Traffic congestion is the problem-What’s the solution?

Traffic congestion in the narrow Madison Isthmus is the problem. It’s made worse by HWY 151 and other through traffic going right through the center of Madison instead of around it. Any solution must attack this problem and adding commuter trains will only make it worse.
Solutions?

Short term: computerized traffic light controls that can respond to changing conditions- football game traffic, snow storms, local events like jogging competitions. Do massive catch up re-build the “F” rated county roads to safer, high capacity feeder roads that provide alternate routes to the beltline or Fed/state or I systems. Instead of ignoring traffic congestion, or chasing federal dollars for a “sexier” train that will make congestion worse, attack the problem. I think they call it sound public policy.

Taking a systematic look at flex time for Fed, State, County city employees- nationally people who telecommute take more drivers off the road than all the transit systems. Vary start, ending times where practicle- allow one day a week work at home where feasible.

Long term: gradually over a period of years move Federal, State, County and if feasible some city workers off the Isthmus. The UW and State Cap aren’t going anywhere and shouldn’t.  But do we need the DNR downtown? (I don’t know if they are or not, but we have packed the square area with Fed, State, county and city offices)  Does GEFF I and II really need to be just off the square? You think Brodhead or Oregon would like to have 200 hundred state workers toiling away and spending dough in their downtown areas?
Build bypass or a full circle beltline around and away from the city. It works.  It has worked in in city after city.You must build with or ahead of the traffic not bury your head in the the sand and say, “I hate cars, roads and parking” deal with the problem instead of trying to make it worse.

Finally, even the Transport 2020 report states that with commuter rail Madison traffic congestion will worsen. In fact, though not mentioned in the report, crossing just under 60 streets- about 40 in the Isthmus alone – 8,000 times a day with at grade train* crossings will make traffic congestion dramatically worse on the first day the billion dollar train picks up its first passenger after 4 or five years of construction.

* At grade just means the RR tracks cross over the roads- stopping all traffic, all directions; auto, bicycle, pedestrian – and emergency vehicles. The tracks and the streets are at the same grade. This is NOT a subway or elevated system that is proposed, but will have 9,  70-80 Ton Diesel powered locomotives pushing or pulling 70 ton passenger cars crossing and stopping traffic 80 to 160 times a day on nearly 60 different streets! Can you say Gridlock?

If you add the five bikepaths/ bikeways and Pedestrian overwalks of the RR tracks it adds up to over 9,000 times a day the trains will stop all traffic-bikes, walkers, cars, trucks and all emergency vehicles. Think about that. Would you want to be the guy or gal bouncing along in the Ambulance after a heart attack or stroke and you are stranded at multiple RR crossings as the half full trains whiz by at 23 MPH?  No? ( Me either)

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4 Responses to “Traffic congestion is the problem-What’s the solution?”

  1. DaneCountyRTA Says:

    Traffic congestion along the Isthmus is one of many problems facing the Madison Metropolitan Area over the next few decades. Another growing problem is that the cost of relieving congestion with road building is also skyrocketing. A 2005 Reason Foundation Study suggests that the cost per delay-hour saved to relieve congestion in Madison is about $13.70. Worse yet, a 2006 FHWA study suggests that the net return on investment of road building has been declining since the mid 70’s and is now at a point where the government could get as good a return by simply leaving the money in the private sector. And one more thing: VMT has actually declined in Madison, in Wisconsin and across the country over the last 5 years, and this decline started well before the current recession did.

    What this all suggests is that road building may not be the most cost effective way to deal with congestion problems in 2020 and beyond. The Madison Metropolitan area is at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to attracting new business by building roads due to the high cost of relieving congestion. The big reason is that there is limited room for new roads along the Isthmus, and because of the huge amount of pavement that would have to be put down to circumnavigate the lakes. Worse yet, if we did decide to build a full beltline to address congestion, development patterns would be pushed to where the new transportation dollars were spent. And that means that the bus service would become less efficient since it would have to cover more territory, and a les s efficient bus system will generally lead to less routes and less ridership. Less people on buses means we will need yet more expensive roadway to address this induced congestion. Oh, and did I mention that 68% of local road costs in Wisconsin are covered by your property taxes?

