TRAFFIC CONGESTION AND A PROPOSED WAY OUTMost Americans have some firsthand experience with our Nation‟straffic congestion problems. Sothe preface here needn‟t be verylong.But here‟s a few facts from a 5year old report that help put thecongestion problem into a broaderperspective. These points areprecursors to the primary purposeof this blog note: to proposehere a technology solution andseek some critique, for an idea Ihaven‟t found discussed in thesources I‟ve consulted.
A FEW FACTS REGARDING THE PROBLEMThe cost of traffic congestion is large and growing. In 2005, congestioncost $78.2 billion in America’s 437 urban areas, up 7 percent from 2004.Population growth and the ensuing urban sprawl is worsening - -resulting in continuing increases in commuting times, cost, andwasted fuel. (1)The average urban driver now spends more than 100 hours commutingto work, compared to just 16 in 1982--an increase of 525 percent. (2)The Texas Transportation Institutes annual study of traffic congestionfound that in 2005, Americans spent 4.2 billion hours delayed in trafficand wasted 2.9 billion gallons of fuel. That’s enough wasted capital tofund all cancer research in America for the next 13 years. (3)Aside from time wasted and fuel consumed, traffic can have largereconomic consequences. Traffic congestion in Atlanta has become sobad that the Chamber of Commerce called it the greatest threat to thecitys economic prosperity. (4)
SOME FURTHER FACTS FROM STATE-CITY-LEVEL STUDIES CALIFORNIA : With five of the nations 20 most congested metro areas, Californians wasted 871 million hours and 673.5 million gallons of fuel sitting in traffic in 2005. In the San Fernando Valley area, the average morning rush-hour speed of 31 mph is expected to fall to 16 mph by 2025 as new drivers crowd the already saturated roads. (5) FLORIDA : Total vehicle miles traveled doubled in the last 20 years and are expected to rise a further 50 percent by 2020. (6) TEXAS : Traffic is growing so quickly that even if public transit use were to double, the gain would be canceled out by population growth in as little as three months (per the Texas Public Policy Foundation). (7) CHICAGO : Rush hour now lasts almost eight hours a day. If time is money, each year Chicago commuters waste $3,014 per person while killing time in Chicago’s traffic jams. Wasted gas adds an addition $402 to the bill. Meanwhile, the freight industry loses an estimated $1 billion per year due to traffic congestion. (8)
REFERENCES For Charts #1-3 REFERENCES1 http://www.fairus.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=16917&security=1601 &news_iv_ctrl=10092. Stephen Buckner and Joanna Gonzalez, Americans Spend More Than 100 Hours Commuting to Work Each Year, Census Bureau Reports, U.S. Census Bureau News, March 30, 2005.3. How Big is $80 Billion? (bigger than you think!), Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, June 2005.4 Larry Copeland, “Traffic Nightmare Beginning to Cost Cities,” USA Today, October 18, 2002.5. Jim Wasserman, "2020 Traffic Report: Growth Means More Time Behind the Wheel for Everyone," Associated Press, September 19, 2002.6. Jennifer Audette, "Losing Patience," The Ledger (Lakeland, Florida), January 7, 2001.7. Thomas A. Rubin and Wendell Cox, "The Road Ahead: Innovations for Better Transportation in Texas," Texas Public Policy Foundation, February 27, 2001.8. Jon Hilkevitch, “Traffic congestion’s toll is $7.3 billion a year in Chicago area,” Chicago Tribute, August 05, 2008.
WE KNOW THE PROBLEMS - - SO WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS ?Unfortunately, political considerations often dominate thedevelopment and presentations of information to the public.These considerations are often driven by the desire ofenvironmental groups to “force citizens out of their cars”and into mass transit with little regard to the cost-effectiveness to Citizens as taxpayers or as users ofAmerica‟s multi-modal transportation systems.Yet, “systems” is the governing word, because the bestoverall solutions must be subject to the broad , structuredapproach of “systems engineering” which includes areasonably rigorous cost-benefits analysis of the variousoptions available. Unfortunately, in many instances, sound“systems engineering” is not part of the process.
CONGESTION POLITICSFor several decades, there has “What we are after is mobility, andbeen much political infighting whether it is achieved by private orregarding whether congestionrelief is best achieved by: public means is less important thanimproved road capacity vs having it achieved speedily,added bus routes vs a efficiently, and at least negativelight-rail track system. impact on the environment” …78 …..Jonathan Richmond, “A whole-systemWith some clever design, the approach to evaluating urban transit investments,” Transport Reviews, Vol.21, No.idea presented in this note 2, 2001might offer the opportunity for anon-political, better integration (as quoted in: “Past Performance vs Future Hopes …”, Ted Balaker, Reasonof these transportation modes, Institute, Policy Study #321)so each component can beoptimally utilized for thebenefit of the total system.
