Gary A. Oddi
March 12, 2017
We often look at the issue of transit in terms fixing old infrastructure for autos and trucks, while ignoring new technology, old proven systems, and innovative thinking about how we get to where we want and need to go. Sub – urban sprawl has strangled our movement since the 1960’s. It’s now time to finally instill an upward spiral of safe, stress – reducing, and economy boosting transit systems.
Three compelling arguments for increasing alternative transportation are Safety and Health, Environmental Impact, and Economics. There is increasing empirical data to support the movement toward alternative means of transportation and reducing the number of autos and trucks on the roads.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Scientific America; “Commuting times have steadily increased in the U.S., and the rising problem of congestion has only exacerbated the issue of wasting time, money and fuel. In 2011, congestion caused Americans to travel an extra 5.5 billion hours and purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel, leading to a $121 billion price tag to congestion (not to mention 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere due to urban congestion). The annual delay for the average commuter has been steadily rising since the 1980s, more than doubling to 38 hours of delays in 2011 for the average commuter and wasting an extra week’s worth of fuel for the average U.S. driver. In urban areas with more than 3 million people, commuters had an average of 52 hours of delay a year.”
Compared to active commuting (riding transit like trains and light rail), driving on freeways and long driving commutes are far more dangerous and have a negative impact on the economy. There are 0.05 deaths per 100 million passenger miles on buses and trains versus 0.72 deaths per 100 million passenger miles in cars.
One major problem in the modern world is prolonged stress. STRESS is known to be one of the greatest causes of death. Stress also reduces the quality of life in many ways. It lowers performance and production in many areas of life. Considering “active travel” as opposed to “stress inducing driving” makes a great argument for alternative forms of transportation.
According to Evans and Wener, “Car commuters showed significantly higher levels of reported stress and, more negative mood.” Commuting also has significant psychological and social costs. It can be a major cause of stress due to the unpredictability and a sense of loss of control. Commuters can experience boredom, social isolation, and anger and frustration from problems like traffic or delays.
Stress has been linked to illnesses that include cancer, lung disease, fatal accidents, suicide, and cirrhosis of the liver. A 2014 study by Adam Martin, Yevgeniy Goryakin, Andros Marc Suhrcke found that “psychological well-being, including ability to concentrate and happiness, was higher for people commuting by active travel like walking or public transport compared to driving. Furthermore, switching from car driving to active travel resulted in improved well-being. Longer travel time for walkers actually improved well-being whereas the opposite was true for drivers. In contrast, driving requires constant concentration and can result in increased boredom, social isolation, and stress.”
Changing the transportation paradigm from “autos only” to “public transit, viable walking and biking communities” will add to the health, lifestyle, and economy of communities and the nation. Our local politicians must work to deliver our country one of the best Gross National Happiness ratings while giving our economy a boost. Research tells us that building viable alternative transportation networks and fixing old “car only” networks will create good jobs, improve our health care system, and improve the production of our current work force. This is consistent with the promise made to the working class of America!
For the first time in an over a half century, there is optimism about rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Including alternative forms of transportation, (trails, walking, biking, and public transit), as a part of the rebuilding of the infrastructure will ultimately solve the nation's problems with traffic congestion. This commitment to all forms of transportation will empower Planners, Politicians, and Citizens to build and benefit from alternative healthy transportation corridors (Breaking the paradigm of “car is the only way to go.”)
It’s time to get passed all the trivial rhetoric from years of partisan closed – minded power plays. Let’s rebuild our infrastructure in a way that encourages healthy / stress – free movement! Ultimately improving our life style and encouraging our potential to thrive!