Living in Atlanta, the poster child of bad traffic and limited resources to resolve it, I have seen a lot of solutions tried to solve the problems we have. Indeed I work for a company whose job it is to install software systems to manage intelligent transportation devices. We have a measure of success , including here in Georgia. If we fly up to 30,000 feet and think about things, there are really three main things one can do to alleviate traffic congestion. The first one is add lanes and roads. That is old school or like the Missouri Tigers said before losing to the Georgia Bulldogs, “Old Man Football.” Yes you have to have roads and where feasible (and that is critical) transit. Where it makes sense, one should also have trails for walkers and bikers, too. At the end of the day, if you have a built-out metro area, there is a limit to how many people you can get to point A to B. One can do like Sydney Australia and build a tunnel. John Oxendine proposed the I-675 to GA 400 tunnel and was laughed out of the Governor’s race in 2010. One can build flying cars or step up connected vehicle research, but those are not ready for prime time.
So the next level is to apply ITS solutions which is what my company does as do a number of other companies. We do what we can and squeeze a little more orange juice off the pulp and make some improvements. At the end of the day, many feel it is still not good enough. That is where the third leg of the stool comes into play.
Ever heard of the term travel demand management? It’s not very ‘sexy.” it is not very high tech, but if one wants to get the most our of roads, transit, ITS, etc… it has to be considered. Atlanta uses some of its Federal funds received for pollution mitigation to manage the Clean Air Campaign. My former employer runs that program. Although the premise of paying people to take transit, bike or walk to work is to alleviate pollution (get a car and its emissions off the road) it also reduces congestion. Clean Air also encourages telecommuting and it offers van pools (the opportunity to create them). There is one additional thing that I feel will be driven by the economy and the continued congestion issues in cities – The Four- or Four-and-a-Half-Day work week.
If an office can completely shut down one day a week that not only saves their energy use (cost) but it takes some cars off the road. Although most would prefer a Friday off or maybe a Monday, it would be best if some chose to take off some of the other three days.
I understand many industries have to be open 8 to 5, M-F, but many do not. In a couple of days my county school system shuts down until January 7th. Traffic will be much better for a few days. Why? People start taking off work. This is exactly what would happen if more companies removed one of two rush hours a week.
Historically, I believe the 4 day work week could be the standard during my lifetime. It was in my Dad’s lifetime that the five day week replaced the six. In fact, he had college classes on Saturday morning. The Federal Government has led the way on this. For years my Huntsville, AL friends who worked for NASA or on Redstone Arsenal had a schedule where they worked eight 9 hour days and one eight hour day and one day off every two weeks. Not a bad start. In theory one could get away with offering less vacation and save some money. Many vacation days are to get a Friday or a Monday on a weekend, anyway.
In conclusion, yes we need everything in our arsenal to attack congestion. It is time to consider the one that will take even more cars off the road.