Daily Traffic Congestion of Epic Proportions

The Problem

MANAGING GROWTH, reducing traffic, creating sustainable development, and making smart transportation investments; these are all challenges we face today. New Urbanism is a development strategy that addresses these issues and more by creating communities that are livable, walkable, & sustainable, while raising the quality of life.

"Consider the unmitigated ecological disaster that is the automobile. Every time you turn on the ignition, you're enmeshed in a system whose known outcomes include a polluted atmosphere, oil-slicked seas, and desert wars" -Wired Magazine, May 2006

Disjointed, Auto-Dependent Development
OUR CURRENT FORM of growth is unsustainable: a continuous outward expansion of development and the ever-increasing need for more transportation capacity, despite the fact that regional population and employment are fairly stable. These trends threaten both the quality of life, as motorists spend more and more time in their cars and auto-dependency increases, and the quality of the environment, as green space continues to vanish while air quality and other environmental problems persist. The problem of constant traffic congestion is quite serious, and is reaching dangerous, epic proportions as our mobility is rapidly decreasing along with our quality of life.

CONSIDER the following about our current transportation choice:

1.  42,000+ Americans are killed every year in auto accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that motor-vehicle accidents in the United States cause one death every 11 minutes, and an injury every 18 seconds. According to environmentalist Andrew Kimbrell, 90 million Americans have sustained disabling injuries in auto accidents, while more than 2.5 million Americans have died violent deaths on our highways.

This represents more than four times the 641,691 Americans killed in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined. This is the equivalent of a fully loaded 747 crashing every 3 days and killing every passenger, week after week, year after year! If this many planes did crash, the airline industry would be shut down (as it was on September 11), but little is done about the deadly automobile situation.

WORLDWIDE, there are more than 2,500 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each day from traffic accidents. According to the World Health Organization, over 1 million people die each year in motor vehicle accidents.  In the year 2000, 1.26 million people died worldwide as a result of road traffic injuries.

2.  The road system is unable to efficiently move the overwhelming number of cars that clog it daily, resulting in constant congestion for thousands of miles across the country. Since 1982, while the U.S. population has grown nearly 20 percent, the time Americans spend in traffic has jumped an amazing 236 percent! In major American cities, the length of the combined morning-evening rush hour has doubled, from under three hours in 1982 to almost six hours today.

Never Ending Road Construction
3.  Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent continuously expanding our road system in an attempt to keep up with the rising congestion. Despite the fact that the national interstate highway system is fully built, governments spend $200 million EVERY DAY constructing, fixing and improving roads in the U.S. This represents a large portion of our tax dollars directed towards constant road expansion, which actually furthers the problem rather than solves it.

According to a study issued recently by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, residents of the 23 American metro areas that added the most new road capacity per person in the 1990s saw the annual number of hours spent stuck in traffic increase by 70.4 percent.

4.  The National Transportation Board predicts that delays caused by congestion will increase by 5.6 billion hours in the period between 1995 and 2015, wasting an unnecessary 7.3 billion gallons of fuel. 70% of all daily peak-hour travel on interstates now occurs under stop-and-go conditions.  This peak 'hour' has expanded to more than half of every day, and into the weekends as well.

5.  The money and time spent in this congestion adds up to over $78 billion per year in unnecessary waste and inefficiency, up 39 percent since 1990. Time magazine has said that the average American motorist will spend 6 months of their life waiting for red lights to change, and over 5 years of life just stuck in traffic.

Never Ending Delays
6.  Cars are extremely expensive to own and operate, and collectively adds up to hundreds of billions of dollars spent annually by Americans. A third of all household expenses goes toward transportation: owning and operating a single vehicle cost between $8,000 - $15,000 per year (large SUVs are at the top of this range). Since the average suburban family owns at least 2 vehicles, they are spending at a minimum, $16,000 - $30,000 per year on transportation, not including children's cars.

