Austin’s Terrible Traffic: How Cities are Improving for a New Age

A modern 21st century car can travel at speeds up to 120 miles per hour, letting people travel to far off places in the matter of minutes. However, anyone who has driven a car knows that a daily commute takes up to a whole hour.

Normal Day Traffic in New York City (Source: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2009/05/26/arts/26close.inline.650.jpg)

When people imagine the image of a city, they picture a bustling environment, where millions of people are constantly on the move. People migrate to cities to find for job opportunities and nice areas to live. This trend is causing an increase in the population of cities throughout America. With more people living in one area, there is an increase in the number of cars on the road and traffic congestion becomes even worse. Although this problem is present in almost every metropolitan area, many cities have solutions to relieve issue. Austin, like many other areas in the United States, suffers heavily from traffic congestion. As one the most influential cities in the state of Texas, the Austin metropolitan area is home to almost two million people. In addition, Austin is also an important economic center and the capital of the state. Compared to other cities in Texas, such as Houston, Dallas, and San Antonia, Austin is much more densely populated. Although the smallest among the major cities in Texas, Austin possesses one of the worst traffic conditions in the United States. Out if two hundred ninety-seven cities in the United States, Austin currently ranks as the fourteenth in the top U.S. cities with the worst traffic (Inns, 2017). On estimate, people in Austin annually waste up to approximately thirty hours of drive time due to traffic (Inns, 2017). In response to this, the city is working to pass new funding and regulations.

I-35, One of Austin largest highways (Source: http://www.texasfreeway.com/austin/construction/290_i35_interchange/images/I35at290e2001a.jpg)

Roads are the blood vessels of a city. For the Austin, constructing and developing new streets and highways is a major priority. With the recent city elections, citizens voted to approve the city’s 2017 transportation initiative to improve the overall road conditions (Bien, 2018). For instance, the city is currently working to improve interstate 35, one of Austin’s most important highways. Overseen by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), this plan invests almost 8 billion dollars into expanding and renovating interstate 35 (Bien, 2018). This project is an excellent example of how cities can work to alleviate traffic and improve transportation in their cities.

Bicyclists near the University of Texas Austin (Source: http://www.dailytexanonline.com/sites/default/files/styles/article_main_image/public/images/2015/09/2015-08-28_B_Cycle_Joshua.Guerra93092.jpg?itok=rimFz-bT)

If too many people are using automobiles, cities must provide their citizens other transportation options. This concept explains why public transportation is essential and an excellent solution for improving traffic congestion. Even though Austin is a relatively small city, Austin possesses a well-structured and funded public transportation system. For example, Capital Metro, the Austin’s public transit system, has an annual boarding of 30.5 million (Koski, 2018). Their system comprises of primarily public buses, but also include rail cars and other transportations (Koski, 2018). Furthermore, capital metro has eighty bus routes that covers up to five hundred twenty-nine square miles (Koski, 2018). These statistics demonstrate how extent and size of the Austin transit system. Although the city does not possess an enormous transit system, such as the subways in New York City, the recent funding and policies from cities officials have made a significant improvement. With Austin’s traffic in poor conditions, public transportation is crucial to solving this issue. In highly dense metropolitan areas, citizens need efficient ways to travel and commute. Cars are ultimately unusable in cities due to population size and road limits. The high number of cars also means that people are unable to find parking and parking lots are becoming overcrowded. With public transportation, people have an alternative to using automobiles. Unlike automobiles, public vehicles, such as buses and subways, carry large quantities of people. This reduces the overall number of cars on the road, alleviating traffic.

In addition to public transportation, cities must also promote alternative means of transportation. Currently, one of the most popular alternatives to using an automobile is bicycling. In dense urban environments, where areas are located closely to one another, bicycling is a highly efficient method of transportation. With a bicycle, people can travel short distances and avoid large amounts of traffic. As of currently, Austin is leading the state in promoting and supporting bikers. For example, as a part of Austin 2017 transportation plan, the city is planning to construct forty miles of bike lanes to the existing streets (Koski, 2018). In addition, the city has partnered with bike share companies, such as B-Cycle, to increase bicycle usage (Koski, 2018). These initiatives directly address and can potentially solve the growing transportation issues in the city.

Map of Ozone levels in Texas (Source: https://cfpub.epa.gov/airnow/index.cfm?action=airnow.local_city&cityid=232&mapdate=20170516)

Sitting in traffic is normal thing for many Americans. However, people do not realize how congested traffic causes multiple issues. One detriment of traffic is its economic waste. On average, people spent a yearly of forty-two hours in traffic (Herskovitz, 2015). This equates to almost one hundred sixty billion dollars lost in both productivity and gas emission (Herskovitz, 2015). In addition to economic lost, traffic congestion is a leading cause of pollution with in cities. In the United States, gas emission from automobiles creates large quantity of air pollution (Zhang, 2013). As traffic increases in cities, more people are idling in the vehicles, increasing gas emission. In recent study, scientist measured that the levels of NO2 gas, CO gas, and CO2 gas has significantly increased in cities with high amounts of traffic (Zhang, 2013). Furthermore, the health risks from pollution also increased in these areas (Zhang, 2013). Pollution from car emissions has drastically spiked in the United States. This directly correlates to the increased use of automobiles and the large amounts of traffic within cities.

Traffic, large numbers of automobiles, and limit road space all represent how areas are increasingly becoming urbanized. This however has led to multiple issues that are ruining major cities. Austin, like many other metropolitan areas in the United States, is greatly affected by these problems. However, the city is working to address these issues. Cities must ensure that they have adequate roads and infrastructure to ensure safe transportation. They must provide their citizens with alternative methods of transportation and a public transit system. With Austin’s latest transportation renovation initiative, Austin will hopefully improve its roads, infrastructure, public transportation. With perseverance and public support, Austin can overcome the detriments of urbanization and establish itself as an example for other cities.


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