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Old 10-11-2019, 10:18 PM
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Are traffic problems growing or lessening?


For those of you in the US who must drive alot, do you see traffic congestion growing or not?

I'm not sure because I didnt drive back in say the 70's and 80's. I think now because even though there are more cars they have better systems now to monitor and respond to wrecks and breakdowns than they used to have (like cameras), they have better ways of communication to drivers, roads are built to handle more traffic, and they have better alternative means of transportation such as buses.

What do you all think?
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Old 10-11-2019, 10:28 PM
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I was just reading yesterday about how the various traffic apps may be contributing to more traffic problems.

My anecdotal opinion based on driving all over the country in my job is that traffic is generally getting worse. Part of this may be due to rideshare services. If true, it's ironic because when Uber and Lyft became a going concern there was talk about how they might divert people away from their own personal vehicles and have fewer cars on the road. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to have happened.

Driving around New York as I frequently do, it certainly seems worse. Of course, that has a lot to do with that a**hole Robert Moses, who designed many of the roads there as touring parkways to be driven at 35 mph. And how do you fix that apart from nuking the place and starting over?
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Old 10-12-2019, 12:14 AM
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Here is a paper about this which goes into mathematical detail. (It explicitly links the phenomenon to Braess' Paradox, which has been a subject of controversy here at SDMB.)
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Old 10-12-2019, 12:16 AM
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Old 10-12-2019, 06:00 AM
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One thing I have seen happen in several cases is that improvements in infrastructure are invariably followed by people moving to take advantage of them. The procedure goes like this:

1. There's a traffic bottleneck on a main route that makes the commute from an origin suburb to a nearby destination unreasonably long.
2. A major construction project is undergone to improve the commute. Millions of dollars are spent and countless hours of construction delays ensue, but people put up with it for the sake of the easier commute.
3. After completion the commute does indeed improve, halving the commute time.
4. Thousands of people move to the origin suburb to take advantage of the easier commute.
5. This influx only stops when the commute time reaches the initial unreasonable time.
6. Profit?
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Old 10-12-2019, 07:34 AM
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In my area, it definitely feels like it's been getting worse over the last couple of decades. I feel like there's way more cars on the road and "rush hour" has become nearly non-stop during the week. I'm not sure I've noticed that a much a difference since various GPS driving apps and ridesharing came about, but I have heard the latter, especially, being blamed on some increase in traffic (that is, you have more cars just out there driving around waiting for a rideshare request to come through.)

Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but it makes sense. Another thing I've noticed around here is that many, many more people drive to school. When I grew up in the 80s, most people around here just went to their local public or parochial school. I don't ever recall streets being backed up to holy heck by dropping off and picking up kids. Now, it's a nightmare if you're on any major artery near a school around 7:30-8 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. You can tell in the morning when CPS (Chicago Public Schools) have a day off because traffic is noticeably smoother.

So, in my mind, in my area, and the routes I'm most familiar with, there is no doubt that traffic has gotten much heavier over the past two decades.
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Old 10-12-2019, 07:50 AM
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I think it's mainly gotten worse due to the fact that people are so inattentive and impatient. Everyone is too busy staring down at their cell phones and not paying attention to the road. The impatience is another thing, I get mad at people that back everybody else up with their slow reaction time and driving but that doesn't mean I'm going to veer out blindly in front of other people, cutting them off or drive along the shoulder when the interstate is backed up.
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Last edited by pool; 10-12-2019 at 07:51 AM.
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Old 10-12-2019, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
In my area, it definitely feels like it's been getting worse over the last couple of decades. I feel like there's way more cars on the road and "rush hour" has become nearly non-stop during the week. I'm not sure I've noticed that a much a difference since various GPS driving apps and ridesharing came about, but I have heard the latter, especially, being blamed on some increase in traffic (that is, you have more cars just out there driving around waiting for a rideshare request to come through.)
The apps have had an effect, too- maybe not increasing traffic, but moving it. I remember one town in NJ that closed a bunch of local streets to non-residents, because Waze and other apps were directing drivers to those streets to avoid the bridge traffic - which of course, increased the traffic on the local streets.
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Old 10-12-2019, 08:28 AM
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I'd guess that the main factor is just that the population is rising faster than the capacity of the transportation network. The metro area I live in, which is far from the most bustling, has added 200,000 people just since 2010 (many of them in suburban/exurban housing tracts where the added population has the highest possible impact on the road network), while the road network is almost exactly the same (and the transit system brags about climbing back up to the capacity it had in the 1980s). And miles driven per person have gone up due to the economy being good. Of course there are more traffic problems.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 10-12-2019 at 08:33 AM.
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Old 10-12-2019, 09:21 AM
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I've been doing the same commute for 15 years, and it has definitely gotten worse. One big factor is parents driving their kids to school instead of having them take the bus.