7.  Cars are highly polluting, and are the single largest source of poisonous exhausts that treat the air as an open sewer. Cars produce numerous air pollutants including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, sulfur oxides, carbon dioxide, methane, and particulate matter, as well as toxic dust from tires and brake pads. The sum total of the 600 million cars driving daily around the planet causes a tremendous amount of permanent environmental damage in the form of toxic air, acid rain, forest damage, habitat destruction, crop damage, ocean pollution, fish contamination, climate change, and global warming.

8.  According to the American Lung Association, air pollution from motor vehicles causes $40 billion to $50 billion in annual health-care expenditures, and as many as 120,000 unnecessary or premature deaths.

9.  Other environmental concerns associated with automobile dependence include noise pollution, premature loss of farmland, wetlands, and open space (from auto-induced sprawl), soil pollution and contamination, water pollution from drilling, processing, and shipping of petroleum as well as from runoff of automobile fluids and road salts, and the scarring of natural landscapes.

10.  Cars are the most expensive, most inefficient, most polluting form of mass transportation known to humankind, and when used in mass quantities, fail to provide even reasonable mobility.

Cars are totally dependent on oil, which is a finite resource that has reached its limit globally.  Senior geologists and investment bankers for the oil industry say we have now reached world 'peak oil' production and will begin to experience an irreversible decline in supply each year, until it runs out, or becomes too expensive to recover.

                                "Thanks to the highway lobby, now we're stuck in traffic"

"We cannot fool ourselves - or the public - any longer: we can no longer build our way out of our highway congestion problems. It is not an environmentally or financially feasible solution." -Parris Glendening, former Maryland governor.

"There's never been an urban center in America with the magnitude of Northern Virginia that has ever road-built their way out of a traffic jam. God knows Los Angeles tried." -Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (Springfield) on whether it was time the state changes its way of developing and building roads.

"Traffic congestion is the #1 quality of life complaint of Americans"

Most traffic engineers now agree that we cannot build enough new road capacity to significantly reduce congestion. This means that doing so is a waste of hundreds of billions of dollars which could be more wisely spent building a network of new clean electric train systems.

The choice is clear... and profound!

The more roads we build, the more sprawl and driving we encourage. Conversely, the more train systems we build, the more compact walkable and sustainable communities we create and encourage.

“We need to look down the road and decide which forms of transportation will give us the convenience, reliability, comfort, speed, and safety we need. We can build a national passenger rail network and achieve all these goals. We can build more highways and airports and probably achieve none of these goals. Or we can do nothing and watch the whole U.S. become a congested, choked freeway. We can continue to insist on profitability and privatization, and then we won’t have any transportation system at all.” –Mark Hemphill, Editor, Trains Magazine

"Since the end of World War II, government policy has funded and encouraged the suburban lifestyle, subsidizing highways while starving mass transit and keeping gas taxes much lower than in some other countries." -Washington Post, August 2008

"The long-standing preoccupation with automobiles has degraded our communities to such a degree - physically and otherwise - that our destinations are no longer places worth reaching." –World Watch Institute

"The global destruction of cities and countryside, of human cultures and of nature itself, can only be reversed by a global philosophical, technical, cultural, moral and economic project: by an ecological project." -Leon Krier

The Solution

The solution is in rebuilding our existing cities, and densifying our suburbs into compact, walkable towns and cities connected by extensive train systems. This form of development is known as a Transit Village, or Transit Oriented Development (TOD), and provides a higher quality, sustainable living environment. This gives us the choice of getting around by a number of different means including trains, bicycles, walking, rollerblading, and scooters.


Transit Village
Green Transport: Click to view national high speed rail map
Smart, Green Transportation

TRAINS have the potential to solve many serious problems facing society, from reducing traffic congestion & airport congestion, to saving lives and the environment. They are the smart transportation solution for our society today and well into the future.

A good train system is a long-term, community-building investment that benefits many. The more new trains that get built, the better the entire system becomes. This is the finest example of smart transportation.  Read more

"A fully loaded, six-car train can carry as many people as 100 city blocks of moving cars."


According to the Australian Financial Review, getting rid of one car per household could cut 13 years of mortgage payments, allow you to retire 10 years earlier, or give you an extra $400,000 in mortgage purchase ability.

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