The Edifying Eddington Study: Lessons for Virginia

There is a debate raging in the United Kingdom about the nation’s transportation future. As in the United States, traffic congestion is getting worse, it’s taking a major toll on the economy and people are moved to do something about it. Controversy has come to a head with the release of “The Eddington Transport Study,” a voluminous report that outlines a series of recommendations for action by Parliament.

I will confess: I have not read the entire document, but I have hit the highlights. A number of key findings are worth considering here in Virginia. Some excerpts:

  • Travel demand is growing rapidly due to continued economic success and is densely concentrated on certain parts of the networks at certain times of day. As a result, parts of the system are under serious strain. If left unchecked, the rising cost of congestion will waste an extra 22 billion [pounds sterling] worth of time in England alone by 2025. Then 13 percent of traffic will be subject to stop-start travel conditions.
  • The economic case for targeted new infrastructure is strong and offers very high returns — the best schemes offer returns in the region of 50-10 pounds for each pound invested. … Smaller projects which unblock pinch-points, variable infrastructure schemes to support public transport in urban areas, and international gateway surface projects are likely to offer the very highest returns, sometimes higher than 10 pounds for every pound spent.
  • “Build it and they will come” is a dangerous approach to transport projects which attempt to regenerate areas and regions. Often the result is a two-way process in which local businesses actually lose out as more productive and competitive firms from other regions can access the area and compete for previously protected markets.
  • Provided it is well targeted, a national road pricing scheme … could reduce congestion some 50 percent below what it otherwise would be in 2025 and reduce the economic case for additional strategic road infrastructure by some 80 percent. … Given the pace of economic change, pricing also offers considerable flexibility once in place. With pricing it becomes possible to respond to unanticipated change through changing prices much sooner — and at much lower cost — than bringing forward new infrastructure.

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5 responses to “The Edifying Eddington Study: Lessons for Virginia”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim, you are still confused. You are trying to address transportation as if it was about the efficient and safe movement of people and goods. In the “Good Old Boy” Commonwealth, it’s all about enriching the value of the real estate investments of a selected few. 😉

    What would be the return to the residents of Virginia if VDOT were permitted to address the worst 100 intersections in the state versus building [fill in the blank –e.g., third crossings, the Techway, the Outer Beltway, etc.]? Which projects are most likely to be funded first?

    In all seriousness, your efforts at raising issues and exposing data and information must be commended. They have motivated me to dig deeper in order to see what really goes on in the Old Dominion. Bravo!

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    You maniac! Why bother going to England for solutions when all you have to do is read today’s “Outlook” section of the WashPost.
    And inside-page opinion piece says that sprawl issues are a bunch of crock. There’s plenty of available land, traffic congestion isn’t that bad, public transit doesn’t work. I know EMR wouldn’t buy that, but it’s there. Take a look.
    I believe everything I read in the Post.

  3. E M Risse Avatar


    When you did into the report see if it talks about settlement pattern and the need to cut travel demand by evolving Balanced Communities.

    Anon 1:41:

    EMR will address the five points raised in the Reason Foundation’s attempt to support Autonomobility in due course.

    As you might guess there is some truth to the data found in each and the issues are framed to make one think that if these points are right there is no reason to be concerned with Autonomobility use or with human settlement patterns.

    That is what the sponsors would like readers to believe. The Reason Foundation (or what ever the think tank is called) makes a good living from taking the moral high ground for personal freedom and avoiding the issue of community responsibility and the cumulative impact of well intended actions.


  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    You know – out of all the services that government provides (or does not), the least appreciated is mobility.

    Before the government built roads with tax money – what was the state of mobility for the average person?

    This is not an esoteric question. The answer can be found right now. Get yourself to the wilds of South America and Africa or even Mexico and you can get an excellent idea of what this country looked like before the idea that each person would be taxed so that the government would buy right of way and lay down some kind of road.

    Before that happened, private entreprenurs acquired the right-of-way and built a road and charged a TOLL.

    I don’t think anyone would say that the progression of more and better mobility is a step back…. it clearly is the life blood of commerce in this country.

    When you order goods online – they often magically appear on your doorstep in an amazingly short amount of time…

    Mobility is the reason why.

    What I am opposed to is huge amounts of money squandered for the alleged purpose of mobility, when, in fact, it often is expensive infrastructure that does not really improve mobility but instead – being mobile – which is not the same thing.

    And so in discussion and blogs – I sometimes wonder if we are sometimes, in essence, arguing against mobility itself as a good thing.

    I would think a key goal of any “advance” in settlement patterns would be to be able to retain and expand and improve mobility. right?

  5. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley


    You have confused “mobility” with “accessibility.” Mobility is the ability to drive long distances. Accessibility is the ability for goods ordered online to appear magically on your doorstep in an amazingly short amount of time. Accessibility relates to the time for the trip. Mobility relates to the trip distance. We have a lot of groups who spend their time confusing us.

    Subsidizing mobility means subsidizing the Brewery in Saint Louis instead of the microbrewery in town. It means subsidizing the vegetable farmer in California instead of the one in Virginia.

    Accessibility means more opportunities to magically arrive at work in 30 minutes instead of having to drive or creep in congestion for an hour.

    The big problem is big dollars are being invested to continue this confusion. Articles compare the trip to work by car and by transit from one location. They do not discuss the trip from the standpoint of accessibility. They do not discuss how development patterns backed by SPRAWL zoning increase trip time and decrease accessibility.

    The VDOT favorite is to shift the conversation from accessibility to handicap access. The federal approach is to fund highways at a lower match then transit, creating the situation where accessibility discussions are rejected because the automobile is the only approach considered. The land use transportation connection is not even mentioned by the road gang.

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