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Shifting gears to ease congestion

Insights into traffic congestion

With the Twin Cities region already home to more highway miles per capita than most comparable metro areas, the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have called for traffic congestion approaches that put far less emphasis on major expansion of new roadway capacity and, instead, more emphasis on innovative approaches aimed at increasing access rather than creating free-flowing traffic conditions at all times on busy highways. This shift recognizes fiscal realities but also makes for smart public policy because of the nature of traffic congestion.  Read More

Managing the highway system

The existing Twin Cities highway system is critical to the mobility and access that affects the region’s economy and quality of life. But that same system is plagued with congestion – and dramatically expanding the roadway network is neither affordable nor a smart use of tax dollars. Maintenance and preservation must be the top priority for roadway infrastructure. And so the emphasis – and presumably the action – for highways is shifting away from the idea of building more and more lane miles to instead determining how best to improve and manage existing lane miles for better system-wide performance.  Read More

Transportation demand management

Traffic congestion is the result of a classic supply and demand problem – there’s more demand for road space at peak hours than the transportation system can handle. As demand outstrips supply, travelers pay the price in terms of traffic delays. Historically, governments in the U.S. have focused on increasing the supply of transportation infrastructure as a costly strategy to combat congestion. On the other side of the equation, efforts to reduce the demand for travel can ease congestion, usually at a much lower cost than adding roadway lane miles.  Read More

Transit and transit advantages

Transit service during peak drive times on busy transportation corridors prevents worsening congestion for travelers and gives commuters an important alternative to being stuck behind the wheel in gridlocked traffic. Transit, in effect, increases the capacity of major metropolitan thoroughfares, and in this way relieves congestion on the highway system. The theoretical link between transit and congestion is a simple one: Transit carries more travelers per vehicle, so the total number of vehicles needed to carry a given number of travelers on a road at a given time goes down. This reduces the strain on the road’s capacity, meaning less congestion.  Read More

Walking and biking

Walking and biking reduce the number of cars on the road, helping to alleviate traffic congestion. Already, a small but significant share of the workers in the Twin Cities area bike or walk to their jobs – 3.5 percent, according to Census Bureau estimates – and more than 10 percent of the workers living in Minneapolis use those modes to get to work. With local governments in the lead, the Twin Cities area has developed an extensive network of walkways and bikeways that commuters tap into. And the potential exists to increase the number of work trips made using these non-motorized means.  Read More

Land use, locations and destinations

Land use patterns matter. More compact development, and a mix of uses close by, allows people to reach destinations without driving cars for long distances and even without driving cars at all. When it comes to the efficient use of transportation infrastructure, concentrations of job sites are important. Transit-orientated development (TOD) has the potential to concentrate important destinations – for working, living or shopping – at nodes served by transit. However TOD faces challenges and obstacles that undermine the developers who seek to make it happen, including local zoning restrictions, land acquisition difficulties, the complexity of mixed-use development deals, adverse incentives from public-sector policies and programs, and the political dynamics of the public approval process.  Read More

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