Less Congestion, More Sprawl

January 27, 2011

More on the irrationality of current traffic congestion measures, from Gateway Streets, a St. Louis blog:

Work continues on 141 between Olive and 364. Credit: modot_stl_photos.

“… a closer look at the data in the Urban Mobility Report reveals a puzzling fact: despite reduced congestion on the region’s roads, commutes in St. Louis are getting longer than ever before. Peak hour commuters spent an average of 289 hours behind the wheel in 2009, 36 hours more than in 1999 when congestion was significantly worse. In fact, according to the UMR report, St. Louis has the 5th longest commutes among metro areas over 1 million population (Los Angeles and New York, bafflingly, are ranked 22nd and 33rd, respectively). How is it that that commuting times get longer as congestion decreases?

The answer to the puzzle, of course, lies in the sprawling nature of St. Louis’s suburbs. Between 1950 and 2000, St. Louis’s urban population grew 48% while urban land area grew over 260%.

St. Louis’s extensive highway network may be partially to blame for the region’s sprawl. As pointed out by the Urbanophile, St. Louis has the 3rd most freeway lane miles per capita amongst metro areas over 1 million in population ….”


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