Commentary

Congestion Spurs Anger and Frustration Worldwide Despite Recession

Sixty five percent of commuters surveyed by IBM say their daily drive is a grind, depriving them of sleep and creating anger issues. It’s also gotten worse over the last three years despite the Global Recession.

The just released survey (June 30, 2010) provides the basis for IBM’s 2010 Global Commuter Pain Index and includes data from more than 8,000 motorists in 20 cities. According to IBM:

IBM surveyed 8,192 motorists in 20 cities on six continents, the majority of whom say that traffic has gotten worse in the past three years. The congestion in many of today’s developing cities is a relatively recent phenomenon, having paralleled the rapid economic growth of those cities during the past decade or two. By contrast, the traffic in places like New York, Los Angeles or London developed gradually over many decades, giving officials more time and resources to address the problem.

The good news for US cities? They don’t have it as bad as Beijing, New Delhi, and Mexico cities.

The bad news? Traffic congestion is still a big problem and is improving in our some of our competitor cities (including Beijing).

The coverage has been interesting. At AOL News, the reporter observed that despite congestion frustration, we are still not giving up the car and getting onto buses and trains:

But in the United States, that stress hasn’t done much to change our behavior: While 85 percent of Americans said traffic has gotten worse or stayed the same in the past three years, the vast majority of us — 84 percent — continue to drive to work alone anyway, compared with 56 percent, on average, worldwide.

Comments like these make me wonder if the writer uses public transit. I use it frequently when I’m traveling. I don’t find that commuting by public transit is less frustrating. Indeed, often I am standing (which eats into any productivity benefits), looking for my next stop, or wondering if the train is going to get me where I need to be on time. Moreover, the data consistently shows that public transit commuters spend lots more time traveling to work than automobile drivers.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.

Staley is the author of several books, most recently co-authoring Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). Texas Gov. Rick Perry aid Staley and Moore "get it right" and world bank urban planner Alain Bartaud called it "a must read for urban managers of large cities in the United States and around the world."

He is also co-author, with Ted Balaker, of The Road More Traveled: Why The Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It (Rowman and Littlefield, September, 2006). Author Joel Kotkin said, "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." Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said, "Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion."

Staley's previous book, Smarter Growth: Market-based Strategies for Land-use Planning in the 21st Century (Greenwood Press, 2001), was called the "most thorough challenge yet to regional land-use plans" by Planning magazine.

In addition to these books, he is the author of Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities (Transaction Publishers, 1992) and Planning Rules and Urban Economic Performance: The Case of Hong Kong (Chinese University Press, 1994).

His more than 100 professional articles, studies, and reports have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Investor's Business Daily, Journal of the American Planning Association, Planning magazine, Reason magazine, National Review and many others.

Staley's approach to urban development, transportation and public policy blends more than 20 years of experience as an economic development consultant, academic researcher, urban policy analyst, and community leader.

Staley is a former chair for his local planning board in his hometown of Bellbrook, Ohio. He is also a former member of its Board of Zoning Appeals and Property Review Commission, vice chair of his local park district's open space master plan committee, and chair of its Charter Review Commission.

Staley received his B.A. in Economics and Public Policy from Colby College, M.S. in Social and Applied Economics from Wright State University, and Ph.D. in Public Administration, with concentrations in urban planning and public finance from Ohio State University.