Another thing locally is the town and state each control different traffic lights, and for some reason they can't get them synchronize.
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Old 10-12-2019, 09:28 AM
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I think the US is a huge place so there is no one correct answer. In my city it has gotten much better. We are growing so it isn't that there is less volume, but we have eliminated tons of stop lights and four way stops and replaced them with roundabouts.

They take a while to get used to but when people are comfortable with them the commute times are cut significantly. It used to take me 20 minutes to get to the main interstate... now under 10. Well, not right now because they are converting the final stop light right now but when that is done it will be closer to 5.
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Old 10-12-2019, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Bill Door View Post
One thing I have seen happen in several cases is that improvements in infrastructure are invariably followed by people moving to take advantage of them. The procedure goes like this:

1. There's a traffic bottleneck on a main route that makes the commute from an origin suburb to a nearby destination unreasonably long.
2. A major construction project is undergone to improve the commute. Millions of dollars are spent and countless hours of construction delays ensue, but people put up with it for the sake of the easier commute.
3. After completion the commute does indeed improve, halving the commute time.
4. Thousands of people move to the origin suburb to take advantage of the easier commute.
5. This influx only stops when the commute time reaches the initial unreasonable time.
6. Profit?
Yeah, that's the "if you build it, they will come" effect.

We went through something related in my own neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights, in NYC. On a somewhat smaller scale, but nonetheless related.

Some years ago, a new park was constructed and opened to the public in my neighborhood. Brooklyn Bridge Park. It's lovely, and it's basically my back yard, so I'm pretty happy about it.

But people from all over Brooklyn flock to it on weekends. As well they should. But many of them drive, and want to park their cars in the neighborhood, where there is a limited amount of on-street parking.

Eventually the park authorities built a small parking lot. As people became aware of it, it would be filled to capacity early in the morning.

Neighborhood residents, who now couldn't find street parking for their cars, agitated for another parking lot. But it was pointed out by the park authorities that building more parking spaces just encourages people to drive to the park, and there is no way to ever build enough parking. The more you build, the more people will drive to the park.

Which I completely get. Even though moving my car on alternate-side days, or finding a parking spot when returning from some excursion, is now a nightmare. Especially when I have to park like eight blocks from home and get back home with two tired, possibly cranky small children, and all their stuff.

That's life in the big city, I guess.
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Old 10-12-2019, 10:51 AM
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Look at the Urban Mobility Report:
https://mobility.tamu.edu/umr/

Quote:
TTI’s gridlock data extends back to 1982, when Ronald Reagan was in his first term, a postage stamp cost 20 cents, and gas was about $1.25 a gallon. Since that time, the number of jobs in the nation has grown almost nonstop by just over 50 percent to the current total of 153 million. Furthermore,

the number of hours per commuter lost to traffic delay has nearly tripled, climbing to 54 hours a year;
the annual cost of that delay per commuter has nearly doubled, to $1,010;
the nationwide cost of gridlock has grown more than tenfold, to $166 billion a year; and
the amount of fuel wasted in stalled traffic has more than tripled, to 3.3 billion gallons a year.
https://mobility.tamu.edu/umr/media-...press-release/
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Old 10-12-2019, 11:14 AM
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I have to drive from the east side of WA, through Seattle and north to Canada (nearly) a couple times a year and have done this for over 10 years. It has gotten significantly harder to make that drive during that timespan. And, the I90->405->I5 stretch can be horrible at nearly all hours of the day and days of the week. It's almost getting to the point it is easier to take much longer distance alternatives like highway 2.
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Old 10-12-2019, 11:28 AM
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It varies, some local traffic has improved with road improvements. In front of the local Community College, the traffic light use to cause problems. It was replaced by a small traffic circle and this helps traffic quite a bit. They expanded the Garden State Parkway to 3 lanes from Toms River to Atlantic City and this has helped a lot.

