Rock to Road

News
Congestion relief?

Can enough roads ever be built in these areas to eliminate congestion?


August 14, 2008
By Andy Bateman

So can enough
roads ever be built in these areas to eliminate congestion?

In some growing urban areas, “traffic jams I have been caught in”
ranks with the price of fuel as a conversation topic and traffic congestion is described as “normal slowdown” in traffic reports.

So can enough
roads ever be built in these areas to eliminate congestion?

Presumably
the day could arrive, at least in theory, when road capacity matches peak traffic demand and
no additional road construction is required.

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Without further growth in demand, the roadbuilding
industry in these areas would then be reduced to road repair and reconstruction.
The principal contributor to traffic congestion is the single occupant private vehicle and most
of us need look no further than the mirror to establish the identity of such road users. As the total
number of vehicle trips continues to increase, one would expect commuters, especially in congested cities, to find ways of reducing their trip count and indeed some are. Where switching to
public transit is not an option, light green measures such as carpooling, employer incentives and
high occupancy travel lanes are enjoying some success and may also help to lower driver blood
pressure at the gas pumps. Full or partial telecommuting, also known by its more prosaic name
of working at home, can offer a number of advantages while a few take the more radical step and
move close to their place of work. On the other side of the equation however, powerful forces are
getting us into our cars each day for the long solo drive.

For many, commuting is the accepted price of meeting career and lifestyle goals. In any case,
only a fortunate few control when and where they work. Practical necessities such as money aside,
going to work can also be rewarding in terms of personal identity, achievement and social interaction. Driving alone to work also provides some personal space in a crowded day, although few
stretch the point as far as the owners of Toronto’s 407 ETR who actually use the words “enjoy”
and “commute” in the same sentence.

Despite all the grumbling about congestion, the ongoing demand for new and bigger roads
seems assured – we just want our single occupant private vehicles too much.