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Ten Traffic Congestion Busters for Dane County

Improving Mobilty in Madison and Dane Cty: Ten congestion busters and how to improve mobility in Dane Cty


10 Traffic Congestion Busters & Ways to Reduce Traffic Congestion

(Based upon a summary of the Balaker & Staley Book, The Road More Traveled, 2006.  Available at Madison Public Library and Amazon.com. Most are exact quotes from the book.) 

Proponents of rail transit specifically mention building a rail system to "reduce congestion" and their Transport 2020 is a "comprehensive plan."

However, the lower cost and more effective expanded bus system that was recommended was abandoned early on.

Simply improving the arterials, local streets, traffic light optimization and freeway capacity are ignored in what should be called the "Transport 1920" for its irrational fixation on rail/trolleys and the hatred of the automobile, highways and parking places.

Use of transit has been dropping since 1960 in U.S. and Europe as wealth increases. Wealth is the single most overriding reason people choose their cars over transit in the U.S. and in Europe 78% use cars instead of their rail system and auto commuting is is growing faster there than here -even with 6 dollar a gallon gas there.

Rail additions in the last 20 years have not reduced traffic congestion, as commuters/travelers/tourists/shoppers prefer the comfort, convenience, efficiency, flexibility, freedom, state of the art technology, privacy and safety of their own vehicles.  Here is a way to make this point.  If you discuss this issue at a public meeting - we suggest you ask the audience:


Traffic congestion:  Adding 6-13 train stops per hour blocking all lanes of traffic in both directions on all major highways will cause a massive and sudden increase in congestion and travel time in the entire Madison area. Engineers tell us that on a freeway that has to close ONE lane due to an accident or repair for every one minute of closure results in a 5 minute traffic back up. FOR ONE Lane! 5 min. back up. A 25 min closure = over 2 hours of back up. The train advocates claim that these 'little trains" will only take 45 seconds to a minute" to get through the intersections.

But, are they considering all traffic in both directions needs to be stopped before the train arrives and the pile up traffic jam factor of all traffic stopped in all directions will take several minutes MORE to unravel after the train has gone through?

Now imagine closing two lanes in both directions for say, 3-5 min. 6-13 times per hour during rush hour. 18 to 65 min. of complete stoppage. Ever been on E. Wash when the train occasionally goes through and stops 3 lanes of traffic in both directions? Imagine 6-13 stops/hour everyday and on several places on the same highway- John Nolen, Univeristy Ave, etc!

FROM: The Road More Traveled: Why the congestion crisis matters more than you think, and what we can do about it. By Ted Balaker & Sam Staley. Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

"Final thought" (p.177)

The notion that we cannot build our way out of traffic congestion is wrong. Wrong historically, wrong technically.

 High levels of congestion are due to our failure to make reducing it a local and national priority. Mobility must be established at the local, county, state and national level as a high priority. The Dane County motto should be "Mobility first!" not "we want a train & a trolley."

Ten Congestion Busters  ("The Road More Traveled," p. 150)

 1. Increase traffic signal efficiency. Computer controlled camera monitoring lights and intersection turn signals with real time feed back to adjust to changing traffic conditions. (Relatively inexpensive to implement, potential for 40% decrease in stops, 10% cut in gas consumption, emissions cut 22%, travel time cut 25% with built in flexibility in event of accidents, weather conditions etc.)

2. Add and improve arterial roads and re-design and improve high volume intersections.

3. Use creative construction approaches. (Double Decker elevated hiways over existing ones, tunnels under existing highways, reversible express and bus lanes).

4. Implement aggressive incident monitoring and removal of traffic flow obstacles.(More cameras, cell phone call-in numbers posted for motorists, quick response accident documentation, investigation and clean up teams)

5. Increase number of one way streets (fewer accidents, better traffic flow

6. Use of on ramp metering during rush hours-see Fish Hatchery on ramps to Beltline.

7. Incentivize TELEcommuting. (It is fast growing - even today it takes more drivers off the roads than transit does)

8. Expand limited access networks and existing highways- more lanes, more highway links

9. Increase number of high occupancy toll lanes (HOT)

10. Put the money where the problem is - highway traffic congestion- better roads for cars, trucks and buses. Putting millions of dollars into a 19th Century technology, rail instead of highways, is like offering the taxpayer a billion dollar mid-19th century telegraph to compete with a 21st century $500 I-PHONE.


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