MULTI-MODAL TRANSPORT IS HERE TO STAYUrban rail is often touted as the solution to congestion for many U.S.urban-suburban centers. However, although many dozens of citieshave turned to expensive urban rail, they have yet to realize anysignificant congestion relief. Moreover, American‟s love theirsuburban homes and their cars - - and for good reasons, including :quality of life; commuting journey times; shopping convenience;better compatibility with weather for daily tasks; and many others.
FIRST, A CAVEAT RE THIS PROPOSED IDEAThis blog is not intended to substitute for a thoroughanalysis of any specific proposed transit project.Rather, as an engineer but a layman in the Transportationfield, I am just trying to offer an idea that I think might havesome merit. But the concept certainly needs a great dealof critical study to see if the merits withstand the many dis-merits that an objective analysis might bring forth.In the interim, I‟m seeking input from any reader of this blog,who might add some insight into the pros and cons of thisidea. So with that caveat, the following charts hopefullyexplain the concept and some of the issues that I knowremain unanswered here.
A TOO FAMILIAR EXPERIENCE FOR MOST CITIZENSALTHOUGH I‟M NOT A TRAFFICEXPERT BY PROFESSION, I AM ONE,SADLY, BY VIRTUE OF MY REGULARWA DRIVING ROUTES. TO THERIGHT IS A SEGMENT OFINTERSTATE-405, RUNNING N-S,EAST OF SEATTLE.BELOW IS A SEGMENT OF STATEHIGHWAY 167 ALSO RUNNING N-SFROM RENTON TO PUYALLUP. BOTH OF THESE HIGHWAYS OFFER MORE CONGESTION EXPERIENCE , RELIABLY FROM MON-to-FRI, THAN NEARLY ALL CITIZENS CARE TO PARTAKE OF.
INTRODUCING THE „T R A M M I ‟ CONCEPT - - IN AN NUTSHELL• THE BASIC „TRAMMI‟ IDEA IS TO EXPLOIT EXISTINGROADWAY AND RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE BY BUILDINGADDITIONAL UPPER LEVELS. THIS SHOULD EASE THERIGHT-OF-WAY CONFRONTATIONS AND TAKING OF PRIVATEPROPERTY, UNDER EMINENT DOMAIN, WHICH HAS PROVED ACOSTLY STUMBLING BLOCK FOR MANY ROADWAY PROJECTS.• THE MULTI-MODAL „TRAMMI‟, WITH INNOVATIVE DESIGNPRACTICE, SHOULD OPTIMIZE MANY COMMUTING TRIPSWHICH ORDINARILY ARE COMPRISED OF TWO MODES.• WITH GOOD COOPERATION BETWEEN OPERATORS OFDIFFERENT MODES OF TRANSPORT, THERE SHOULD BEOPPORTUNITY FOR EACH MODE TO RECEIVE PRIORITY ONTHOSE TRIP SEGMENTS WHERE IT IS MOST EFFICIENTAND/OR MOST POPULAR FROM A TRAVELER VIEWPOINT.
SOME ISSUES NOT ADDRESSED AT THIS TIME• WILL THE THREE-RISE ADVANCED MULTI-MODALINFRASTRUCTURE (TRAMMI) INTEGRATE WELL INTOTHE VARIOUS CURRENT SEGMENTS OF URBAN-SUBURBAN TRANSPORTATION ?• WHO WILL PAY FOR CONSTRUCTION, MAINTENANCEAND OPERATING COSTS ?• CAN THE TRAMMI BE COST-EFFECTIVE?• HOW WILL ANSWERS TO THE ABOVE QUESTIONS BEESTABLISHED ?WE‟LL PROCEED WITH SOME THOUGHTS ON THESE ISSUES AFTER A LITTLE DISCUSSION OF THE CONCEPT .
THE STRUCTURAL TECHNOLOGY SHOULDN‟T POSE TOOMUCH DIFFICULTY - - THE ISSUE IS COST-COMPETITIVENESS AND INNOVATION USED IN THE INTEGRATED DESIGN.
SOME DIFFICULTIES MIGHT BE ANTICIPATED AT LOAD,UNLOAD AND PERHAPS OTHER JUNCTIONS, WHERE ONLY ASINGLE MODE OF TRANSPORT IS DESIRABLE OR FEASIBLE .BUT NOW LET‟S JUST VIEW THIS AS AN ENG‟G CHALLENGE.
