|Given the powerful impact of the private automobile on our economic well-being, it is no surprise that the per capita vehicle miles of travel increases steadily. This would pose little problem if highway capacity kept up with this growth. This was largely the case until the 1980’s, when congestion began a steady rise in nearly all metropolitan areas, large and small.
This growth has been well documented. Each year since 1982 the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) has issued a report tabulating the extent of traffic congestion by measuring delay times for nearly 100 metropolitan areas. The TTI considers three characteristics of traffic delay: the length of average delay, the hours per day during which the delay is encountered and share of total travel time that is delayed. Based on these measures, overall congestion has worsened nearly ten-fold between 1982 and 2002.
Do not misinterpret the cause of congestion: the problem is not the use of the private automobile. Rather, the problem is the lack of capacity. The solution will be found in increasing that capacity.
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