Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wasted Time In Traffic?

According to a Treasury Department report, we Americans are wasting 1.9 billion gallons of gasoline annually in traffic, mostly in typical highway congestion. That does not include whatever may be wasted just idling while waiting for moments at a time which then stretch into much longer time periods. Just think about what fuel is wasted while waiting for your kids to get out of school. At $3.75 a gallon, that adds up to a lot of dough. Traffic congestion costs drivers more than $100 billion annually in wasted fuel and lost time.

It just seems to be an awful lot of money to be spending to have the freedom to go across town whenever you want to, then find that everyone else has the same idea. They are not going to the same place that you are, but enough are going in the same basic direction or crossing over your path to make it annoying and time consuming. That is the joy of retail begetting retail in ever expanding commercial areas. Is it any wonder that online retail has grown so rapidly?

There was a time when we planned on how long it would take us to get to the other side of town. There were not so many of us then and the other side of town was just not as far away as it is now, yet we feel that we should be able to get there in the same amount of time. If only the roads could carry more traffic or maybe some of those other folks should just stay home.

America invests less in transportation infrastructure than most other countries at just about about 2% of the gross domestic product. Compare that to Europe at 5% and China at 9% of GDP. Congress is bickering about passing a transportation budget while our infrastructure continues to age and erode and the Highway Trust Fund limps along due to an inadequate gas tax or more fuel efficient cars, take your pick.

Still, we can't seem to get out of our cars. This far in the future we were supposed to have the little “Sprockets” like George Jetson had, that would speed us anywhere we wanted to go and then fold up into a briefcase for storage. That, of course, has not happened.

If anything, our cars have become more like a part of the family or and extension of the house in which we let it reside. They are pampered almost as much as our pets, just more expensive.

The average American family spends more than $7,600 annually on transportation — more than it spends on food and twice what it spends on out-of-pocket health care costs. Is it any wonder that we are always looking for that extra mile per gallon or the free parking space? Yet we will drive that extra mile or two to find a food bargain or shop where there is no metered parking.

There are those of us who say that we care about the environment, so we drive a Prius because of the fantastic gas mileage and crow about the reduced carbon footprint. But when we park it in a surface lot, we are really no better that a Hummer or Lincoln Navigator when it comes to an overall environmental footprint. The pollutants that it took/takes to build and maintain the 9' x 18' space and the increased precipitation runoff is going to be the same whether you are driving a motorcycle or a Winnebago.

Can you believe that there are an estimated three nonresidential parking spaces for every car in the United States. Enough to cover about 4,360 square miles or 15.2 times the size of Fayette County. So, does that mean that you have a place for your car at home, at work and at the shopping center? Sure, you let others use it when you aren't there but they had better be out of it when you get there. I mean, you car is in one of them about 95% of the time, and because it doesn't fold up like the Jetsons', it has to go somewhere.

For all of its faults, the parking lot may well be the most regularly used outdoor space in America. Where else do cars and pedestrians peacefully coexist for the most part? Yet I can't help but think that some of these spaces could be used for better outdoor and possibly beneficial environmental types of uses. If we could just let our imagination go, I am sure that we can come up with something

Or, maybe we can just leave the car at home and eliminate the need for most parking lots.


ibcRandy said...

I once saw a picture of a parking lot, I believe possibly in Japan, where they had large solar panels that covered all of the parking spots. They provided energy, a parking space, and shade for the car simultaneously.

Streetsweeper said...

I believe that I have also seen that photo.

Why do you think that the rest of the world is moving in these types of directions, but the US basically refuses to do so?