OKC Fares Well in Traffic Congestion Report

By May, Bill | THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

OKC Fares Well in Traffic Congestion Report


May, Bill, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Here's something that ranks in the "so what's new" category of news reporting. Traffic is increasing on metropolitan Oklahoma City freeways and, as a result, so is congestion.
Still, highway congestion here is nothing like it is in some major cities, according to the Urban Mobility Report 2002 from the Texas Transportation Institute.
Of the 100 most-congested cities, Oklahoma City comes in at No. 64, while Tulsa is ranked 57, meaning that there is more congestion in Tulsa than in Oklahoma City.
That's because Oklahoma City has better arterial streets and traffic flow, says Linda Koenig, director of the transportation planning division of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.
"Our arterial system means that the city is able to handle the incidents on the freeway," she said. "We've got a good potential of getting on and off the freeways."
The average Oklahoma City motorist spent an average of one hour per month in congestion in 2000, the latest year for which figures are available, according to the report.
This is up from three hours per year in 1982.
While the congested hours jumped by 300 percent in 18 years, the amount of vehicle miles traveled also is up considerably.
Traffic during rush time, though, is 8,930 vehicle miles traveled, up only 83 percent from 4,885 in 1982.
Local congestion is nothing compared to that experienced in Los Angeles, the most-congested city in the United States. There, motorists spend 136 hours per year locked in traffic.
Traffic in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., is only slightly better than that in Los Angeles, according to the report.
The average American motorist spent a total of 62 hours, nearly 2.5 days annually in traffic, up from 16 hours in 1982. The national cost for this congestion was a whopping $68 billion in wasted gasoline and time.
As roadways lock up during peak travel times, groups across the nation are calling for other measures to relieve some of the burden on highways.
Cities and states should invest more in public transit systems, says the American Public Transportation Association.
Several Oklahoma groups also have called for more investment in public transit systems as well as more money for rail passenger service in general.
Improving city bus service, building a rail-based commuter line and improving rail service around the metropolitan area would ease traffic on the freeways, the groups contend.
The Texas A&M University study does not consider such factors as ridership on public transit systems or efforts by cities to lessen congestion.
That's because there is no empirical data available on such efforts, said David Schronk, traffic researcher and co-author of the report.
"We have data on freeways and interstate highways from the Federal Highway Administration that we have used for years," Schronk said. "But, each city has different types of data for public transit systems as well as for intelligent highway systems.
"We've begun compiling some of this and soon we expect to have it where we can measure that."
Since the study does not deal with city and state efforts to mitigate congestion, the state of Washington has pulled out of the study, according to a report from The Associated Press.
Still, those efforts do pay off, Schronk said.
While congestion is not a big factor in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the state is considering several alternatives, according to David Streb, chief of the Planing Division of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. …

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