You won’t hear this from so-called greens who vote to block road construction, but traffic is arguably the top environmental problem in San Diego County, which lacks a big industrial footprint.Cars spew vastly more air pollution when they are prevented from reaching the speeds posted on freeways and parkways. In addition, stop-and-go traffic sends tons of heavy metals from brake dust into watersheds.Then there’s the economic damage. The average commuter in San Diego County lost 42 hours a year sitting in traffic in 2014, reckons the Texas Transportation Institute.Put another way, we each lose an entire work week every year. Such delay cost the region an estimated $1.7 billion, a low-ball figure that includes only wasted fuel and lost time (calculated at the median hourly wage).Harder to measure is missing a kid’s first goal; all those spikes in blood pressure; the spiritual toll from hating a stranger just because he applied his brakes.
Planners and public policymakers continue to respond to traffic congestion with the same ineffective solution: building more transportation infrastructure. Instead, we should be building better telecommunications infrastructure and transitioning to distributed knowledge work so people don’t have to commute daily to offices to do their jobs. The environmental, organizational and social benefits strongly make the case.