Apparently, high gas prices and a slowing economy really did ease congestion last year: a national traffic scorecard released by transportation analysis firm INRIX found that traffic backups eased in each of the top 100 metro areas in the US.
And it wasn’t a minor dip, either. Peak-hour congestion fell by 29 percent nationwide. Fifiteen cities experienced net congestion declines of 50 percent or more. Northwest cities fared about average: congestion declined by 28 percent in Seattle, and 34 percent in Portland. (The INRIX methodology is here, if you’re interested. There are obviously a lot of ways of measuring congestion, but they do a good job explaining what their numbers mean.)
It should come as little surprise, perhaps, that congestion declined in the US. Driving was down, and transit ridership was hitting new highs. Still, it’s good to have the intuitions confirmed with solid data.
Eric de Place
Wow. What this suggests, I think, is pretty radical: that intentionally increasing the price of fuel—perhaps through a carbon tax or cap & trade—would be an effective strategy to reduce traffic congestion. Perhaps the Northwest’s expensive strategies to reduce congestion, such as road-building, should be weighed against the alternative approach of pricing carbon. (And, needless to say, pricing carbon has a bunch of other advantages too.)
Or, as several people I know have been wondering—wow, maybe local layoffs in Seattle are greater than I know.
Don’t be fooled. It’s the economy. Be careful about recommending additional burdens on the ordinary citizen. Withe the economy down we are not up to paying more in taxes and fees.
Matt the Engineer
[Waldo], it’s not like money from a carbon tax or gas tax will be sent out-of-country. It would stay right here and be spent right here. How about we get rid of that phrase in our state constitution the removes the ability to spend gas taxes on transit? At a time when the buses are crowded, Metro is cutting service due to lack of funds. This not only lays off bus drivers (jobs), but makes it more difficult for people to get to work. As an added bonus, each person that rides a bus represents one less car on the road in front of you.