- Although self-driving cars may ease traffic congestion, the technology could mean more cars on the road and increased urban sprawl, according to a report by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Economic Forum.
- A traffic simulation model developed by the consortium found that smoother driving patterns, steadier speeds and more gradual braking would contribute to reductions in traffic time and pollution, despite having more vehicles on the road.
- But because self-driving vehicles could ease the pain of commuting, the group estimates that people might live farther away from the city, adding to more urban sprawl.
Traffic congestion is a pain point for many. Today, it takes an average worker 26 minutes to get to work, according to a report from The Washington Post. Commute times have risen 20% since the Census started tracking this data in 1980. Not only is congestion stressful and inconvenient — it’s expensive. In 2016, commuters lost an estimated $300 billion, or about $1,400 per driver, to waiting in gridlock.
Self-driving cars are one potential way to ease the stereotypical peak time congestion. But, while widespread adoption of the technology could be years away, planners are exploring alternative methods.
Roads are the obvious answer to looking at heavy traffic problems. Maryland governor Larry Hogan announced a $230 million initiative to ease traffic on the I-270 corridor in Montgomery County, an area that sees more than 250,000 vehicles per day and is notorious for its jams. Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is investing millions in an Active Traffic Management system through I-76 in Philadelphia.
Another area to examine is public transportation. Looking at he public transportation scores of cities with at least 250,000 residents, the Center for Neighborhood Technology and TransitCenter Center for Neighborhood Technology found the 12 U.S. cities with the strongest public transportation systems. Although the usual suspects are on the list, such as New York, Chicago and Washington, DC, other smaller cities ranked among those with solid transit systems in place.
Public transit doesn't just need be restricted to urban areas. The American Public Transit Association issued a report earlier this month that rural public transit is on the rise, making rural areas worth taking a look at when deciding on infrastructure investments.