Seven Bipartisan Fixes to Our Transportation Problems

Here in D.C. we often bemoan the fact that we can’t all just get along. But when it comes to transportation, we actually CAN get along. And now we’ve got it in writing. A new joint report by three organizations from all points in the political spectrum -- the left-leaning Transportation for America, the centrist Taxpayers for Common Sense, and the right-leaning Reason Foundation, points out seven taxpayer-friendly solutions for national transportation problems.

These fixes are economical, good for the environment, and everyone can agree on them. I’ve been writing about several of these solutions in my blog, such as Bus Rapid Transit, Intelligent Transportation Systems, telecommuting, high-occupancy toll lanes and intercity buses. 

A couple of other fixes are perhaps less familiar, such as scenario planning. Scenario planning requires regions and states to do what any good business does – develop multiple scenarios of future growth, figure out what scenario works best, and plan for it accordingly. It seems like common sense, but very few states and regions actually do this.

The Thomas Jefferson District Planning Commission in central Virginia, is one of the few that has used this tool. They used scenario planning to develop a vision of growth that required half the transportation investment and reduced congestion 24 percent compared to their business as usual scenario. Scenario planning gives local officials a goal to work toward when creating policy, rather than merely trying to accommodate a single, inflexible vision of growth. It’s a far better use of taxpayer dollars.

Local street connectivity is another tool that everybody thinks is a good idea. What this means is using more grids instead of cul-de-sacs. Have you ever been in one of those developments where there’s only one big arterial road, with no sidewalk or bike lane, that connects dozens of residential developments? There’s only one road for everyone to get anywhere. In some places you have to get on the interstate just to get to your grocery store. A grid system gives you a lot more ways to get from A to B, and that improves traffic flow.

Cities across the country, like Cary, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas, have instituted new requirements for street connectivity. Delaware and Virginia have state requirements for new developments to meet minimum connectivity ratios. The Virginia Department of Transportation says encouraging builders to meet these requirements will help avoid costly highway expansions.

Lawmakers should pay close attention to these solutions as Congress works on the next transportation bill. They are fiscally responsible and environmentally beneficial, and should command the respect of the left and the right.