Transit Utilization and Traffic Congestion: Is There a Connection?

Research finds no statistically significant evidence linking increases in transit utilization to reductions in congestion
  • Statistical analysis of the 74 largest urbanized areas in the U.S. over a 26-year period suggests that increasing transit utilization does not lead to a reduction in traffic congestion; nor does decreasing transit utilization lead to an increase in traffic congestion.
  • Policies designed to promote transit utilization can in certain instances increase traffic congestion—as appears to have been the case in Portland, Oregon.
  • Vehicle-miles traveled per freeway lane-mile is strongly correlated with traffic congestion: the more people drive relative to available freeway capacity, the worse congestion gets.
  • Data from New York and Los Angeles indicate that the most effective way to increase transit utilization is by reducing fares, as well as by improving basic, pre-existing service.

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