Friday, May 04, 2007


Bad Commutes Stall American Workers

Neocons love the population explosion because it provides a ready supply of both eager consumers and cheap labor. The huge number of consumers keeps the demand for goods high, and the equally huge number of workers keeps the demand for jobs high as well. This enables the world's mega-corporations to keep wages low and raise the prices on their products as they see fit, thus generating a form of "stealth inflation" which never gets labeled as "inflation" by the Fed, but looks and smells like inflation to the little guy anyway. Swarming masses are a tycoon's ticket to billions.

Unfortunately, the population explosion also worsens our daily commute, so the tycoons ought to telecommute if they know what's good for them. According to US News & World Report, "The issue [of commuting] mainly boils down to population growth outpacing road building. America has about 70 million more people than it did a quarter century ago, but highway miles have increased by a little more than 5 percent..." By 2050, demand for daily ground transportation will increase 150 percent while "highway capacity is projected to increase by only 10 percent..."

Not only is congestion heavier even if you commute the same distance you did ten years ago. More people than ever have longer commutes. The number of people who travel 90 minutes to work every day - a group called "extreme commuters" - has increased 95 percent since 1990. That only compounds the problem.

Longer and more congested commutes worsen the health of commuters. Traffic jams induce stress "comparable to that felt by first-time parachutists" and double the risk of a heart attack. Incessant heavy traffic discourages people from doing anything but going to work, diminishing their access to cultural events and community activities. It makes them creatures too exhausted to do anything but hump it for the boss. This Treadmill Redux sets the pace for the 21st century.

Some proposals for improvement either favor the affluent or provide yet more opportunities for tycoons to make billions. Variable fee lanes - often called "Lexus lanes" - in which the benefits of a sparser traffic are available for a price, attract the patronage of the wealthy. The spectre of private toll roads providing similar services is also looms in our future. However, as the AAA notes, private toll roads often impede the expansion of the infrastructure by extracting non-competition agreements from the government. In other words, the existence of a private toll road from A to Z may legally inhibit the creation of a toll-free road along a parallel route.

For this and more info about America's growing traffic problem, go to the link below.

"Road Warriors" from US News & World Report

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