Meanwhile North Jersey is so congested that the highways just don't move correctly for the better part of the day. Especially where Rt78 and the Garden State Parkway meet. But in general it is getting very bad above the Raritan River.
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Old 10-12-2019, 03:49 PM
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Yes, to a significant extent, traffic is self limiting. Areas where the traffic gridlock is severe stop developing further economically. (they don't necessarily shrink, just remain at about the same economic and population level)

If you widen the roads where the gridlock is severe, you may see a big surge in growth followed by the widened roads clogging back up again, just with even more cars.

https://www.citylab.com/transportati...demand/569455/
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Old 10-13-2019, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by wguy123 View Post
I have to drive from the east side of WA, through Seattle and north to Canada (nearly) a couple times a year and have done this for over 10 years. It has gotten significantly harder to make that drive during that timespan. And, the I90->405->I5 stretch can be horrible at nearly all hours of the day and days of the week. It's almost getting to the point it is easier to take much longer distance alternatives like highway 2.
Oh, yes. Seattle has become a nightmare for large parts of the day. Been in stop-and-go traffic from Bellevue to Olympia. Friday afternoon. But it wasn't afternoon when we started.

Portland's traffic has gotten significantly worse and is nearing that point. Companies work with employees to let them schedule their shifts to avoid peak mayhem. But at least Portland drivers are politer and don't do so much crazy stuff as in other places.
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Old 10-13-2019, 04:29 PM
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Around Chicago, it sure seems worse. Two stretches I drive pretty often - the Eisenhower and the Kennedy inbound off 294 - tend to be jammed just about any hour of the day or night. Sure seems like ti used to follow a more predictable pattern.
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Last edited by Dinsdale; 10-13-2019 at 04:29 PM.
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Old 10-13-2019, 05:01 PM
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Around Chicago, it sure seems worse. Two stretches I drive pretty often - the Eisenhower and the Kennedy inbound off 294 - tend to be jammed just about any hour of the day or night. Sure seems like ti used to follow a more predictable pattern.
This is one of the things I was going to note about Chicago-area traffic, as well.

When I moved here, 30 years ago, rush hour was not only predictable, but fairly discrete: weekdays from about 7am-9am, and 4pm-6pm, and the traditional commute direction (towards downtown in the morning, away from downtown in the evening) was usually far more congested than the "reverse commute" on the same road.

Currently, it's common for heavy traffic to start earlier, and last longer -- in the evening, it's not uncommon to see congestion last until 7pm or later. And, the reverse commute is often not much better than the traditional commute, due, no doubt, to the fact that there are a lot of suburban areas that have become business hubs (e.g., Schaumberg, Oak Brook, Naperville, etc.)

Another factor that comes into play here is the continued sprawl of the suburbs, well out into the far counties like Kane, Will, etc. What's often happened out there is that the road system which was more than sufficient when it was rural or semi-rural is now seriously overburdened by the influx of homeowners in those areas. Traffic in some of those suburbs is now often even worse than in Chicago. And, those areas continue to work through chicken-and-egg arguments about adding roads and lanes -- will more/wider roads decrease congestion, or will they prove to be so attractive that they will encourage even more people to build in the area?
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Old 10-13-2019, 05:19 PM
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I would say worse and lay the blame at distracted-driving-fender-benders. Especially on the more major roads around here waits/commutes are a lot longer than I remember from 40 years back by 30 minutes or more. And they were darn long enough back then.
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Old 10-13-2019, 07:18 PM
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This is one thing that makes me grateful that I live in Maine. "Traffic" is having five or six cars in front of you at the red light, and it's pretty uncommon to have to wait at the same light for more than one cycle.
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Old 10-13-2019, 10:17 PM
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In my suburb of Kansas city the city planners have it in there heads we need Chicago style traffic congestion and are constantly allowing more apartments and condos to be built in an area that was at once single family homes.

What I find odd is how the traffic always seems worse on mondays?
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Old 10-13-2019, 10:29 PM
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In my suburb of Kansas city the city planners have it in there heads we need Chicago style traffic congestion and are constantly allowing more apartments and condos to be built in an area that was at once single family homes.
Is the alternative sky-high housing prices because of demand out-stripping supply or is there something else going on?
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Old 10-14-2019, 08:02 AM
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A few years a go, my job transferred me to Valparaiso, IN. A town of about 25k. I immediately appreciated the lack of traffic. There were just NO analogues for the heavily travelled 4-lane suburban streets. And "rush-hour" lasted a predictable 20 minutes of so in the morning and evening, and basically meant brief delays at 5 or so intersections.

