For years there has been data coming from all over that talks about the cost of congestion on an area. The more congestion their is the more productivity is lost the more it costs an area. This data could help an area to realize that it needs to promote alternative forms of transportation, and get more cars off the road. Unfortunetly what it usually ends up doing is promoting the idea of faster, bigger, and wider roads. These types of roads may help short term with productivity but they ruin the areas they exist in making tons of noise pollution, lower home values, unsafe conditions for all road users, and as we all know if you build it they will come which only adds to the problem of congestion. But how can you fight economics when it comes to data showing the need for less congestion (added to the mentality of bigger, wider, faster )? The answer is to fight it with better economics of course.
A recent study just came out from the Oregon Department of Transportation titled Metro’s State of Safety Report. The report shows that road collisions are costing the area over one million more dollars a year than congestion in property damage, medical costs, and productivity. As per usual the human element is brushed over with the comment, “not to mention the pain and suffering from the loss of life.” So roads are unsafe we already knew that, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the study shows the biggest culprit is arterial roads, the very roads that are supposed to be saving money by decreasing congestion.
In the area studied arterials made up 19% of the roads, and contributed to 59% of all serious/fatal crashes.
This begs the question then of what is the cost we are willing to pay to get somewhere a little faster? One life, two lives, 20 lives? What if that life is someone we care for, or our own? Our very own Bull Dog Boulevard (which at its most used point is seven lanes wide) is statistically the most dangerous road in Provo for bicyclists and cars, and is one of the most used road by BYU/high school students, and staff. Do we leave roads like this (500W, University Ave, 300S, etc) wide and fast or do we narrow them down a bit, slow them down a bit, take them down to a livable/human pace, and plan to wait an extra 5 minutes in traffic? It seems like an easy answer. This is a question all of us will have to keep asking as we strive to make Provo a better place to live, work, and ride.