When Governor Rod Blagojevich made public transportation for seniors free at the beginning of the year he did something right. Given it’s Governor Blagojevich, he didn’t get there the right way and it might even be that having the “right” policy in this case was incidental or accidental, but it was right. It just wasn’t enough. You want to get our economy moving by creating jobs, being pro-business, pro-environment and improving everyone’s quality of life? Then make Illinois public mass transit tax supported, greatly expanded and free for everyone.
Pipe dream? Maybe. Sound policy? Yes. Gas prices now make the ability to move people, goods and services cheaply even more of a major competitive advantage than before – and it’s been a big deal for a long time.
From today’s Daily Herald, “Planners put $7.3 billion price tag – and climbing – on congestion” [links mine]:
A new report issued today by the Metropolitan Planning Council puts the problem in terms of wasted dollars, air pollution and extra jobs that could be added to the metropolitan area if it didn’t take us so long to get around.
Researchers conclude that $7.3 billion is lost sitting in traffic. And if the trend continues, the figure could grow to $11.3 billion in 2030.
Moreover, the study estimates that 87,000 jobs could be added to the economy if gridlock were eliminated.
So how does congestion end up costing so much?
[Click below to read more]
Planners estimate that every time trucks or cars sit idling on clogged streets, it’s costing consumers and employers in diesel and gas. But more than fuel, long commutes make it harder for employers to recruit workers and stymie job growth. Traffic is also detrimental for businesses from pizzerias to plumbers to delivery companies that make their money from dispatching services and goods.
For example, UPS has had to hire more drivers and add delivery runs to handle growing congestion, the report notes.
‘Moving at the Speed of Congestion’ also examines commuting patterns. Researchers found that most of the cars coming into Chicago during the workweek come from outside the city.
Overall, Cook County is the biggest magnet for workers. For example, 41.5 percent of DuPage residents work in Cook. In Will, that figure is 40 percent compared to 35 percent in Lake, 31.6 percent in McHenry and 27 percent in Kane.
While highways and tollways often get the most attention on traffic reports, planners found that 73 percent of the region’s lost time happens on arterial roads, such as LaGrange Road, Roosevelt Road and Green Bay Road.
Along with mega-traffic, congestion creates an estimated $33 million a year in environmental problems such as smog, respiratory illnesses and crop damage, the report states.
While detailed in outlining the challenges posed by traffic, the planning council study doesn’t dwell on fixes.
The solutions, such as improving public transit and moving jobs around the region, are out there, [planning council Vice President of External Relations Peter] Skosey said, but it will take regional leadership to remedy the situation…. ‘The region that solves congestion problems first will have the competitive advantage.’”