Same Study, Different Year - The 2011 TTI Urban Mobility Report

Last week saw the release of the Texas Transportation Institute's 2011 Urban Mobility Report.

As CNU has noted in the past, TTI seems to employ a flawed methodology for measuring traffic. In response to this year's report, CNU Board Member and U-Conn Engineering professor Norman Garrick states, "It seems like they have not changed their tune all that much, even though some of the recommendations seem to have been softened in response to previous criticism. One noteworthy point is that they are showing that congestion peaked in 2004 or 2005, which is the same year that VMT also peaked. Yet, they still seem to insist that congestion will grow in the future at 2000-to-2006 rates.  Their prediction of growth is based on the rate from those years - in other words, they are using the usual predict and provide approach.  Yet, there is a question as to whether or not we are in a different type of environment.  They get around this by blaming the recession and conveniently ignoring the fact that the recession really started in 2008, quite a few years after the slow down started."

Garrick is correct - the environment has changed. Increasingly, commuters are looking towards alternative methods of transport. TTI accounts for traffic mitigation solutions by operational treatments and public transportation, yet glosses over methods of commuting that are increasingly in demand such as walking and bicycling. Cities like Detroit have seen a 192% increase in bicycle commuting over the course of the past decade. For the nation's 70 biggest cities, bike commuting has grown 63% from 2000-2010. Especially when considering the 40% of all trips that are non-work related, TTI needs to take a harder look at the metrics they are using to determine urban mobility.

CEO for Cities' Joe Cortright's answers in the CNU 19 debate, "Head-on Collision: CEOs for Cities vs. the Texas Transportation Institute's Congestion Index"  perfectly address the continuing issue with the study. Cortright explained "the urban mobility report doesn't get at the nature of the problem.  The report should be educating policymakers on how to build our cities, not our roads.  [The TTI Report] should be giving policymakers viable performance measures to do that instead of treating congestion in small, large, compact and spread out places the same.  It does a good job of sounding the alarm about the dangers of congestion, but it doesn't provide a map for how to eliminate congestion."

(Thanks to CNU's Heather Smith for providing the direct Cortwright quote above.)

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Actually Congestion ain't all bad

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