Smart Technologies for Communities Act Will Help Save Oil, Ease Congestion and Save Lives

Last year the average American commuter spent 34 hours stuck in traffic, wasting 3.9 billion gallons of gas, at a cost of more than $115 trillion annually. Nearly 34,000 people were killed on the roads. We have the technology to make our roadways safer and more efficient, yet we lag far behind other developed nations in using it. Today, Congressmen on both sides of the aisle (Mike Rogers, Republican from Michigan, and Russ Carnahan, Democrat from Missouri) introduced important new legislation endorsed by NRDC that will help bring the latest transportation technologies to communities around the country. The Hill covered the introduction here, and ITS America has a bunch of information about it here.

These technology solutions, called Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS, are already being used in many European and Asian countries. They include things like traffic signals that respond to vehicles, electronic toll collection, signs that post real-time information on bus and train arrivals, and even parking meters that talk to your smartphone or GPS to help you find empty spaces.

Imagine the amount of hassle we’d save (not to mention fuel) if we could make a beeline toward an empty spot. I remember wasting countless hours cruising for parking (I called it “playing the parking game”) in the Adams-Morgan area of D.C. in my college days. That’s time I wish I could I have back!  (And speaking of time-sucks, I noticed that fans of parking guru Donald Shoup have started their own Facebook group, the Shoupistas.)

Investing in ITS is a total no-brainer. It’s popular (who doesn’t want help finding parking?), helps us reduce our oil dependence (simply upgrading our nation’s traffic lights could save us a million barrels of oil each day), and it’s just so cost-effective. The General Accountability Office says that the overall benefit-to-cost ratio of ITS improvements is about 9 to 1. Compare that to say, building a new highway, which has an estimated benefit-to-cost ratio of 2.7 to 1.

On top of that, investing in ITS creates good jobs. An average of 50 percent of ITS project spending goes straight into paychecks, as compared to 20 percent for new highway construction. And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that collision avoidance technology would prevent or reduce the impact of about 31 percent of all traffic accidents.

This bill will help Americans get where they need to go, safely, and on time.

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