There are seven strategies for dealing with traffic congestion. And ironically, they’re different than the more famous 7-D’s of VMT reduction! The most common “Direct” approach, or “Build your way out” approach, usually equates to increasing capacity directly on the facility in question.
However there are other “D-strategies” to evaluate before conceding a need to directly increase capacity. And even when we agree that direct new capacity is a good idea, we have unique place-making methods for increasing vehicle capacity in ways that also improve walkability and economic vitality.
Here are the 7-D strategies for managing traffic congestion:
- Design – If you’re lucky enough to plan Greenfields, design a real grid! Collectors and arterials every .3-.5 miles, along with a finer grid of locals, can ensure few streets will ever get seriously congested.
- Divert – If one corridor is overwhelmed, look for opportunities to improve competing paths and “Divert” some trips away from the struggling corridor through connectivity and alternative paths.
- Deduct – People drive because alternatives are impractical or unattractive. Create strategies to help people “Deduct” themselves from traffic in sensitive areas by improving the experience of alternative modes.
- Delete – You can “Delete” vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in part by optimizing land uses. How far do people have to go “to get a gallon of milk?” Are future schools and parks arranged to encourage walking? Review the land use elements of your plans to discern its likely effects on transportation, and to discern the likely effects of your infrastructure plans on efficient land use.
- Dynamic – Technology is making it easier to “Dynamically” guide people to under-utilized streets, and enhancing multi-modal options. Automation promises to increase the efficiency of streets, as well as ability to move more people in fewer vehicles. Technology is helping us accomplish more activities in shorter distances – often without even traveling at all. Consider changing technology in future plans.
- Direct – After pursuing previous strategies, increase capacity “Directly” on the corridor if necessary. First pursue efficiency gains through use of place-making intersection designs, such as Quadrants, Bowties, Town Center Intersections, and Roundabouts. Last, auto-oriented options like Continuous Flow Intersections. Finally, sometimes widening select locations or new facilities are the right thing to do in locales where the population is increasing substantially.
- Deal with it – It may sound defeatist, but there is psychological benefit to just “accepting the things you cannot change.” Have you already done what you could afford to do? Are there strategies your community simply never wants to do? Then just “deal with it” and decide to be happy in spite of, and maybe because of, the “negatives” of congestion. “No Build” doesn’t need to be a straw-man option.
So in summary (or if you want a shorter list):
- Design – Greenfield “build-out” planning, to “get it right the first time.” No Greenfields? Then…
- Divert – Make it possible for some trips to avoid problem areas (i.e. enhance connectivity)
- Deduct – Enhance alternative modes so drivers will deduct themselves from traffic
- Delete – Land-use optimization shortens trips, thereby deleting VMT
- Dynamic – Tech advances that enhance system efficiency.
- Direct – Create new, traditional capacity directly on struggling facilities (Last resort)
- Deal with it – If environmental, fiscal, or political costs are too high, then do what is reasonable, but ultimately “accept the things you cannot change.” Cities are dynamic, and eventually adapt to their new reality.
If you’re in a quagmire and no one is bringing fresh ideas to the table, contact us! As Einstein said, “Today’s problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” Metro Analytics finds solutions that others overlook, or simply lack the expertise to see.