Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

12 February, 2007

Pave the planet!

I'm sure we all expected the Bush administration's analysis of and proposals on traffic congestion to be something less than clear-eyed, forward-thinking, and bold:
Carpooling won't do much to reduce U.S. highway congestion in urban areas, and a better solution would be to build new highways and charge drivers fees to use them, the White House said on Monday.

That's the ticket! More roads! More spendy roads!
Based on the latest data supplied by the White House, only about 13 percent of motorists carpooled to work in 2000. That compared with 20 percent of daily American commuters in 1980.

"This trend makes it unlikely that initiatives focused on carpooling will make large strides in reducing vehicle use," the White House said.

What initiatives focused on carpooling? Other than High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, what government programs exist that encourage carpooling?

That said, I think that there's some good structural explanations to explain the decline in carpooling. My money is on two driving factors: 1) the spatial dispersion of the workforce (both in terms of the locations of their homes and their places of employment) over a wider geographical area and 2) the temporal dispersion of the workday (as we became a 24-hour society). In other words, back in 1980, it was easier to find someone living near you who worked close to you as well, and worked similar hours taboot. Neither of these are, of course, benign "natural" changes, but rather the results of policies and economic conditions which promoted urban sprawl and the introduction of more "flexible" employment policies.

Building more highways won't reduce congestion either, unless drivers are charged a fee, according to the administration.

"If a roadway is priced -- that is, if drivers have to pay a fee to access a particular road -- then congestion can be avoided by adjusting the price up or down at different times of day to reflect changes in demand for its use," the White House said. "Road space is allocated to drivers who most highly value a reliable and unimpaired commute."

In other words, SUV drivin' jerks living in their cookie-cutter, ex-urban McMansions.
The administration argued that congestion pricing is already used by many providers of goods and services: movie theaters charge more for tickets in the evening than they do at midday, just as ski resorts raise lift prices on weekends. Similarly, airlines boost prices on tickets during peak travel seasons and taxi cabs raise fares during the rush hour.

Congestion pricing... is that what they're calling price gouging these days?

And in an article on the Bush administration's response to traffic congestion, anyone want to guess how many times affordable and efficient public transportation is mentioned?

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