Regional strategies for relieving congestion

Article December 28, 2000
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Despite a new report by the Texas Transportation Institute which indicates that urban traffic congestion continues to worsen in most U.S. areas, the experience of some growing regions indicates there are strategies being implemented that are proving successful in relieving traffic congestion.

The key for a regional approach to minimizing traffic congestion is for a community’s leaders to clearly identify the problem, to advocate an overall strategic solution and then act in a coordinated fashion in providing congestion relief.

A successful congestion relief program must be well publicized and it should include a balanced approach utilizing a variety of transportation strategies. It should also include some way of measuring progress towards a consistent vision of travel improvements which a region is seeking.

Expand capacity

Additional traffic lanes and turn lanes: Expanded capacity, particularly on routes which are carrying significantly more travel than were initially designed to carry, results in improved traffic flow. Additional lanes on one route have also been found to reduce congestion on nearby routes by drawing some of the traffic from these secondary roads.

New roads and highway links: Some new urban
highway links continue to be built and may be appropriate in some regions, particularly where housing and job growth in a community has outstripped the level of service being provided by the current transportation system.

Additional mass transit service: While mass transit continues to lose its overall share of urban travel, some U.S. regions have been able to boost transit ridership by selective improvements in their regional systems.

Improve efficiency

Improved signalization: Traffic speeds can be increased by 12-25%by using coordinated traffic signalization.

Improved incident management: Many regions are improving the speed with which they can detect and respond to congestion-causing accidents and break-downs.

Improved driver information: Regional transportation centers, which can provide drivers with real-time information on road conditions are having some success in reducing congestion.

Ramp-metering and reverse-flow lanes: Highway ramps can be metered to ensure that cars enter freeways more smoothly and the reversal of direction for some key lanes on major roads at rush hour has been effective in reducing congestion.

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