Friday, September 01, 2006

It takes a village to raise your blood pressure

According to USA Today, the "libertarian Reason Foundation" tells us we can expect gridlock to extend its grip to "smaller communities" with fewer than half a million residents in the next quarter century, with rush hour delays more than doubling in some. Drivers there will "spend up to 150% more time in bumper-to-bumper traffic," the Reason Foundation's study says.
"Moving to small-town America is not going to solve your problem," says David Hartgen, lead author of the study, who is a professor of transportation at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "The growth in congestion is going to be worse there." …

Population growth and commuters' preference for driving are key factors, the study says.
Anyone with common sense might suggest that the first thing we ought to do to counter an epidemic of hypertraffic is to reduce or eliminate population growth. But common sense has nothing to do with it, my dears. The authors of this study are, first, academics — which means they are unable to put together two sets of facts if one is outside their specialty. In this case, our social pathologists have nothing to say about the leading cause of runaway population growth, which is immigration, both legal and illegal. So instead of dealing with causes, they are left gasping for ways to fix effects.

Second, they are libertarians, which means they have only one tool in their workshop — money, or as they prefer to call it, market forces.
The solution? Hartgen and the other authors argue for building or widening roads and increasing traffic-management techniques such as signal timing and toll roads. To relieve congestion and save 7.7 billion driving hours a year by 2030, they say, 104,000 new lane miles will be needed at a cost of about $21 billion a year.
Inevitably, predictions like this study's bring out the public transportation lobbyists. If only people would stop being so selfish and agree to be force-fed into buses and subway cars, rather than insisting on the dignity and flexibility of driving themselves, why, we could cram a few hundred million more immigrants into the country.
Virginia Miller, a spokeswoman for the American Public Transportation Association, calls it "short-sighted" to ignore public transportation such as buses and subway systems. She cited a 2005 report by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University that said public transportation saved 1.1 billion hours of travel time in 85 urban areas in 2003. "Public transportation has a proven record of helping reduce congestion that should not be ignored," Miller says.
No, Ms. Miller; public transportation does not reduce congestion. It transfers part of the congestion from highways to overburdened buses or some other form of cruel and unusual punishment. You want to see congestion? If you are ever in the mood to step outside your ivory tower, take a ride on the New York or Washington mass transit system during the rush hour. The very term mass transit tells you something, or would if you ever thought beyond your schemes for ridding people of that frightful individualism that is so annoying to social engineers like you.

All these reactive pseudo-solutions to advancing gridlock — building more roads, charging higher tolls to use them at peak hours, packing people into subways, etc. — are ways of avoiding the cause, population growth, while treating the effect. But acknowledging the cause would require confronting the United States's demented "come one, come all" immigration policy.


Vanishing American said...

Good points; the immigration tsunami is having wide-ranging environmental effects, none of them good. But for some odd reason the environmentalist groups are silent on this issue.

Rick Darby said...

I believe most environmentalists sincerely want to protect the earth's ecosystem. Unfortunately, they tend to be Leftists first, environmentalists second.