Wow! The title of this blog is something that I am constantly asked about as a Transportation Planner. When someone does not know what I do and then they find out, one of the first questions I get is, “What can be done about traffic congestion?” Well, there really are a number of things that can be done – and that are already occurring.
As a society, several things are happening that will reduce traffic congestion over time.
- More millennials – classified as those born in the early 80s to early 2000s – are moving into urban areas and that, in and of itself, will reduce traffic congestion traveling from the rural areas and suburbs into the cities.
- Once a millennial moves into an urbanized area, they find that they no longer need or want a car or a second car for their family or roommate. Urbanites will share vehicles, ride a bike, take transit, walk, or rely upon flex cars (such as Zip cars) and now, Uber or Lyft.
- Telecommuting, or simply working wherever you are at the time, is increasing and will continue to increase creating less traffic congestion.
- The Federal Highway Administration continues to report that vehicle miles travelled (VMT) is decreasing and will either continue to decrease or level off. Therefore, with a reduction in VMT, there will be a reduction in traffic congestion for those cars that exist today and, if we were in a static situation.
- Over the next 30 years, however, our population in the United States will increase from about 310 million people to about 385 million people, an increase of 70 million. Most of this increase will occur in the urban areas and, if the trend continues, that increase in population will not be relying on automobiles as their sole method of moving about.
As it relates to today’s traffic congestion, it is becoming a matter of choice as to when many of us travel. Telecommuting in the morning or leaving work to telecommute in the afternoon, partly allows drivers to travel outside the normal commuting rush hours of 7–9 AM and 4–6 PM. As a result of the three-hour “rush hour” in the morning and then again in the afternoon, along with increased flexibility provided by employers, traffic congestion is not going to get worse. In fact, it will likely level off, or over time (we are talking years) could actually start to improve.
Over the next several years traffic congestion will be caused by rebuilding and maintaining roadway and bridge infrastructure.
So, an answer to the question posed by the title of this blog – many, many things will contribute to reduced traffic congestion or, in my opinion, a leveling off of traffic congestion over time.