Hope for Traffic?
This comes from my online chat earlier today. I'll add a couple of my thoughts to it and then open it up for y'all.
"Northern Virginia: Is there any hope for a solution to the traffic problems in our region?
"When I bought my home 8 years ago, my commute was an acceptable 10 miles. Now, two jobs later, my commute is a miserable 25 miles each way. With the cost of housing, I can't afford to move closer to my job and I haven't had luck finding jobs closer to my home.
"It seems to me that as long as companies in the DC metro area continue to recruit and hire new employees, developers will continue building more homes which leads to more traffic. For some strange reason, it seems that a developer can build 10,000 new homes in a few years but it can take the local, state, and federal government decades to improve the roads to support that growth.
Even if there was a complete stop to all new housing development, the area roadways are still at their capacitiy limits. All attempts to slow housing development seem to backfire and cause people to move even further away from the jobs creating need for people to drive even further.
Please tell me that the local, state, and federal governments are aware of the problems and have real solutions for the near future."
I think you have hit on the key to our area's traffic problems: jobs. There is an expression in the transportation world that if you build it--it being a highway--people will come. There is some truth to that, but it misses the point. People go where the jobs are, not where the highways are. I can show you plenty of nice, big highways with no traffic on them in cities with tanking economies. If you want a traffic-free city, go to one where the economy stinks. Conversely, there is no city in the world with a good economy and no traffic. They go hand in hand.
As long as this area continues to generate thousands of new jobs every year, people will come. And stopping development in one area only shifts it to another. People will suffer through inordinate commutes if it means a good job and a good life for their families.
One thing that would help manage the problems are more coordination between governments. Everyone knows that, but the incentives are not there for them to do it and it's harder in this area than most because of all of the levels of government involved. Each county is motivated by its own interests, which usually means expanding its commercial tax base, which usually means more jobs, more traffic and more clamor for more housing. Then you've got three different state-level governments with wildly different views on things. Throw in the interests of the federal government and it's hard for any possible coordination to get done.
That's just one of many problems with traffic management around here. I'm interested in hearing what everyone else thinks.
And for the rest of my chat, click here.
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