Saturday, May 19, 2007

Commute Time

For American commuters, the future is looking slow and long. An excerpt from US News & World Report:

People have been complaining about congestion since the time of Julius Caesar, who banned some traffic from downtown Rome. But in America, the 50-year-old Interstate Highway System is showing its age, more people are on the roads, and traffic has grown dramatically worse. Americans spent 3.7 billion hours in traffic in 2003, the last year for which such figures are available-more than a fivefold increase from just 21 years earlier. The amount of free-flowing travel is less than half what it was in the '80s, and the average commuter now loses 47 hours to congested traffic every year.

Disconnect. The issue mainly boils down to population growth outpacing road building. America has about 70 million more people than it did a quarter century ago, but highway miles have increased by a little more than 5 percent in that time. The Department of Transportation estimates that the demand for ground transportation-either by road or rail-will be 2½ times as great by 2050, while highway capacity is projected to increase by only 10 percent during that time.