traffic congestion

Striking Findings from Pew, CFM Research During 2018

Among the most striking research findings during 2018 is that a majority of US teens fear a mass shooting at the school they attend.

Among the most striking research findings during 2018 is that a majority of US teens fear a mass shooting at the school they attend.

The year is almost over and it’s time for retrospectives. Pew Research Center has shared “18 striking findings.” We have a few of our own to share.

 Here are a few of the striking findings by Pew during 2018:

  • The number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has declined from its peak of 12.2 million in 2007.

  • The number of refugees resettled in the United States decreased more in 2017 than the rest of the world.

  • Younger Americans are better than their elders at separating fact from opinion.

  • A declining share of US Catholics say Pope Francis is doing a good job.

  • A majority of US teens fear a mass shooting at their school.

  • Almost 70 percent of Americans indicate they are worn out by the news. More Republicans say they are fatigued than Democrats.

  • Income inequality in America is greatest among Asians.

  • Bots on Twitter may be responsible for more link-sharing than human tweeters.

  • Almost 60 percent of women in the United States say they have been sexually harassed.

CFM has also been busy conducting research in 2018. Here are some of the findings we are able to share:

  • People in the Pacific Northwest are more optimistic about the way things are going than the rest of the country. Republicans are more pessimistic than Democrats.

  • Republicans and Democrats have significantly different opinions about key issues such as education and transportation. Opinions among Independents are closer to Republicans than Democrats.

  • People expect it will be decades before transportation issues are addressed adequately.

  • The share of people who rely on newspapers for information has declined by 50 percent during the past 10 years. Old-fashioned word of mouth and digital news outlets are now preferred sources.

  • Next to traffic congestion, one of the most commonly mentioned civic challenges is homelessness.

Hold onto your hat because 2019 appears like another storm approaching, with loads of opportunities to take the temperature of Americans around the country and in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Traffic Congestion Should Drive Transportation Innovation

As traffic congestion worsens, frustrated motorists, planners and politicians are starting to demand new ideas, including giant buses that straddle roadways, using airspace not wider right of ways.

As traffic congestion worsens, frustrated motorists, planners and politicians are starting to demand new ideas, including giant buses that straddle roadways, using airspace not wider right of ways.

Mayor Charlie Hales says Portland should be viewed as a major American city, and the worsening level of congestion here proves his point. Portland ranks ninth among the most traffic-jammed cities in America, trailing Washington, D.C., but worse than Chicago.

The good news about growing congestion: the situation is getting bad enough that motorists, planners and politicians are demanding fresh ideas and better answers. 

First the bad news. According to the TomTom Traffic Index, North American traffic congestion has jumped 17 percent since 2008 compared to a 13 percent global increase. Congestion declines in Europe, especially in Italy and Spain, may be due to weaker economic performance.

A more recent survey by INRIX that was reported in the Portland Tribune pinpointed several Portland-area corridors as among the most congested in the country. No surprise to regular Portland-area commuters and truckers, they include potions of Highway 26, Highway 217, I-5, I-84 and I-205. 

The growing presence of light rail, buses, cars and pedestrians across Portland adds to the congestion on surface roads.

The growing presence of light rail, buses, cars and pedestrians across Portland adds to the congestion on surface roads.

“Urbanization continues to drive increased congestion in major cities worldwide,” the INRIX survey said. “Strong economies, population growth, higher employment rates and declining gas prices have resulted in more drivers on the road and more time wasted in traffic."

The Portland Tribune cited a report by the Value of Jobs Coalition that projects worsening congestion could cost the Oregon economy $1 billion by 2040, with most of that price tag in the Portland area.

At a personal level, slower commutes can eat up between 50 and 60 hours per driver a year. Slow-motion traffic often becomes an invitation to check out phone messages or engage in other distracted driving activities, which can lead to accidents that slow down traffic even more. Or as one cynical Portland driver put it, “A fender bender can bring Portland traffic to a crashing halt.”

Now some good news. Los Angeles, which remains the most congested city in America, is attempting to diversify its transportation network with an expanded light rail network to take pressure off its overloaded freeways. Some of Portland’s highly congested corridors already have parallel light rail routes. Planners are now exploring a new light rail line extending from downtown Portland south to Tigard and Tualatin.

The challenge of light rail, street cars and buses is they are ensnared in congestion on surface roads the same as cars, trucks and bicycles. Fixed guideway transportation sometimes shrinks road space for cars.

This map traces the route of a tunnel that will replace Seattle's crumbling Alaskan Way Viaduct. The expensive project has been fraught with drilling complications.

This map traces the route of a tunnel that will replace Seattle's crumbling Alaskan Way Viaduct. The expensive project has been fraught with drilling complications.

Many urban areas don’t have a lot of room – or political appetite – to expand roadways. That has caused some cities to consider other options. Seattle is replacing the aging, unsightly Alaskan Way Viaduct with a massive and expensive underground tunnel. If not for the expense – and complications of drilling long tunnels, Portland might consider ditching the Marquam Bridge and putting I-5 underground as it goes through downtown Portland.

Another line of thinking is to use the airspace above roadways. Chinese engineers have developed a modern-looking straddle bus that can roll down a roadway overtop cars without adding to congestion or taking up a lane of traffic. The bus, which resembles a moving bridge, runs on rails built flush with the road, not requiring sequestered road space. Unlike subways that require a lot of digging, the only infrastructure needed for the straddle bus are elevated stations.

A prototype of the Chinese straddle bus, which is electric powered, reaches speeds up to 40 mph and carries as many as 1,400 passengers, will be tested this summer after the idea has languished since it was first conceived as far back as 1969. 

With tempers flaring and commute times expanding, there has never been a better time to think differently about how we get around.