Trust the New York Times and Austin Frakt to tell it like it is~driving on your commute to work is hazardous for your health. If ever we needed more evidenced based rationale for why promoting walking, cycling and transit as the only ways to commute, they are right here.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute estimates that in the United States the average commuter is stuck 42 hours a year in traffic.That figure doubles in Los Angeles, and traffic issues are identified as the top concern of citizens over personal safety and affordability.

The cost of lost time and idling fuel is estimated at over 100 billion US dollars a year, along with personal and environmental health impacts.

Another toll is to psychological well-being, stemming from the sense of helplessness we experience in traffic, and its unpredictability. This, too, can be quantified. One study found that to save a minute of time spent in traffic, people would trade away five minutes of any other leisure activity. Another study found that we deal better with the commuting delays that we can anticipate.”

Here is a troubling finding~an article in the Journal of Public Economics documented a link between congestion and domestic violence, finding the examination of one section of Los Angeles highway congestion was associated with  ” nighttime domestic violence” increasing about 9 percent.

“Those who can walk or bike to work tend to have a double advantage. Not only do they avoid the harmful consequences of traffic, but they can also improve their health through exercise. Younger people are more likely to prefer that style of commuting, and are driving less than previous generations.”

That is where road pricing comes in. Don’t listen to the boosters saying that autonomous vehicles will solve congestion, they are just part of it. But economics based congestion pricing will eliminate many single person vehicle trips, making commutes by walking, cycling and public transit easier and more comfortable. And you can point to these studies showing it keeps you healthier too.



images:latimes & achrnews


  1. Autonomous vehicles are not even part of reducing congestion and are more likely to add to it, since for a given trip more distance is travelled (getting to A and from B, in addtion to from A to B).

    Potential benefits of autonomous vehicles include reduced manufacturing and materials, and more optimal land use — fewer cars needed to make the same number of trips, depending on demand distribution, and less parking needed for cars in continous use, plus cars that are idle can be stored on less in-demand land… for the cost of adding to trip length, and perhaps to congestion.

    Because it becomes viable to combine different modes on a single round trip, also possible are overall mode share shifts and demand distribution. E.g. take transit during peak travel hours, AVs available for trips not well served by transit; use AV during times not as well served by transit because of lower trip demand.

  2. Obviously walking or riding your bike to work is better & healthier (If distance and weather allows it actually).

    But: where is it analyzed that most people prefer a yard or a house ( or at least a TH or duplex) over a condo in a mid-rise or highrise ? Ie where is the associated stress analyzed to live in close proximity to too many people above you, besides you and under you ? How does that stresss compare to commuting by car?

    Also “idling or air pollution while not moving or going less than walking speed” could be eliminated with hybrid cars,buses or trucks. Where is the sensible legislation to force that as opposed to utterly unproven mandates to force adaptation of electric cars (but not trucks nor buses) by certain dates ?

    BC and MetroVan could do far more here for the vast bus, truck and car volumes polluting our air daily. Where is this debate ? CO2 taxes alone won’t cut it. EVs too far off. Interim effective legislation needed for the next 20-25 years.

    1. Thomas, are you finally concerned about CO2? Wow! Did you go check out the Locarno sandbags this weekend?

      It’s a rare day in Vancouver when weather doesn’t allow cycling. Distance is a choice, albeit one with many other variables. Do most people still prefer a house with a yard or is that changing as fast as young people are shunning cars?

      I’ve heard just as many gripes about neighbours from people in houses as from people in condos. And while some people enjoy yard work many don’t – just another chore that can add more stress.

      Global EV sales are doubling every two years or so. That’s aggressive exponential growth that would hit 100% in a dozen years if it continues at that pace. Watch for China to kick our butts on this. (They’re also kicking the entire world’s butts on high-speed rail, solar panel installations and reforestation .)

      Thankfully VKT is also falling in developed countries because just replacing gas cars with electric ones won’t solve our problems.

      I expect a big push for electric buses once batteries get to the point we no longer need trolley wires. That’s not far off and some cities already have such systems. TransLink will be testing that soon.

      I already see the beginnings of transport switching to EV though admittedly pretty minimal so far. We’re probably some way away from long-haul going that route but as, bad as it is, it’s a small fraction of the problem. In any case, it’s pretty hard to mandate something for which the technology isn’t developed enough yet. I think our fault lies in not investing enough in rail for long-haul, especially since it can more easily be electrified.

