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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 18, 2009 at 2:04 PM

The recession and traffic

Congestion down — but will we learn?

Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

Looking east, the Mercer Mess at rush hour.

Editor, The Times:

Congestion in the Seattle area has been getting worse for decades, but it took a historic national recession to finally provide commuters with relief [“Job cuts result in quicker commute,” page one, March 17].

So should we maintain an 8.4-percent unemployment rate to keep traffic down? Obviously not. But the traffic trends over the past year point us to better solutions, if we learn from them.

Washingtonians have cut down on their driving, as have commuters across the country. The Federal Highway Administration showed a 3-percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled in 2008, which translated into a 30-percent reduction in peak-hour congestion. With that evidence, demand management seems like a much more cost-effective solution to congestion than expanding freeways.

There are multiple ways to influence the demand for our freeways: better public transit, affordable housing in the urban core, or variable tolling, to name a few. All are options that are cheaper than highway expansion and significantly better for the environment.

Ultimately, the economy will recover and congestion probably will get worse again. In these tumultuous times we are already taking a hard look at health care, energy and educational policies to chart a better course, but we can’t ignore our transportation sector. We have to take a good long look at our transportation system, from the vision to the implementation. We have to learn from the lessons of today to secure a better and more sustainable tomorrow.

— David Kosmos, Washington Public Interest Research Group, Seattle

Comments | More in Recession, Traffic congestion

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