RETURNING TO ISSUES NOT PREVIOUSLY ADDRESSED• WILL THE THREE-RISE ADVANCED MULTI-MODALINFRASTRUCTURE (TRAMMI) INTEGRATE WELL INTOTHE VARIOUS CURRENT SEGMENTS OF AUTO-BUS-TRAIN• THIS WILL TAKE SOME WELL-ROUNDED ENGINEERINGSTUDIES - - BEST FOLLOWING THE a) PRELIMINARY DESIGN;b) DETAIL DESIGN STAGES USED FAIRLY ROUTINELY INLARGE ENGINEERING PROJECTS.• THE PRELIM. DESIGN TEAM WOULD NECESSARILY HAVEREPRESENTATION BY TRANSPORTATION ENGINEERS FROMALL OF THE MODES INVOLVED.• THE PRELIMINARY DESIGN WOULD ADDRESS, IN LIMITEDSCOPE, THE TOP LEVEL DESIGN, COST AND PUBLICACCEPTANCE ISSUES. IF THE INITIAL STUDY RESULTS AREPOSITIVE , THESE CAN THEN BE ASSESSED IN GREATERDESIGN DETAIL WITH THE HELP OF ADDITIONAL EXPERTS.
SOME ISSUES NOT PREVIOUSLY ADDRESSED• WHO WILL PAY FOR DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION,MAINTENANCE AND OPERATING COSTS ?• THE FEDERAL DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION SHOULD COVERTHE INITIAL (RELATIVELY MODEST PRELIMI. DESIGN COSTS.• THE FEDERAL GOV‟T CAN CONTRIBUTE THE “AIRSPACEABOVE ITS MAJOR INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM AND BEREWARDED WITH ADDITIONAL LANES OF CAPACITY.• DITTO FOR STATE GOVERNMENTS.• THE RAILROADS CAN CONTRIBUTE THE “AIRSPACE” ABOVEITS EXISTING RAIL LINES AND BE REWARDED WITH AID INREDUCING ITS COSTS OF DISTRIBUTING PASSENGERS ANDCARGO.• WITH CAREFUL CONSIDERATION AND DESIGN, THERE MAYBE OPPORTUNITIES FOR EACH MODAL OPERATOR TO REDUCETHEIR CURRENT COST STRUCTURE OR EXPAND RIDERSHIP ,DUE TO THE EASIER TRANSFERABILITY BETWEEN MODES.
SOME ISSUES NOT PREVIOUSLY ADDRESSED• CAN THE TRAMMI BE COST-EFFECTIVE?OF COURSE, THIS IS TOTALLY UNKNOWN AT THIS STAGE, ANDDEPENDS ON THE INNOVATIVENESS AND SKILL OF THEDESIGN TEAM IN EXPLOITING THE MULTI-MODALTECHNOLOGY.BUT GIVEN CURRENT LARGE INCREMENTAL COSTS OFADDRESSING INFRASTRUCTURE IN HIGHLY BUILT UP AREAS,THERE SHOULD BE SOME COST MARGIN AVAILABLE FORINNOVATION. MOREOVER, THE LIKELY CAPACITY INCREASE,SAVINGS IN FUTURE REBUILDS, AND REDUCED WASTAGEOF TAXPAYER FUNDS MUST BE CONSIDERED AS WELL.
SOME ISSUES NOT PREVIOUSLY ADDRESSED• HOW WILL ANSWERS TO THE ABOVE QUESTIONS BEESTABLISHED ?• MANY OF THE ANSWERS WOULD BE PROVIDED IN THEPRELIMINARY DESIGN STAGE.• THIS WOULD ALSO INCLUDE, AS THE DESIGN PROGRESSES,SOME INITIAL MARKETING SURVEYS TO HELP ESTABLISHUSER THOUGHTS, PREFERENCES AND IDEAS
READER THOUGHTSIF YOU HAVE SOME THOUGHTS TOCONTRIBUTE (POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE) ,OR KNOW OF SOME PERTINENTREFERENCES, PLEASE JOT THEM DOWNAND SUBMIT THEM TO:email@example.com.THEY WILL ALL BE GREATLY WELCOME.
THE ENDACTUALLY, IT‟S NOT THE END - - YOURVOICE IS IMPORTANT TO OUR NATION.CITIZEN INTEREST, DIALOG AND DATAARE CRITICAL TO GOOD CIVICOUTCOMES. AND THAT INCLUDESOUTCOMES WHICH SIMPLY ASSUREPROPER CONDITIONS FOR THE FREEMARKET TO WORK.