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Old 07-06-2012, 09:36 PM
 
Location: The People's Republic of Austin
5,184 posts, read 5,741,685 times
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Interesting tie into the ongoing discussion here about Austin's mobility issues. Could it be that building more roads is applying yesterday's solution?

Has the U.S. Reached "Peak Car"?: Scientific American
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Old 07-07-2012, 06:13 AM
 
Location: Austin, TX
522 posts, read 521,579 times
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I don't think so. As long as auto ownership is a relatively affordable matter for the lower middle class and up, we haven't seen anything like "peak car". We might be facing "peak road" for a while, though.
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Old 07-07-2012, 07:38 AM
 
Location: Round Rock, Texas
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Not even close.
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Old 07-07-2012, 08:14 AM
 
Location: Austin, TX
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It is possible, I suppose, at least in the U.S. Our population growth is very slow with a smaller 'driving' generation approaching. Telecommuting and other working options put a small dent in VMT. It is amazing to me how many kids in our neighborhood don't bother getting a license until they are way past 16 - in my day, it was the biggest thing in your life up to that point, or at least seemed that way .
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Old 07-07-2012, 08:37 AM
 
Location: Central Texas
20,421 posts, read 37,822,098 times
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Only in very specific parts of the country where not driving has always been reasonably doable and has been the case for ages. (Note the very first example given.) No, neither the Northeast nor California and what's going on there constitute life for the majority of the country. That's been a misconception by writers living in those areas for decades, now, and I don't see them getting any less parochial any time soon. Add in the agenda of the publication for which the author writes, and you get "peak car".

Now, are people, with the price of fuel skyrocketing, being more selective of their driving, combining trips, etc.? Yes, I absolutely see that happening, and do it myself. If I'm going to have to go into town, I try to have at least three or four tasks that can be accomplished in one trip. If enough people do that (and from conversations with others, I think they are), it's going to be seen in the statistics even if they don't give up their vehicles.
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Old 07-07-2012, 10:10 AM
 
Location: Austin, TX
522 posts, read 521,579 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasHorseLady View Post
Now, are people, with the price of fuel skyrocketing, being more selective of their driving, combining trips, etc.? Yes, I absolutely see that happening, and do it myself. If I'm going to have to go into town, I try to have at least three or four tasks that can be accomplished in one trip. If enough people do that (and from conversations with others, I think they are), it's going to be seen in the statistics even if they don't give up their vehicles.
Very very true. This is why I think this is more of a "peak road" period rather than "peak car". There are no good options in Central Texas to driving for many trips folks would want to take. For most trips, walking and biking are laughably inadequate. The mass transit options are relatively slim, and subject to the same congestion problems, for the most part, that single occupant vehicles are subject to - so there's little advantage to taking the bus beyond cost (Cap Metro's fares are VERY low on average). The Red Line is at its ridership target now (and actually a little above it, now that late night Friday and Saturday service is there), but further increases in peak period capacity will require investments in new infrastructure, vehicles, and increased operations & maintenance costs. So the car is the only option right now for many people.

*But*, as vehicle fuel efficiency increases every year, and folks like THL economize more and more on their trips, gasoline tax revenues will continue to fall, likely at an accelerating rate. We haven't raised them in about 20 years, and the political and economic situation today makes it very unlikely that we will any time soon.

What does that mean? Well, it means that TxDOT and other highway providers have less money to simply maintain what's already out there, let alone build new. Forget about many large scale highway projects for the foreseeable future, unless we want to dip into the general fund even more than we do to build and maintain roads (general fund revenues given over to highway construction and lifecycle costs average about 50%...i.e. not from gasoline tax or 'user fees'; some roads recoup even less than that).

So, "peak road"? Yeah, I buy that. "Peak car"? Nope. Not even close, for most of the country.
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Old 07-07-2012, 10:28 AM
 
Location: Round Rock, Texas
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I drive a 2000 Jeep Cherokee, it just rolled 84,000 miles, and Mrs.Sco's 2006 Pontiac just went over 50,000 miles. But we're thinking of downsizing to one car, maybe a 4 cylinder Camry or an Accord.