    Telecommuting, more flexible work hours, and better signal coordination can certainly do their part to address congestion in the short term, but sooner or later the endless cycle of growth will overwhelm these measures. At that point we will be faced again with the same choice of high-priced roads or expensive transit. If we wait for 20 years before starting a rail line, the price will only get worse as land acquisition costs grow and grow. Not only that, but the lack of a rail line will also influence development patterns. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to attract ridership on transit.

    The opposite is true if we invest now in Commuter Rail: The permanence of Rail lines tends to attract compact development that actually makes the train more efficient in the longer term. This is not the case for buses or for road building. Dense living is not for everyone, but studies suggest upto 30% of Americans are looking for this type of lifestyle. Judging by the skyrocketing costs of housing in dense, human-scaled communities, we aren’t building enough to meet demand. When it comes to attracting high-tech professionals, the opportunity offered by providing more compact urban environment is where commuter rail’s advantage lies for the Madison Metropolitan Area. Rail tends to attract high-income professionals much more than buses do, and the development patterns they induce are also attractive.
    Rail’s advantage in terms of the cost to attract new businesses to the area and spur growth is one of the main reasons I support the creation of an RTA and a Commuter Rail line.

    • thegreattrainrobbery Says:

      Response to “DaneCountyRTA”, above: This is a party line analysis of pro rail, pro-transit thinking, that is fed by corporate greed. The vast majority of consultants who do transit analysis are working to get mega projects approved. There is big money in this line of thinking. And those who believe people will get out of their cars to ride on an train which will require multiple transfers, inconvenience, and crushing amounts of time have taken the bait hook, line, and sinker.

      Our economy is in the tank right now. We have plenty of real estate for sale and vacancies in every price range and in every density you desire. We have public transit along the most densely populated and not so densely populated areas of the City of Madison, yet the greatest increase in ‘transit’ is telecommuting!

      The build-the-trains-now-and-they-will-come is wishful thinking. This is not an abstract. No matter where these train systems are built, there will only be a tiny percentage of users. Trains and transit systems do not help those who work third shift, or people who have disabilities, or people who are afraid of the vandals who populate bus stops after dark, or households that need to get their kids to school and they work in the opposite direction. Our population is aging and these folks aren’t going to stand outside when it is +20 degrees or colder just so they can take a train or bus. We need to look at on-demand access. a not so sexy or well funded enterprise.

      Think about the needs that people have and not the lust for well funded transportations systems that have more to do with hardware than the people using it.

      • DaneCountyRTA Says:

        My comments are not party line – they are based on person research into the dynamics of transportation and land use policy. My opinion is not fed by corporate greed, or biased by consultants. I am not saying people will get out of their cars in general; I am saying there are some people, demonstrated by many studies, who would prefer an alternative to driving for their commute.

        Transport 2020 is not about addressing the economy or biggest problems today – it is about building an attractive and virbant area for the future (hence the name Transport **2020**). Much of the anticipated growth by 2020 will occur at the endpoints of the potential commuter rail line.

        For the proposed Commuter Rail line in Dane County, “Build it and they will come” is not wishful thinking – it is a carefully researched conclucion arrived at by considering the expressed wishes of Dane County residents during the Vision2020 process, and weighing those wishes against many options including no build, bus only, a full light rail system, and a few flavors of commuter rail. The locally preferred alternative identified in T2020 was chosen because it was the most cost-effective solution to fulfull the wishes expressed during Vision2020.

        Commuter rail is totally about meeting the needs that people expressed during the Vision2020 process. It is not about the hardware at all. the hardware was chosen based on its abillity to deliver what people said they wanted in 2020.

  2. DaneCountyRTA Says:

    Are the comments working again?

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