February 10, 2015

Ohrn Words: “Beyond Traffic”

The US Department of Transportation has released a 322-page comprehensive draft report on infrastructure and transportation trends in the next 30 years:


 Beyond Traffic

Report here.



The conclusion ends with:  “The future is always a choice”.

Across the country, cities are looking for ways to attract and retain young workers and promote local economic development. A survey conducted by the American Planning Association found that only 8% of Millennials would prefer to live in an auto-dependent suburb.

In Denver, city leaders have heard from both residents and business leaders that building a comprehensive bicycle network should be a top priority in order to attract and retain young people and the businesses that employ them. As a result, Denver’s Downtown Area Plan outlines a specific strategy to build protected bike lanes to promote mobility and economic development.

Some cities are becoming laboratories for new types of transportation, including ridesharing and ride sourcing services, enhanced cycling facilities, and an expanding set of transit options.

However, if cities cannot find ways to affordably accommodate increased population growth, suburbs will grow at a faster rate. We may increasingly find ourselves in a world where some cities become the domain of the affluent, while those with less wealth must contend with congestion on metropolitan outskirts.

As income inequality increases, and poverty becomes suburbanized, the provision of affordable housing and transportation options will become an increasingly important policy challenge.

A discussion of pedestrians and bicycles starts on page 225.

The report concludes with two scenarios.  My personal opinion is that in Metro Vancouver, we are in peril of personifying the scenario entitled “Drifting Toward Gridlock”.

Drifting Toward Gridlock: Conclusion

In general, public cynicism about transportation increases. Vehicle manufacturers advertise their products’ strong suspensions and entertainment capabilities. The quality of the transportation workforce declines, as the industry is considered a backwater, while nations such as China showcase the latest technologies and operational enhancements. Political and business leaders speak of “managing the decline,” and openly predict not just gridlock in the transportation system—but complete economic gridlock as well.


PT: In 30 years, I doubt the U.S. (or us) will be ‘beyond traffic.’  What they mean, likely, is ‘beyond congestion.’   But experience has shown, so far, that a city that has no congestion is not really a city: a place where people, things, money, ideas and DNA come together for exchange.

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  1. What does the report say about buses vs RAPID transit ie subways, LRTs, elevated rail based systems ?

    What does it say about workers, formerly young and biking, now 10 or 20 years older with kids ? Is the need for urban dense living the same ?

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