Like THL, we pack multiple errands into one car trip.

I have no problems with the political critters raising the gas tax by .20 cents a gallon, as long as every cent of all gas tax revenue is dedicated to road & highway infrastructure.

To ease downtown vehicle congestion in Austin, do like London - have a central road use tax. then switch the tolling from Texas 130 to I-35 as has been proposed.

License & tax bicycles and dedicate all that revenue to bike lanes, plus encourage more pedicabs (I like those things ever since my 1st ride on one in 1957 in Taipei).
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Old 07-07-2012, 02:38 PM
 
554 posts, read 900,195 times
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Traffic really isn't that much of a problem except for a few key areas. So what if 10% of the time things are slow due to rush hours. It's not worth it to build capacity to meet maximum demand when it's such a small percentage of that time. Until every main arterial road is going 10mph at noon, traffic isn't that bad.

What better proof than the fact that people still drive automobiles instead of other options that are available to them. Very few people actually bike or take transit solely for the reason of traffic congestion. Maybe <3% I'd guess. The car is still very convenient most of the time, and very luxurious.

Besides, where are you going to put that extra capacity in the central area? Where's that April fools article about making 45th st a freeway? lol
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Old 07-07-2012, 03:25 PM
 
Location: The People's Republic of Austin
5,184 posts, read 5,741,685 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasHorseLady View Post
Only in very specific parts of the country where not driving has always been reasonably doable and has been the case for ages. (Note the very first example given.)
Well, since the cited DC area's Washington Metrorail is only about thirty years old, by my calculations, that would make you right at two ages old. I doubt you will sign up for that.

There are two issues here - is America at peak car, and is Austin at peak car? The answer to the first may very well be yes. The article talks about licensure rates and miles driven - both down. Vehicle sales is also instructive. In 1993, there were right at 14M vehicles sold. Last year, despite the population growing by 20%, vehicle sales were down 10% from '93. Certainly the recession has something to do with that. But in conjunction with the other data points, it certainly looks like the blush is off the vehicle rose.

The second question is more problematic. It all depends on your assumptions. Mine are that there will be very little increase in roadway capacity in the area, and almost none at the water crossing choke points at Mopac and I-35. Another assumption is that population growth will continue throughout the metro area due to job growth. Another is that much of the residential growth will occur in areas not only outside Austin, but outside Travis County. Another is that density will continue to increase in the areas between 45th and Ben White (amazing drive down S Lamar yesterday to see all the high density mixed use under construction, as just one example). Final assumption is that our transit infrastructure will grow and improve capacity AND service.

So, increasing demand, not only in volume, but in miles traveled as residential grows out, yet jobs stay in the core (to a large extent). Little ability to grow roadway capacity - financial, political, environmental, you name it. All making vehicular travel more difficult and less convenient at the same time transit services improve. Does that mean we are at, or near the peak? Probably not, but stand by for change, because something has to give.

Go full circle back to DC. The Metro has changed that place in only thirty years. NoVa couldn't be the economic boom town it is without the Metro. I was getting to Ballston early one day on the Metro from my hotel. There were OCEANS of people going up the escalators to work. It hit me that there was no way all these jobs could be in this place if the only way to get there was via a car - not enough roadway capacity. And remember, Ballston was car dealerships, five and dimes, and drug stores thirty years ago. Now it is full of high rise offices and living spaces.
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Old 07-08-2012, 07:46 AM
 
Location: Holly Neighborhood, AUSTINtx
3,582 posts, read 5,311,604 times
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A few things that could make this happen:

young people are driving 23% less than the same age group just 10 years ago
driverless cars
car sharing
urban renenwal with re-emphasis on transit and bike/walk friendly designs
telecommuting
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