Monday, November 22, 2010

Confessions of a Traffic Engineer

In Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs decreed what she saw as a foreboding pattern evident in the onrush of all dark ages. One of those criteria, she described as credentialism over education, ie the rush to add professional seeming letters after your name even though most of those are positioned as barriers to defend the profession, not from others as much as progress. It enables a stultification of innovation.

In this post at Strong Towns blog, a traffic engineer repents:
We go to enormous expense to save ourselves small increments of driving time. This would be delusional in and of itself if it were not also making our roads and streets much less safe.
He touches on the differing priorities between public and 'father-knows-best' traffic engineers, but what is most important is the statement above. We spend hundreds of millions to save a minute or two.

The irony of which is that the savings themselves are fleeting, as it has been proven that new road capacity only leads to temporary traffic reduction. And then we spend more money to get that ever-elusive minute back to our morning commute.

Next thing you know, you're living 40 miles from where you work, stuck on a "high-five" spaghetti junction that most likely cost the entire state its education budget in an assembly line of nameless, faceless others, suspended hundreds of feet in the air by a concrete superstructure, but at least it has super sweet stars painted onto it to remind you that you are, in fact, still in Texas.

Want to know why cities, states, and the federal government is broke and the public mired in excessive debt? Listen to a traffic engineer talk about "road improvement."