By. Neil Williamson, President
Rather than working to accommodate all modes of travel, these critics suggest the best way to solve the transportation challenges is to reduce our cultural auto dependency by making travel more painful and more costly. “Gridlock is Good” seems to be their mantra.
The pattern is so clear around the world that, as a New York Times article pointed out two weeks ago, many communities are antagonizing drivers through slower speed limits, extra pedestrian-friendly traffic lights, traffic-calming devices and even charging them for using the roads during congested periods, in order to pry people away from their steering wheels. The rest of the world is recognizing that making driving easier, while perhaps being a plus for any given individual, is a massive negative for the society through the pollution, greenhouse emissions and oil consumption it creates.
Interestingly on the front page of Sunday’s Daily Progress Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs has an article on last week’s Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Transportation Plan Citizen Advisory Committee (CHART). In the report, he quotes CHART member and Charlottesville resident, Stephen Bach:
“I think it might be a really positive thing if nothing got done,” Bach said. “The price of gasoline is not always going to be $4 a gallon and I think that the idea that we’re going to have the era of happy motoring forever is just ridiculous.”
Then as if to provide yet another anti-automobile voice to the cacophony, Sunday’s Washington Post Opinion Section provided a platform for Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, to advocate for his “Routes to Relief”:
If we don’t offer alternatives to so much driving, then high oil prices will keep eroding family finances and threaten our economic and national security. High gas prices and changing demographics — young workers and downsizing empty-nesters and retirees — are increasing demand for more walkable, convenient and transit-accessible locations.
The Free Enterprise Forum believes in choices. This includes choices in transportation. Unlike those who prefer to use gridlocked roads as a mechanism to advance their ideological opposition to individual mobility (read cars), we believe making strategic investments in our transportation network based on existing and projected conditions.
As we have written previously, the US 29 Western Bypass will provide traffic relief not only to through traffic but also to a significant portion of local trips which have one leg of their trip in the urbanized area of (including Charlottesville). As expressed in Technical Memorandum #3 (based on the 1998 traffic study):
There are approximately 21,400 external to internal trips that enter the urbanized portion of Albemarle County using US 29 North; these trips represent approximately 74% of the total 1998 ADT on US 29. Approximately, 14,100 or 67% of the trips that originate outside the urbanized portion of Albemarle County terminate in the urbanized portion of Albemarle County outside the Places29 study area and use US 29 in the Places29 study area. Approximately half of these 14,100 external to internal trips (7,800 trips) that pass through the US 29 North study area originate in or are destined for the remainder of the City of Charlottesville (city). Emphasis added – NW
The existing conditions are graphically represented below:
Rather than working to create gridlock as a means to the ideological ends of eliminating single passenger occupancy vehicle trips, the Free Enterprise Forum believes building the Western Bypass will provide transportation choices for all of us.
Gridlock is Bad — Build the Road.
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org