Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Assistant Professor Steven Spears was recently contacted by the website WalletHub to give an expert opinion for their article, “2015’s Best and Worst Cities to be a Driver.” WalletHub “allows people to search for and compare financial products and interact with a community interested in making smarter financial decisions.”

Professor Spears addressed two of the questions sent to a number of academic transportation specialists across the country.

In answering, “What policies or technological innovations have proven effective in reducing traffic congestion?” Spears says,

“For better or worse, traffic congestion and a healthy economy tend to go hand in hand. There’s not really a reasonable way to eliminate congestion from our cities. However, pricing road use during congested times may be the most effective means of getting the most out of the infrastructure we have. Road pricing takes a number of forms, but in the U.S. we’re seeing more variable rate toll roads with charges that increase as congestion increases. Several states have put high occupancy toll (HOT) roads in place to try to reduce peak congestion and the results have been pretty good. In the long term though, we need more comprehensive change, such as land use patterns that better support transit, walking and bicycling to go along with proper pricing for road and parking space.”

Spear’s reply to, “What can local authorities do to reduce traffic and improve safety?” was,

“Passenger cars have come a long way in the past few decades in terms of occupant safety, and new systems are obviously coming online. But we still have a long way to go with regard to safety for other road users – particularly pedestrians and bicyclists. New vehicle systems will help in that regard also, but some other simple things can help as well. Reducing speed limits and designing roads in ways that keep speeds lower can have an impact, as the risk for severe injury increases exponentially with speed. Basic, cost effective things like lane narrowing can lower speeds without seriously impacting traffic. In some cases, simply narrowing lanes with striping may provide enough space for bicycle lanes, which can reduce traffic by encouraging people to trade four wheels for two. “

See answers from other experts and the rest of the story on WalletHub’s website.