Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gridlock And What To Do About It

Our favorite transportation planner, Randal O'Toole has a new book coming out soon called "Gridlock: Why We Are Stuck In Traffic and What To Do About It". This book is supposed to set the planning world on its ear.

The ideas put forth here are the same that we have heard from Mr. O'Toole for years. That American people cherish their mobility and that the personal auto is the ultimate in convenience. Not only is it inexpensive but it is available to nearly any family in the developed world. That mass transportation(buses, trains etc.) are not a replacement for the personal auto and limiting auto mobility would be detrimental to society. I wonder what the good people of New Orleans will say when they remember the post Katrina days of no transportation out, even when there were plenty of buses with no drivers.

O'Toole says that this book will oppose any government subsidies to any transportation mode as well as any government efforts to reduce individual driving. Any subsidies? Does that mean funds in addition to the Highway Trust Fund which cannot cover all that is expected of it now? Lexington and the state of Kentucky cannot currently maintain the road that they have sufficiently, much less any new or upgraded roads.
Users should be able to choose whatever transportation they like as long as they pay their way.

The Antiplanner, from The Ultimate Transportation Antiplanning Book

As a resident of Lexington and a driver in the state of Kentucky, I do not see my personal local money being used to repair any street or any parking lot. Those funds come from the hidden increase in the cost of goods and services that I buy, and not just the frivolous stuff, I am talking about the basics of life. Anything that moves over the roads is subject to the fees and the additional cost is passed on to the consumer. The cost of maintaining the parking lot at the local grocery is added to the price of food, the lot at the movies is added to the price of the tickets and the road in front of my house is added to the property tax bill(given the residential density of our suburban sprawl, most streets will not pay for themselves).

O'Toole also tries to get away from the old argument of rails vs. roads by pushing a new third position, using technology to provide mobility and congestion relief, by making the current roads more efficient. Using driverless vehicles. Driverless cars that will allow more vehicles to move closer to each other and at higher speeds and hopefully with no collisions.

This, of course, would require the rebuilding of all the roadways with the technology capable of controlling such vehicles AND the requiring the retrofitting of autos with these controls. I imagine that this would be paid for by the auto's owner and the owner of the roads. Currently the government owns the roads and since they(the government) are not allowed to subsidize the system, the government may not upgrade the roads, so I wonder who will. There is also, at this time, a strong opposition the the installation of GPS tracking devices for the recording of VMT on which to base a roadway fee(tax) in lieu of the gas tax, so will total control be allowed by the general driving public? Anyone with the OnStar system already has the GPS tracking so it may not be a problem.

I am curious to know which roads will be the first to be fitted for the driverless controls. Will it be the Interstates and the major US highways between our major cities( the one that flow fairly well as it is) or will it be the urban arterial and collector type streets where the commuter back-ups occur today? How far down the functional classification list will the control level go? Will it extend to the local and cul-de-sac level, if not how will you get your auto to the closest control point? Will manual control and driverless control be able to mix on the roadways? And what will become of the "complete streets" movement that seems to be sweeping the country these days.

Thinking about this brings to mind an online conversation I had with another commenter to a Herald-Leader article. A resident of Richmond, Ky. had expressed his opinion on spending money on some changes to Esplanade. His premise was to spend more money on widening the streets of Lexington, to allow his daily trip through town(from Richmond to Lawrenceburg) in a 4x4 truck to be made in a less obtrusive manner. He wants us to spend our funds to make his commute better and he does not live or pay taxes here.

I, of course, took offense to his callous abuse of Lexington's already horrendous carbon footprint and suggested that we(Lexington) did not need his type mucking up our county. It soon became evident that this Madison County redneckwas not the type to be told that he would(or could) give up control of his vehicle. Clearly his actions to get ahead were ones that have been taught and will, if followed, place one squarely behind the eight ball in the coming environmental and financial paradigm reset.

Randal O'Toole and this fellow from Richmond will both resist the government's intrusion to their lives, but I doubt that they will agree on Lexington's traffic problems.

1 comment:

Ahavah Gayle said...

Driverless cars - ummm, those would necessarily have to be programmed to obey speed limits, come to complete stops at intersections, and obey other traffic laws such as not blocking intersections, etc. etc., all of which would REDUCE people's "mobility" and lengthen the time they would have to spend in their car, not save any time or gasoline. Does he seriously think people are going to submit to traffic laws? If they are inclined to do so, they have certainly never previously shown any sign of it.

Also, he once again neglects the very obvious fact that if the US has to rely on its own internal production of oil, there will absolutely NOT be any allocated for private automobiles of ANY kind. All our production would HAVE to go for government, fire, police, ambulances, food delivery and other essential services, and once you get past that point we have no other production capacity. That's a fact.

Nor can the electric grid support millions of electric private automobiles, either. That's also a fact. If it weren't for wide swaths of industrial and commercial properties being vacant and shut down at the moment, we'd already be at production capacity for electricity, as well.

In short, his plan is delusional on multiple levels. He's just another self-centered jerk who thinks the world revolves around him - not all of them are rednecks, you know.