Reason Foundation

Reason Foundation

The Road More Traveled

Why the Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think And What We Can Do About It

April 3, 2009

"Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion."
- Mary E. Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation

For most of us, traffic has gotten so bad that it impacts nearly all of our decisions, big and small. Traffic is a major consideration when we choose where to live, work, shop, and even who we'll date or what time of day we'll leave the house to run errands. Things have gotten so bad that the average American spends over 45 hours a year, over a full work week, stuck in traffic.

Yet, in a disturbing violation of the "can-do" American spirit, most politicians and planners have simply thrown in the towel and surrendered to gridlock. "We can't eliminate traffic and we can't build our way out of congestion," they lament.

So should we all just accept the daily grind of traffic as a modern-day fact of life? An emphatic "No!" is the answer presented in the new book, The Road More Traveled.

"We don't accept failing schools and we cannot accept congestion," authors Ted Balaker and Samuel Staley say. "If we're sitting in traffic we aren't playing with our kids or enjoying our hobbies. Businesses are raising prices to make up for wasted fuel and lost productivity. Our time, money, and quality of life are too valuable to just give up. We have the ideas, technology and capital to eliminate congestion. We just need the willpower."

Through the years our cars and highways have provided unprecedented door-to-door mobility that helped America become the most prosperous nation in the world. But The Road More Traveled warns that bottlenecked roads pose a serious threat to this prosperity. Congestion robs the U.S. economy of over $63 billion a year and traffic delays are expected to increase by more than 65 percent over the next 25 years. If we don't make up for years of neglect and prepare for future growth, our economy will be crippled by our inability to move goods or people.

» Buy Your Copy Now!
» Read the 10 Steps to Congestion Relief


Chris Mitchell, Media Relations, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109

Praise for The Road More Traveled

"The Road More Traveled provides a thoughtful analysis on the causes of congestion and offers detailed suggestions for relieving it in America's cities. Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion."
- Mary E. Peters, Recently Nominated to be U.S. Secretary of Transportation

"The Road More Traveled clearly outlines the transportation infrastructure problems facing our country and examines several innovative funding solutions. This book will change the way Americans view our highways and interstates and show them how we can build better roads at less expense for the next generation."
- U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, South Carolina

"I just completed The Road More Traveled and found it to be well-written, logical, practical and a results-based approach to congestion mitigation in America. I would strongly encourage that it be read by every public policy maker in America who is struggling for real solutions to the traffic congestion crisis facing our nation.It dispels long standing myths and replaces them with factual data and offers results based solutions."
- S. David Doss, Chair, State Transportation Board of Georgia

"This book adds three unusual assets to the congestion debate--- it's bright and readable, chocked full of facts and provides real world solutions. The Road More Traveled should be required reading not only for planners and their students, but anyone who loves cities and wants them to thrive as real places, not merely as museums, in the 21st Century."
- Joel Kotkin, Author of The City: A Global History

"Many people complain about highway traffic and many policy makers respond with plans for more transit and more HOV lanes. To help us all get past the quackery, Balaker and Staley argue persuasively for policies that might actually work. Buy their book, read it, and then send it on to your favorite political representative."
- Peter Gordon, School of Policy, Planning and Development, University of Southern California

"The book is easy to read, but offers an enlightening view of an everyday problem that plagues us. Staley and Balaker explain how congestion affects nearly every aspect of our economy and society, and they offer policy alternatives that are, sadly, not adequately debated by our legislature. I particularly commend the book to Supervisor Burke and those who share her belief in redirecting people to trains, but anyone who appreciates common sense will appreciate The Road More Traveled."
- Bill Leonard, Member, California State Board of Equalization

» Buy Your Copy Now!

10 Steps to Congestion Relief

In The Road More Traveled Balaker and Staley detail 10 steps that nearly every city and state can take to reduce traffic significantly:

1. Add Lanes to Congested Roads and Highways
Many say we can’t build our way out of congestion, but we haven’t even tried. Over the last 30 years, vehicle lane miles traveled have increased by over 143 percent, but we’ve added just 5 percent in new capacity. If we removed all of the pork and light rail projects from existing transportation plans and instead built roads and added lanes where they are most needed, we could eliminate severe congestion for less than we are currently planning to spend on transportation over the next few decades.

2. Public-Private Partnerships and Toll Lanes
Cash-strapped governments lack the political resolve to cut spending in nonessential programs that would free up money for much-needed infrastructure projects. Enter the private sector. Private companies have recently committed over $25 billion to construct or upgrade toll road projects in six states and stand ready to build roads the government can’t afford to.

3. Traffic Signal Optimization
Surprisingly, many cities have yet to do this, despite huge potential benefits. Traffic signal optimization can reduce stop-and-go traffic by 40 percent, cut gas consumption by 10 percent, emissions by 22 percent, and travel times by 25 percent. A study of 26 such projects in Texas found benefits outweighed costs 38 to 1.

4. Creative Construction
Today’s technology offers countless options that weren’t available when our Interstate system was born 50 years ago. For example, Paris is building a double-decker tunnel deep beneath historic Versailles to preserve the area and reduce congestion. And the world’s highest bridge, the Millau Viaduct, a 1 1/2-mile long, 800-foot high, $536 million project was built using private funding last year.

5. Freeway Ramp Metering
By controlling the flow of traffic entering highways, California has been able to increase freeway speeds by 22 to 89 percent in some cases.

6. One-Way Streets
One-way streets are able to carry 50 percent more traffic and reduce traffic accidents by 10 to 50 percent. Yet, many transportation planners haven’t taken advantage of this often-simple option.

7. Incident Management
For each minute that traffic is blocked by an accident, five minutes of congestion are added to a commute. In most urban areas, much more can be done to rapidly and effectively manage accidents.

8. Telecommuting
Telecommuters outnumber transit commuters in 27 of the nation’s 50 largest cities. With communication technology constantly improving, companies and governments should encourage more workers to skip the commute and work from home.

9. Parking Reform
Eliminating free parking and parking subsidies has reduced driving by up to 24 percent in some cities.

10. Improve Key Intersections and Access Roads
Overcrowded streets near highways create a negative domino effect that ripples through our entire road system.

» Buy Your Copy Now!

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