Worsening traffic signals recovery
By Dale McFeatters
We know that if it is not (begin ital) the (end ital) cure for gridlock, then it is at least (begin ital) a (end ital) cure for gridlock: high gas prices, a sluggish economy and some modest highway improvements.
Traffic congestion dropped a total of 30 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the nation's 100 largest cities, according to Inrix, a company that compiles traffic data for firms like trucking concerns that have a special interest in road congestion.
Seventy metropolitan areas saw decreases in gridlock, 30 saw increases, and these closely tracked employment and job growth. Inrix President Bryan Mistele's take-away: "In America, the economic recovery on Wall Street has not reached Main Street."
Perhaps that's why New York City, home to Wall Street, ranked fourth on the list of most-congested, but then the Big Apple is a perennial contender for gridlock honors. The top three were Honolulu ― which should be a special case because it is a mountainous island with a limited number of places to put roads ― Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Gridlock seems almost a point of civic pride in some centers of immobility. The San Francisco Chronicle took pride in its city "beating out jammed-up East Coast cities such as New York and Boston."
The Boston Globe huffed, "If Inrix data points are to be credited, Boston is a bit of a piker when it comes to world-class traffic jams," a feeling surely not shared by those who drive there regularly.
The 10 cities with the biggest increases in congestion, presumably due for the most part to economic recovery, were all in the Sun Belt, led by Tampa and Jacksonville, Fla.; Greenville, S.C.; and Atlanta.
The biggest decreases in congestion include some of the usual Rust Belt suspects, such as Buffalo, N.Y.; Cleveland; Syracuse, N.Y., and Youngstown, Ohio. But gridlock decreased the most in Minneapolis, which Inrix links to the completion of roadwork projects done under the stimulus program.
Being stuck in ever-worsening traffic can be maddening, but think of it this way: You may not be moving, but the economy is.
Details at the Inrix website: http://www.inrix.com/scorecard/default.asp.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com).