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The Road More Traveled: Why the Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It Hardcover – September 27, 2006
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
This book adds three unusual assets to the congestion debate--it's bright and readable, chock-full of facts, and provides real world solutions. The Road More Traveled should be required reading not only for planners and their students, but for anyone who loves cities and wants them to thrive as real places, not merely as museums, in the 21st century. (Joel Kotkin)
The Road More Traveled is a well-written, logical, and practical approach to congestion mitigation in America. I strongly encourage that it be read by every public policy maker who is struggling for real solutions to the traffic congestion crisis facing our nation. It dispels long-standing myths, replaces them with factual data, and offers results-based solutions. (S. David Doss)
The Road More Traveled provides a thoughtful analysis on the causes of congestion and offers detailed suggestions for relieving it in America's cities. Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion. (Mary E. Peters)
The Road More Traveled clearly outlines the transportation infrastructure problems facing our country and examines several innovative funding solutions. This book will change the way Americans view our highways and interstates and show them how we can build better roads at less expense for the next generation. (Senator Jim DeMint)
The Road More Traveled is an important wake-up call to us all, but especially to policy makers and transportation officials. Balaker and Staley convincingly show how costly traffic conjestion is. But more importantly they demonstrate that the defeatists who claim that we should just learn to live with gridlock are wrong. The book lays out a road map for restoring our lost mobility. One can only hope that policy makers, government officials, community leaders, and the media read this book. (Robert D. Atkinson)
Many people complain about highway traffic and many policy makers respond with plans for more transit and more HOV lanes. To help us all get past the quackery, Balaker and Staley argue persuasively for policies that might actually work. Buy their book, read it, and then send it on to your favorite political representative. (Peter Gordon)
About the Author
Ted Balaker is the Jacobs Fellow and editor of Privatization Watch at the Reason Foundation. Balaker spent five years with ABC Network News producing pieces on a wide array of issues, including privatization, government reform, regulation, addiction, the environment, and transportation policy. Sam Staley is director of urban and land use policy at the Reason Foundation. He is also senior fellow at both the Indiana Policy Review Foundation and the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. Staley has more than 25 years of experience working in urban policy and has written more than 80 professional articles and reports and his commentary has been nationally syndicated. He is the author of Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities (1992) and Planning Rules and Urban Economic Performance: The Case of Hong Kong (1994), and co-editor of Smarter Growth: Market-Based Strategies for Land Use Planning in the 21st Century (2001).
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The authors key point is a simple one: mobility matters. It matters economically and it matters socially. The ability of citizens of modest means to travel expeditiously and cheaply opens up to those citizens a wider range of job opportunities and social interactions than would otherwise be available. Mobility makes our economy richer and social lives more fulfilling. Part of the promise of a free society can only be obtained if we are free to navigate the physical landscape on which that society exists. Your ability to travel 10 miles or 25 miles or 50 miles to commute, to shop to visit friends and relatives, makes your life richer than it would be if your freedom of movement were limited to narrow corridors or tight spheres.
A couple of examples: the authors point to dating patterns in a large metropolitan area which have been limited to realtively tight geographic areas due to the hassle that navigating traffic congestion poses to the process of looking for mates further afield. Simply put: A person won't seek to date whom he or she cannot easily reach. This point is further brought home in the case of two income-earner households who have to balance career choices with the demands of conflicting commutes. Ideally, both spouses/partners would take the job that provides him/her with the greatest individual benefits, allowing both to achieve maximum income and job satisfaction. Where mobility constraints require a person to design a career around a commuting pattern it becomes very difficult for both spouses/partners to maximize career opportunities.
The authors make an important and common sense point that is nontheless viewed as controversial in our day and age. To wit: no device enhances personal mobility more than an automobile. For some reason I cannot understand, the automobile has come to be viewed as an evil to be tolerated and not as a tool that has enabled the widest possible share of the population to take full advantage of the range of economic and social opportunities open to those who can physically access them. Instead planners and activists have foisted on the general populace the notion that we are "addicted" to the automobile and must be incentivized or coerced into living in extreme density and travelling on fixed rail. The most powerful cudgel these elements have to force the general population to throw up its hands and give in is to freeze roadway expansion, force us to choke on our own desire for transportation and accept a prescription of fixed rail transit.
The authors persuasively take on the most pervasive arguments of this congestion lobby. I won't repeat all of their take downs here. My favorite is their evisceration of oft-repeated (and never examined) notion that (let's all say it together) "we cannot build our way out of congestion." Uh, yes we can, and the notion that it is somehow per se impractical or "wrong" to add capacity to a system functioning at or above capacity would never be applied if the system at issue were a school system, healthcare system or mass transit system.
Every public official who is charged with transportation planning, and every citizen who is interested in the subject of mobility should read this book.
Its two hardest-hitting chapters are an eloquent defense of suburbia (debunking ten myths) and an exposé on the "congestion coalition" which has perversely encouraged and acquiesced in congestion in the misguided belief that "it's good for us." The chapter on the "congestion coalition" has some interesting analysis on that ubiquitous planning agency known as an "MPO."
But by far the most valuable section of the book is its four chapters of real-world examples and practical suggestions. The authors draw our attention to the innovative ways in which massive public projects are being planned and financed overseas, with some suggestions on how those techniques might be used in the US. There is a fascinating chapter on how Houston "built its way out of congestion." -- and an equally fascinating chapter on the success of variable tolling on the 91 Express Lanes in Orange County, California. Chapter 10 offers a variety of practical suggestions on how to tame congestion. Suggestion one: "Build sufficient road capacity to handle the growth in travel demand."
The last chapter is a clarion call to action. It lays out Ten Steps to Congestion Relief beginning with "Admit that Mobility is good" and ending with a challenge to "Take the Long View."
The notion that we cannot build our way out of congestion is wrong. It's wrong historically, and it's wrong technically. Projects in the United States and around the world show us over and over again that we have the engineering capabilities to build new capacity and manage existing networks more effectively.
Congestion has risen to stifling levels because we have failed locally and nationally to make mobility a public-sector priority. It's time to reestablish mobility as a priority for transportation policy at the national, state, and local levels. Moreover, it's important to realize that zero gridlock is a viable goal for regional transportation planning. We have the tools. Public opinion supports it. The funding is there to put meaningful strategies in motion and implement real solutions. What we lack is the leadership to make it happen.
"America never has permanent shortages," frustrated Texas legislator Mike Krusee observes, "except in one thing: transportation. Many Americans think congestion is inevitable; it is not. It is a breadline, it is un-American, and we should not tolerate it."
It's time now to put the right strategies in place to improve mobility for everyone and eliminate congestion in America's cities. (page 177)
Without endorsing every suggestion made by the authors, I nonetheless encourage as many as possible to read and reflect on the important ideas in this book.
Robert G. Shearer
City Manager, City of Mt. Juliet