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There are many occasions when adding more road capacity is a good idea, but no large region can afford to build enough to completely eliminate peak-hour congestion. The third approach would be to expand public transit capacity enough to shift so many people from cars to transit that there would be no more excess demand for roads during peak hours.But in the United States in 2000, only 4.7 percent of all commuters traveled by public transit. metropolitan areas with the most daily transit commuters, when taken together, account for 61 percent of all U. transit commuting, though they contain only 17 percent of the total population.For example, a major commuting expressway might be so heavily congested each morning that traffic crawls for at least thirty minutes.
There are four ways any region can try to cope with the mobility challenge.
But three of them are politically impractical or physically and financially impossible in the United States. Governments can charge people money to enter all the lanes on major commuting roads during peak hours.
Although congestion can seem intolerable, the alternatives would be even worse.
Peak-hour congestion is the balancing mechanism that makes it possible for Americans to pursue other goals they value, including working or sending their children to school at the same time as their peers, living in low-density settlements, and having a wide choice of places to live and work.
But that would reduce all morning private vehicle trips by only 8.0 percent—certainly progress, but hardly enough to end congestion—and tripling public transit capacity would be extremely costly. The only feasible way to accommodate excess demand for roads during peak periods is to have people wait in line.
There are many good reasons to expand the nation’s public transit systems to aid mobility, but doing so will not notably reduce either existing or future peak-hour traffic congestion. That means traffic congestion, which is an absolutely essential mechanism for American regions—and most other metropolitan regions throughout the world—to cope with excess demands for road space during peak hours each day.
Waiting in line is the definition of congestion, and the same condition is found in all growing major metropolitan regions.
In fact, traffic congestion is worse in most other countries because American roads are so much better.
One is that most Americans reside in low-density areas that public transit cannot efficiently serve.
The second is that privately owned vehicles are more comfortable, faster, more private, more convenient in trip timing, and more flexible for doing multiple tasks on one trip than almost any form of public transit.