TTI’s Multi-Pronged Approach to Congestion Mitigation

The Texas Transportation Institute has published the 2007 Urban Mobility Report, the most comprehensive study of traffic congestion conducted anywhere in the country. The main conclusion offers few surprises: Traffic congestion is getting worse almost everywhere.

“There is no ‘magic’ technology or solution on the horizon because there is no single cause of congestion,” says study co-author Tim Lomax, a research engineer at TTI. “The good news is that there are multiple strategies involving traffic operations and public transit available right now that if applied together, can lessen this problem.”

The report recommends a multi-pronged approach to addressing traffic congestion:

  • Create more travel options. Mass transit, telecommuting, and congestion pricing that allows travelers to bypass congestion when time is critical.
  • Add capacity. The traditional solution. There’s no getting around it. But it’s only a partial solution.
  • Manage demand. “Transportation system demand and land use patterns are linked and influence each other,” says the study. “Among the tools that can be employed are better management of arterial street access, incorporating bicycle and pedestrian elements, better parking strategies, assessing transportation impact before a development is pproved for construction, and encouraging more diverse development patterns.” Got it? Tim Lomax, Mr. Traffic Engineer, says land use is critical. (Now, if we could just sell him on the concept of Balanced Communities.)
  • Increase system efficiency. Make micro-level improvements to intersections, traffic signals and freeway entrance ramps, and do a better job of managing special events and traffic accidents. Less sexy than opening a new four-lane bypass, but a lot more cost effective.
  • Construction management and maintenance. Road construction projects designed to mitigate congestion are themselves a cause of congestion. Provide contractor inventives to complete work ahead of schedule, or penalties for missing construction milestones. Use design-build strategies. Undertake maintenance in tandem with construction projects to minimize delays.
  • Congestion pricing. Use variable-pricing tolls to allocate access to scarce roadway capacity.

Although Virginia’s transportation strategy is overwhelmingly geared to adding new capacity, whether roadway or mass transit, Virginia is inching towards Lomax’s multi-pronged approach. Congestion pricing is coming to the transportation arteries of Northern Virginia, and perhaps, later, to Hampton Roads. Attention is being given to land use at last, though little concrete has been accomplished yet. On the other hand, there seems to be a strong bias in favor of highly visible mega-projects as opposed to micro-projects that would offer a higher return on investment.

Finally, I would add one critical component to Lomax’s list. States need to move to a beneficiary-pays system for raising transportation dollars. That means (a) a gasoline tax (or, better, Vehicle Miles Driven tax) to pay for roadway maintenance, (b) congestion tolls to allocate scarce roadway capacity and fund corridor improvements, (c) privately funded projects to build new bridges and limited-access highways, and (d) Community Development Authorities and Tax Increment Financing to help pay for projects where developers expect a big increase in property values.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


2 responses to “TTI’s Multi-Pronged Approach to Congestion Mitigation”

  1. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Funny how ya just never see the recommendation to restrict all business traffic to off-peak hours and free up the roads for commuters as a strategy for reducing congestion?!

    Make the trucks and local business travel take place after 11:00 PM and before 6:00 AM.

    Removing all the TRUCK TRAFFIC from the roadways during the prime commuting hurs can do a lot to reduce traffic congestion.

    Oh … but the business lobby would NEVER stand for anyone interferring with their use of the roads – whever business wants to use the roads.

    Here’s another idea – change the hours of operation for governbment workers that do not interact directly with citizens. Presto!

    A whole lot of commuters are off the roadways and shifted to commuting to non-peak usage times, when the roadways are foten under utilized and well below capacity.

    Oh wait – the government workers lobby wouldn’t support that! Why … you mean government workers would have to work at times they don’t want to work?

    Well, we can’t have THAT! Those government voting blocks are too likely to throw the politicians out of office if they did that!

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “,,,and encouraging more diverse development patterns.”

    Diverse has the meaning different, opposite, or separate.

    Whereas the word divers has the meaning several, many, or various.

    It is common to use diverse when we mean divers, and I supect Lomax chose the wrong one.


    Mass transit is even more expensive than adding road capacity, and almost always has a net negative social cost. Not that it should not be considered, butt it should be used very carefully, or else it is a booddoggle.


    And you don’t think any of this list amounts to social engineering.


Leave a Reply