More evidence for the traffic tipping point

Small reductions in the volume of traffic, especially at the peak hour produce disproportionate reductions in levels of congestion –evidence of the traffic tipping point.

A new report from the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission shows that a modest reduction in economic economic activity and traffic levels in 2008, was accompanied by a 12 percent reduction in total hours of congestion (measured as the amount of time travelling under 35 miles per hour on the region’s freeways.  Bay area employment declined about 2 percent in 2008, while vehicle miles in California (statewide numbers) were down about 4 percent.

While many treat the decline in congestion as a temporary silver lining in the dark economic clouds, the more important lesson here is that travel demand management could greatly reduce congestion — without the need to build additional highway capacity.