The Texas Transportation Institute has just completed its annual Urban Mobility study. This is a nationwide study that looks at population, freeway and arterial street miles traveled, public transportation, fuel and personal costs to determine how long we spend in "Rush Hour" traffic. As you all have probably guessed San Antonio has moved up the ladder of congested cities over the years, from a ranking of 34 in 1984 to 32 in 2009.
But what's really interesting is back in 1988 we actually had more traffic congestion than we have now with a ranking of the 28th most congested city. So what happened? The number of freeway lane and arterial street miles went up between 1988 and 2009 (48% more freeway lanes and 29% more arterial street miles), but the number of vehicles miles traveled went up by 102% on freeways and 61% on arterial streets. So we are way behind on building enough streets. But in 1988 we didn't have the TxDOT "Smart Highway System". This system of cameras and highway instant warning signs helps TxDOT to manage traffic by letting commuters know about congestion ahead and getting service vehicles and police out to the scenes of accidents more quickly.
So if the cameras and warning signs can make such a difference, what if we added HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes to the mix. In Houston (where they need all the time savings they can get) the 2.2 million HOV lane miles save Houstonians 2.8 million hours in traffic, and in Dallas/Ft. Worth/Arlington, where HOV lanes are relatively new, the 390,000 HOV lane miles save 433,000 hours in traffic. New lanes wouldn't even have to be added to the highways, they would just need to be striped and signs would need to be posted, much cheaper and faster than building new lanes. Wouldn't you like to save more time on your commute?
For more information on HOV lanes, check out this post.