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Vol. 10, No. 1 - January/February 1999

Suburban Sprawl --Can We Do Anything About It?
Suburban sprawl, long seen as a local zoning matter, has emerged as a politically charged issue. The Sierra Club has mounted a major anti-sprawl drive hoping to create a grassroots movement that will catch the attention of politicians. Vice President Gore has expanded his environmental rhetoric to include "smart growth," signaling that growth management is likely to be a major theme in his campaign for the presidency. But exactly what can be done to prevent further metropolitan dispersal is unclear.

The Spreading Revolt Against HOV Lanes
Our speculation in the last issue of Innovation Briefs, that New Jersey's abolition of its carpool lanes might encourage similar initiatives in other states, has proved to be right on the mark. In at least four other jurisdictions-- California, Minneapolis, Long Island and Virginia-- HOV facilities are under attack. Carpool lanes, seen in the 1970s as an important tool for reducing congestion, air pollution and fuel consumption, are increasingly considered as an anachronism. The refrain everywhere is the same: few drivers are taking advantage of the carpool lanes, while thousands of solo commuters sit frustrated in adjacent regular lanes.

The Changing State DOTs
State Departments of Transportation (DOTs)-- long insulated from the pressures of competition, the influence of markets and the impact of new technology-- are increasingly being challenged by a climate of change. Financial constraints, mandated reductions in work force, government "reinvention" initiatives, expectations of greater customer responsiveness, and demands of new stakeholders have obliged state DOTs to modify the way they do business in many important respects. These are the findings of a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)--and of interviews conducted by INNOVATION BRIEFS with state DOT officials.

Is Road Building Really Futile? - Commentary
Does building new roads relieve traffic congestion? Or is road construction a futile exercise because new lanes eventually fill up with new traffic? The question is as old as highway controversies themselves, with highway proponents maintaining that roads are congested "because we aren't building enough new ones" while critics argue that "You can't build your way out of traffic congestion." The latest salvo in this debate was fired by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP), a transportation coalition of environmental interest groups. Analyzing data for 70 metro areas from the latest "State of Traffic Congestion" report published annually by the Texas Transportation Institute, STPP says it has found no evidence that metro areas that have invested heavily in road capacity expansion have fared any better in easing congestion than those areas that did not invest heavily. However, this does not mean we should stop building new roads, contends Peter Samuel, a transportation journalist and publisher of the monthly TOLL ROADS NEWSLETTER. Even if new or widened roads eventually do fill up with traffic, they provide mobility to a larger number of people and accommodate a higher level of economic activity.

U.K. Government Gives New Stimulus to Road Pricing
Our Brief, "Paying for New Roads" (Nov/Dec 1998), which speculated about the possibility at some future time of a two-tiered system of highways--one free but highly congested, the other tolled but offering a high level of service--provoked a lively response from our readers. Reactions ranged from "it's already happening here" (from a subscriber in France where a system of tolled "autoroutes" parallels a network of free "routes nationales") to impassioned arguments why such a system would violate our notions of fairness and equity. However distasteful to some, the idea that motorists will someday be charged for the use of new roads is gaining in strength. This is especially the case in the United Kingdom, where the government is actively promoting road pricing.

The November Election Results : Reading the Tea Leaves

  • The Congress
  • Transportation Referenda
  • Sprawl Control Initiatives
  • Freeways vs. "FeeWays"

 



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