Here’s A Traffic Management Strategy: “Make Them Suffer”

11.08.16 | Blog | By:

Right from my very own back yard here in south Florida comes a story I decided to highlight this week about the challenges faced by city governments responsible for managing traffic congestion, air pollution and how that intersects and conflicts with economic development. In this case, the story concerns the Ft. Lauderdale-Miami metropolitan area, where high-density housing is developing at a rapid pace without regard to the impact on traffic. Sometimes the impression from some people is that the choking air pollution and gridlock is an issue only relevant to places like southern California, New York City, London, Paris and even New Delhi (see above). But it’s clearly not.

The response by city and county officials in the south Florida region has been to narrow road lanes, create bike lanes and promote public transport. But it’s not succeeding. First, with an older population and the hot weather, people are not decamping from their cars to walk, bike or wait around for public transport. (I can personally attest to this!) And that means the situation is going to get worse. Officials expect near complete gridlock in south Florida in the coming years if something is not done.

But as in other cities, officials are increasingly challenged to find solutions to traffic with car bans, car-free days, and policies such as the ones mentioned above, which will ultimately impact fuel demand (for conventional and biofuels) and for cars. And these challenges are only going to toughen as time goes on. The UN notes that currently, 54.5% of people live in urban areas and that will increase to 70% by 2030 (see post Oct. 24, 2016).

Note the following comment from a county official, first published in the Florida Sun Sentinel:

“‘Until you make it so painful that people want to come out of their cars, they’re not going to come out of their cars,’ Anne Castro, chair of the Broward County Planning Council (encompassing Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, Florida), said during a meeting last year. ‘We’re going to make them suffer first, and then we’re going to figure out ways to move them after that because they’re going to scream at us to help them move.'”

Transportation planners rate interstate highways and many local roads using guidelines developed by the National Research Council. The school-like ratings, with “A” being the best and “F” the worst, are used to identify problems, track trends and come up with solutions. The Florida Sun-Sentinel notes that today, 7% of the main roads in Broward County and 1% in Palm Beach County (encompasses Miami also) are rated “F,” according to the Sun Sentinel’s analysis.

On “F”-rated roads, there are frequent stops, with each vehicle in lockstep with the one in front of it, creating recurring traffic jams. By 2040, 36% of Broward’s roads — and 15% in Palm Beach County — will be rated “F” thanks to new development and a surge in population, with the number of South Florida residents rising from 5.8 to 7.3 million.

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