      It’s easy to mandate sales volumes for EVs for personal vehicles because it’s happening anyway. It might be the case of the leaders following the people except, to be fair, government probably needed to give the initial push to create a positive climate (pun intended) for EVs. It’s not “utterly unproven”, it’s happening in a big way.

      1. Your mention of trolley buses got me thinking. I remember cycling behind them in Vancouver thinking how wonderful it is to breathe fresh air instead of the caustic slop the other ones were pumping out. So why are trolley buses not implemented in urban areas all over the world? Sure they came off the wires occasionally but that is a small price to pay for clean air.

  3. We are on a revolution journey, the next evolution for single occupant vehicles will be powered by BC Hydro, electron energy instead of combusting fossil fuel. SOV’s will become carbon zero, and we won’t care how many there are crawling the network and slowing things down.

    Congestion pricing won’t change this picture for those beyond a short walk to a Skytrain station or a transit stop provided the network delivers them close to the last step of a destination speedily. Covering the first step and the last step is the traditional role played by the car.

    We should look at the Commuter Vehicle as the mobile land use aspect of the urban environment. It’s uses for the commuter include a kind of mobile tele-commuting office or productivity man-machine cyborg thing of some kind on wheels, some now autonomous.

    Life would seem to move faster for all the little bots if they were all networked together. That would seem to be the progressive path forward for handling the randomness of motions across the entire network. But maybe they don’t care, maybe they are practicing relaxation techniques.

  4. “Autonomous vehicles will solve all our traffic problems”. This is what being white, male, and marginally educated is all about: any damn stupid thing that escapes your lips will probably become gospel. It’s a tremendous responsibility. I almost feel sorry for my own cohort. All you’d have to do to permanently ’86 this bro-crush on AV and big data is to find a dark-skinned woman to promote it. They’d immediately lose interest and start attacking her. This utopian Jetsons fantasy of AV is about who is doing the talking; not what they’re saying.

    Because what they’re saying is easily stepped-around dogXXXX. If every single vehicle currently on the road were suddenly hived into autonomous operation, there would be some capacity efficiency. There would be a temporary decrease in the phenomenon of occasionally slow traffic that we stupidly keep calling “congestion”. A platoon of automated cars would move more like a flock of birds and less like a bunch of locusts (credit Dr Sam Charlton of the University of Waikato for that useful simile). But you can’t cap those vehicles just because things are “working”. Like widening a road, adding capacity in the form of efficiency will simply add more demand and we’ll be back where we started. Travel times will be just as slow, only now with 15% more vehicles on the road.

    AV would likely make traffic slower, which I’m sure is not the benefit (an actual benefit) its paramours envision. In the end, even if it technically works on a large scale, it’s still just a damn car.

    1. Whoa, check your racism there. There are plenty of people of all races and cultures working on autonomous vehicles, and plenty of people of all races and cultures that see the benefits (and downsides for that matter) of autonomous vehicles.

      You are no more prescient as to what impact AV would have on traffic and the urban environment than anyone else, but even so, your race is not relevant to the discussion, and neither should anyone else’s be!

  5. Like I would drive somewhere in 20 years when a plug in the back of my neck will give me the exact same experience without the hassle. LOL, as if. Commuting and physical travel are going the way of the buggy whip. They will be replaced by a greener, virtual world, a development most people fear. But, if we are serious about keeping the ‘natural’ environment healthy and in place in as many places as possible, we must address the human desire for novelty, which is largely the big reason behind our pollution… gotta go somewhere, gotta get something… it all adds up to consumption of real materials — and the need to move them, sell them, throw it away — all adds up to traffic.

    Solving for tomorrow’s issues with yesterday’s technology is the most common mistake in the human experience I think.

    This world of ever longer commutes, with or without a robot chauffeur, of the constant whine of e-motors everywhere, of pavement to the ends of the earth, be it subway or superhighway, is a world nobody actually wants. Food for thought if you ask me.

    1. Your pondering suggests a future world where shelter is autonomous and distributed across the landscape, where the city hosts robotic factories and server farms, while the human population enjoys a pastoral lifestyle in the countryside, supported by all things internet with transportation by personal drone. Sounds very nice.

      1. I doubt it will be as you’ve described. But the next world will look nothing like this one, and it’s arriving faster than most people care to believe. That’s why we are foolishly building underground trains to places that won’t be destinations very soon, to make room for autonomous cars will be much scarcer than anticipated. Double foolishness.

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