A rush hour trip on a Friday in late July started at 7:10 a.m. in west Cobb. On I-75 from Canton Road the traffic was thick but moved at a slow to moderate speed. From I-285, it was a speed limit or faster drive on this day. Incidentally, the HOV lane had noticeably few vehicles, the usual situation at all times in my experience. The commute to Peachtree and Collier, 28 miles, took 55 minutes.
Some of the slowest traffic was not on the interstate but on the roads leading to it, which confirms one of the time killers in home-to-work commuting. It took about as long to get to I-75 as it did to travel the rest of the trip. More interstate lanes or mass transit won’t fix this problem.
Other recent, non-rush-hour trips – between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. — were made at the speed limit, thanks to no congestion. It was not clogged traffic that caused a problem but, ironically, speeding motorists stopped by state patrolmen lying in wait.
The point is that most of the planning for improving traffic conditions focuses on alleviating rush hour congestion through roadway expansion or modification or providing mass transit as an alternative. The planning comes from studies by consultants and “experts” of various sorts, usually smitten with the belief that the only good answer to traffic congestion is a rail system – light rail, bullet train, whatever, anything but more roadways.
It’s about time that some solid research is done to find out what commuters want and will accept as a means of commuting and traveling. Instead of a multi-million study of what transit system should be recommended for Cobb, how about an in-depth study of what the residents of Cobb – and outlying neighboring counties – will actually accept?
To that point, what is the optimum commute time? Is it the speed limit? Can we tolerate anything less than that? Even 10 minutes longer? Or 15 minutes? The next question: Is it possible to substantially reduce rush-hour traffic by any of the means being discussed including bus or light rail? My guess: No, and especially when the clogging caused by new construction is taken into account. In fact, it would get worse.
And may I ask: what is the responsibility of the rush-hour commuter? For example, if I don’t want to endure slow traffic in rush hours, could I leave home earlier to miss the worst congestion? There are many ideas that should be explored, but you can be sure that not one of them is going to provide a setup that will get every commuter to work and back at the speed limit every day. The word for that is fantasy. So let’s get real with some down-to-earth studies of what will work with real people, not high-priced “experts.”