foot.

  23. The excessively slow traffic in the left-hand lane is usually a weekend phenomenon here, though the bridge traffic seems to move fastest in the far right-hand lane–go figure. However, competitive passing is a regular feature of my commute. Things markedly improve when the snowbirds return to, well, wherever they come from.

    Obviously, beaming or interspacial portals are the ultimate in travel. That or astral projection.

  24. VM,

    You just brought to mind a recent incident my fiance had while driving on I-4. She was on her way to work when she pulled up behind a slow driver on the left lane. She tried to pass, but the driver sped up and didn’t let her pass. She got behind the car again, and the driver slammed on the brakes, forcing her to swerve into the other lane. The other driver then got in the same lane…tailed her for miles…she called me thinking it was some whacko with road rage. After several minutes of my fiance weaving in and out of traffic and speeding up to try to lose this idiot, said idiot pulls her over (it was an unmarked police car). Long story short, another officer arrived and got involved, told my fiance it was all a misunderstanding, and let her go on her way. This could have ended up tragically had my fiance made a wrong move and crashed her car while fleeing from what she thought was a road raging psycho. Rambling, I know…just pisses me off still…

  25. JDG:

    woah. Glad she’s okay. And be happy he was an unmarked dick and not SWAT…

  26. do people go 35 in the left hand lane? and do you have the style of driver who gets “competitive” when you then try to pass?

    what is this “left hand lane” of which you speak? you’re allowed to drive in it?

  27. VM,

    Or a FHiP.

  28. More lanes, more roads? That is the only solution.

    can you have a false choice fallacy with only one option?

    consider that many congested highways are in highly populated areas – many built up to the highway. where do you think the land for those extra lanes is going to come from?

  29. downstater,

    Force everyone into underground facilities. Pave everything above the city. People drive and park on the paved part.

  30. The citizens of my fair little city are doing something about it: rabid opposition to building any new business or multi-unit residential building anywhere anyplace anytime forever and ever.

  31. MikeP,

    When those recently-widened roads are up to full capacity, the 80% of the people who were using them before have gained nothing in either mobility, or reduced congestion. If the purpose of a transportation project is to promote more development, then what you describe is a success. If, however, its purpose is to reduce congestion and travel times for current users, then adding more lanes is a failed solution.

  32. Joe,

    That’s why you toll them to pay for the project. Surely you should be against subsidizing long commutes?

  33. Interstate 4 here in the Tampa, FL area has been in a widening project for years (Since before I started working in Tampa from 1998 until today, still). Now that it’s nearing completion, they need to widen it again to accommodate the extra volume.

    Just an observation…

  34. Force everyone into underground facilities. Pave everything above the city. People drive and park on the paved part.

    My town is trying to accomplish the opposite, sort of. In response to that, we’ve got some dissenters too.

    Pave Oak Park

    Check the map and the effects on traffic flow. Good stuff.

  35. Well, if you don’t like flying cars, there’s always the Gossamer Albatross option–flying bikes! Woo-hoo!

    An Annapolis classmate of my Dad’s went thru the revolving door to a vice-presidency with Bell Aviation after his distinguished WWII Naval Aviation career.

    For some time in the late 1950s we were regaled with brochures and other stuff on the “Bell Flying Platform”. Google it, there’s way more than I can provide in a single link.

    The Old Man was convinced he was going to get him one of those one day. Alas, it was never to be.

    By the way, how many of you Rascally Reasonoids are from FL?

    One more here. In beautiful Altamonte Springs.

    And for all you Floridians chances are you will drive on a road I designed or bridge I built.

    I originally came to FL as a construction engineer on the Florida Keys Bridge replacement program and have since moved on to highway design. One of my latest projects is the Florida Turnpike’s first “Open Road Tolling” toll plaza on the Homestead Extension at Okeechobee Road. This follows one I did for the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority which has pioneered the concept in Fla.

  36. I hope the word “Monorail” comes up a few times.

    I can’t understand why LA refuses to just install a monorail system across the metropolitan area from the east side to Santa Monica and all points in between.

  37. That is a solution. Pricing the roads would be a better solution and would indicate whether new lanes or roads are needed.

    Yes, I fully agree.

    consider that many congested highways are in highly populated areas – many built up to the highway. where do you think the land for those extra lanes is going to come from?

    By purchasing and knocking down houses, of course. The right way, not the USSC way.

  38. Downstater: consider that many congested highways are in highly populated areas – many built up to the highway. where do you think the land for those extra lanes is going to come from?

    Guy Montag:By purchasing and knocking down houses, of course. The right way, not the USSC way.

    In the 1970s Metropolitan Toronto decided that they were not going to build any more expressways. As an employee in the Roads department I worked on one of the last, The Spadina Expressway. (Oh, and the City of Toronto passed a by-law that there could be no buildings over three stories built within city limits.*)

    On my visits back in the late 80s early 90s I noticed that the Provincial DOT had intervened and were busily tearing down buildings that had gone up in the 70s to make room for highway infrastructure that was needed to meet the needs of a city that had completely neglected its transportation needs.

    *These two decisions were basically all that was necessary to separate the rank and file construction union members from “their” party, the socialist** New Democratic Party who supported these policies to this day.

    **And when I say “socialist” I don’t mean your pussy welfare state “socialists” (like in this country). These were dyed-in-the-wool diehard “nationalize the means of production” “socialists”. Lawdy-Lawdy was it ever fun to hear Kiefer Sutherland’s Grandpa rail against “monopoly capitalists” back in the day. 🙂

  39. When those recently-widened roads are up to full capacity, the 80% of the people who were using them before have gained nothing in either mobility, or reduced congestion.

