Each Driver Has Personal Misery Index
[Tim Lomax, co-author of the Texas Transportation Institute mobility study that puts the Washington area traffic at second worst in the nation, will be online for a discussion at 2 p.m. ET. Here's the link to the discussion.]
Travelers don't look at our transportation system the way traffic experts do. To the experts, the Washington transportation system is a big unfolded map stretching from the Blue Ridge to the Eastern Shore and from Fredericksburg to Baltimore.
Travelers take a GPS view. The transportation system is a line from Point A to Point B. It's the route they travel every day.
The mobility study published today by the Texas Transportation Institute is one of those big unfolded maps. It shows that traffic congestion is bad and suggests it's likely to get worse once the recession is done. On the most commonly used misery scale, using 2007 information, we rank No. 2, behind Los Angeles and ahead of Atlanta.
What does that mean to travelers, aside from telling us we have bragging rights over Atlanta? Travelers I hear from aren't measuring their misery in these grand-scale concepts of travel time index, total delay or excess fuel consumed.
When they write to me, they are rarely asking for a big solution to the big problem. They complain about a traffic light or set of lights they think are timed wrong. Or they ask when a portion of highway they use will be widened. Or they express frustration about why lanes along their route aren't kept clear at rush hour.
There's a misery index for every driver. That's the key problem local and national leaders face as they try to build a consensus for transportation improvements. The drivers slowing down now on Suitland Parkway as they approach 295 want a solution. The drives slowing down now on I-66 as they approach the Beltway want a solution. So do the drivers on the outer loop approaching Georgia Avenue.
They don't necessarily want the same solution. Many of the Suitland Parkway drivers want a seamless highway link to their jobs in Northern Virginia. Drivers on I-66, most of whom are driving solo, want a straight shot into the District. Drivers on the outer loop want the northern arc of the Beltway to be wider, or maybe double-decked.
I've been out there with them on all those routes and take every one of their complaints and suggestions seriously. In fact, I'd like to see the travel problems solved in their lifetimes. But that's not going to happen unless the local and federal leaders can get travelers mobilized to support a mobility plan that's bigger than their own routes.
How do you measure misery as you travel, and is there a solution that would help you while also helping others on different routes?
July 8, 2009; 8:32 AM ET
Categories: Congestion , Driving , Transportation Politics | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Texas Transportation Institute, mobility study
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