City folk can easily not appreciate that aspect of more rural life. Of course, I WAS living in Valparaiso...
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Old 10-14-2019, 10:11 AM
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The hellish sprawling VA suburbs in the DC area have maybe one hour a year (pre-dawn on Thanksgiving) when the traffic is not bumper to bumper. It gets worse every year as people and businesses continue to flock here, while the drooling chimps of VDOT continue to fling their poop band-aids at the infrastructure problems.
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Old 10-14-2019, 10:34 AM
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My one concern with I70 getting dropped into a tunnel under Denver is they are going to build it for the traffic today not in 10 years when the project is supposed to be done and then they are going to have to figure out how to widen the tunnel.

Denver has been growing 10% per year for the last 6-7 years and will come close to doubling in a decade. The current plan is to force people on to public transportation by eliminating parking spaces downtown and not widening the roads. It has done the job of making the trip downtown unbearable where it used to be simply bad. My old commute was 40 minutes when i worked downtown and I would take surface streets rather than the highway because on average they were 5 minutes slower but way lower stress. Now that drive on the highway is close to an hour at normal commute times.
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Old 10-14-2019, 10:34 AM
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Another thing locally is the town and state each control different traffic lights, and for some reason they can't get them synchronize.
It may be because of Federal laws. I wanted to synchronize our (State) signals with a town's signals to get traffic platooning better through a series of signals. I was informed by our Electrical folks that due to Homeland Security (? - can't recall for certain if it was them) laws, we couldn't let an outside agency connect to our network. We can view our signal operation from anywhere in the state, and so it's considered a hackable access point. We were trying to negotiate us taking over control of their nearby signals to get around this when I left that job.

It may also be no one ever asked if they could.
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Old 10-14-2019, 11:36 AM
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In Maine and New Hampshire, travel on limited-access highways is mostly better and faster than it was ten years ago. They've added extra travel lanes to some highways, and increased the speed limit on some. Surface streets here are mostly a little slower and more congested than they used to be, but still not bad most of the time. The net effect is that for most trips around northern New England, I usually get where I'm going a little quicker than I used to.

Elsewhere in the Northeast, I've noticed fewer road improvements and speed-limit boosts on limited-access highways. And there's more traffic and congestion. The net effect is that I get where I'm going slower than I did ten years ago on trips to places like western New York and Maryland, usually about 10% slower, I'd estimate.

One thing I've noticed both near home and on road trips is that the rise of toll transponders like EZ-Pass has virtually eliminated backups at toll booths in most areas. That effect tends to be at least partly offset by higher traffic volume and more congestion in other areas.
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Old 10-14-2019, 12:48 PM
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My one concern with I70 getting dropped into a tunnel under Denver is they are going to build it for the traffic today not in 10 years when the project is supposed to be done and then they are going to have to figure out how to widen the tunnel.

Denver has been growing 10% per year for the last 6-7 years and will come close to doubling in a decade. The current plan is to force people on to public transportation by eliminating parking spaces downtown and not widening the roads. It has done the job of making the trip downtown unbearable where it used to be simply bad. My old commute was 40 minutes when i worked downtown and I would take surface streets rather than the highway because on average they were 5 minutes slower but way lower stress. Now that drive on the highway is close to an hour at normal commute times.
Yeah, Denver and I70 really anger me because I70 is the major highway for east-west traffic thru central Colorado and you pretty much have to take it.
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Old 10-14-2019, 01:39 PM
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One thing I've noticed both near home and on road trips is that the rise of toll transponders like EZ-Pass has virtually eliminated backups at toll booths in most areas. That effect tends to be at least partly offset by higher traffic volume and more congestion in other areas.
That's definitely become the case here in the Chicago area, as well.

For the first decade or so that I lived here, the toll plazas were all cash-only, and they would generate huge back-ups during rush hours, as well as on the weekends (Friday evenings for those leaving Chicago for Wisconsin to the north, or Indiana and Michigan to the east, and Sunday evenings for those coming back). In the '90s, my wife and I spent our summer weekends working at a Renaissance Faire just over the border in Wisconsin, and we spent a whole lot of time on Sunday evenings in traffic jams leading into the toll plazas as we were heading home.

For the past 15 years or more, if you have an IPass transponder, the toll plazas are a non-issue, traffic-wise.
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Old 10-15-2019, 11:19 AM
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Yeah, Denver and I70 really anger me ...
I've lived in Chicago most of my life. Have a kid in Denver. I70 impresses me as worse than anything we've got in Chicago.

Was recently in Austin TX. Can't imagine how those roads are going to handle to recent and anticipated growth!
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Old 10-15-2019, 12:44 PM
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There are some good tricks like roundabouts and through-lanes, but overall getting worse due to sheer volume.
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