    But the 20% that are new users has gained something. The capacity and usage of the road is up 20%, as are whatever benefits the road brings to those who use and rely on it. I call that a gain.

    If the purpose of a transportation project is to promote more development, then what you describe is a success.

    You say that like promoting development is bad. Would a light rail project that also served no purpose other than promoting development along its corridor also be bad?

    If, however, its purpose is to reduce congestion and travel times for current users, then adding more lanes is a failed solution.

    Since most mass transit projects make only a very small impact on road use, couldn’t you say the same thing about them?

  40. I choose to live within 3 miles of where I work.

  41. Isaac,

    Are you responsible for the Veterans’ Expressway? If so, I may have some uncivil words to say 🙂

  42. Why don’t we do as some Chinese companies do, and provide a living environment within the offices where our employees work? Daily commute problems solved.

  43. I was thinking the same thing, Pro Liberate. He shouldn’t freely disclose that information, if he values his life 😉

  44. RC Dean,

    “But the 20% that are new users has gained something.” Yes, but the question was whether road widening would reduce congestion.

    “You say that like promoting development is bad.” No, I say it as a straightforward fact, without coummentary one way or the other. Whether promoting a certain type of development in a certain area is good or bad depends on the specifics of the situation.

    “Since most mass transit projects make only a very small impact on road use, couldn’t you say the same thing about them?”

    Don’t make the mistake of comparing overall trip %s and declaring mass transit’s impact minimal. If it accounts for, say, 2% of all vehicular trips, that usually means that it accounts for a much higher % of peak hour trips – ie, trips in during the morning commute and out during the everning commute. If that 2% was evenly spread across the day, transit would be pretty useless, but if it is taking 15% of the cars off the road during the most congested periods, that’s a significant benefit, especially when you consider that traffic congestion doesn’t increase smoothly with traffic volume, but lurches up dramaticaly at a certain tipping point.

  45. Are you responsible for the Veterans’ Expressway?

    No. I’m not even sure where it starts but I do know it connects to the Suncoast, a section of which I did work on.

    Anyway, I’m not involved in actually deciding where roads go. Planners do that. I just get to fix up the planners’ whacky math. Or lack of it.

    So, PL and Jimmy, I’m curious, exactly what is wrong with the Veterans?

  46. Isaac,

    Well, now that’s different. The Suncoast Expressway is a nice drive, with full-speed Sunpass lanes and enough lanes to accommodate the traffic.

    The Veterans’, on the other hand, has huge bottlenecks and was built with the idea that the most populated and fastest growing area of the city only needed a four-lane highway. I know it happened because the money wasn’t there, but any attempt to actually expand it now will cost many more times as much. It’s a parking lot in the morning.

    If you can fix it right away, I’ll buy you a subscription to Reason 🙂

  47. The Veterans’, on the other hand, has huge bottlenecks and was built with the idea that the most populated and fastest growing area of the city only needed a four-lane highway.

    Again, blame the Planners!

    You don’t happen to know any planners, do you?

    Anyhoo, I got to get to work screwing up…err…designing more roads. 🙂

  48. By purchasing and knocking down houses, of course. The right way, not the USSC way.

    if by purchasing you mean taking, then you are correct, that’s how it would be done.

  49. Isaac,

    I do blame the planners. I’d never blame an innocent civil engineer. Heck, I roomed with two of those my senior year at UF. One was the son of one of the guys who worked on the “new” Sunshine Skyway. Cool.

    joe? Is this your fault somehow? Did you do this while on vacation, back in your government service days? I want justice!

  50. Isaac Bartram,

    transportation systems in your area are planned without the input of engineers?

  51. downstater, it was a joke. I personally am not involved in planning.

    But just like everywhere else most of planning decisions are made for political reasons rather than sound engineering and planning practices. This is annoying to most planners and engineers especially since they are often used to give a stamp of legitimacy to the enterprise.

  52. downstater, it was a joke. I personally am not involved in planning.

    sorry, my humor detector sucks this morning.

    But just like everywhere else most of planning decisions are made for political reasons rather than sound engineering and planning practices. This is annoying to most planners and engineers especially since they are often used to give a stamp of legitimacy to the enterprise.

    amen to that.

  53. Isaac,

    Have you worked with URS? I almost took a job (3d modeling of their projects) with them here in the Tampa area. Then the whole shake up with the Cross Town Expressway occurred.

  54. “But just like everywhere else most of planning decisions are made for political reasons rather than sound engineering and planning practices. This is annoying to most planners and engineers especially since they are often used to give a stamp of legitimacy to the enterprise.”

    True enough, I’ve seen enough buddy-buddy bullshit in my day. But there’s a certain distinction that needs to be made here. Planning is all about values – establishing the criteria that design needs to strive for. If the decision is made that ease of mobility needs to be balanced against the quality of life of the residents of a neighborhood and the economic viability of the commecial district that depends on pedestrians, then keeping the road at four lanes, rather than widening it into a highway, can be the right answer, even if there genuinely is demand for more lanes. In a sense, that’s a political decision, but it’s not the same as, for example, deciding against a series of takings because the City Manager’s buddy doesn’t want to move his dry cleaning business.

  55. Thread is probably dead, but:

    Have you worked with URS?

    No, but I have friend’s who have worked or do work there.

    Then the whole shake up with the Cross Town Expressway occurred.

    I hadn’t heard about that. But then I don’t get over there since my firm closed its Tampa office.

    And, joe, good post. I agree that “In a sense, that’s a political decision,…” but it is a political decision that follows is directed by planning practice rather than the other way around.

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