A Word About Traffic

Today I heard a state senator talk about how the Commonwealth of Massachusetts needs to invest in its infrastructure because his commute has increased 30 minutes to an hour and twenty at rush hour. This is a standard complaint in West Roxbury, but it would be nice to see a public official read StrongTowns and realize that the problem with automobile transportation isn’t disinvestment but malinvestment — public infrastructure construction and land use planning have, for past 70 or so years, been designed around the personal automobile as the only mode of transportation.

As a result, everyone lives in a place where they have to get around in a car and then they complain about traffic and parking.

The really sad thing is is that everyong complains about traffic. My parents have lived in Rutland, Vermont since 1988 or so. I was born there in 1989. In 1990 the population was 18,230 and in 2010 it was 16,495. An estimate in 2014 put it at 15,942. It’s shrinking. It’s been shrinking since 1970. The surrounding area, Rutland County, has also been shrinking. In 2000 its population was 63,400 and in 2014 it was 60,086.

When I was home over Thanksgiving, my Dad ranted about how much worse traffic was now than in the past. Now, how can that possibly be? In the past 45 years the population has declined enormously, none of the parking lots come close to being full anymore than the parking garage does and it’s never impossible to find onstreet parking.

The worse thing about it is that it only takes about 20 minutes to walk across the entire city, there just aren’t enough sidewalks.

As for Boston, I came across a report on the transit system from 1945 that described the roads as at capacity, commute times unbearable and traffic a nightmare. Even worse, in 1965 there was a day when traffic in the entire city came to a total, litteral standstill for several hours. Let’s see that happen again before we talk about building new roads.

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