Fighting a domestic war called traffic jams

We only have to look out our windshields for proof: Commuting traffic is getting worse. But now there’s scientific proof in the form of a new report from the National Academies.

We are leaving home earlier — more and more often before 6 a.m., driving farther and longer, on the order of an hour or more, making more stops on the way and, by and large, doing it alone.

All of this must drive the traffic planners nuts, because every time they get their hands on the problem, it moves.

The traditional commute from suburb to city is a dwindling custom. More workers now commute from the city to the suburbs than visa versa, and more and more workers are commuting from suburb to suburb, often one in another county. And they can do it in a choice of cars because most households now have more cars than workers.

One might expect the commute to lighten up when the baby boomers begin retiring, but the preliminary indications are that they’ll keep on working and commuting. In the ’90s, the over-65 population increased by 12 percent, but the number of over-65 workers increased by 21 percent.

If there is a bright spot to this, it’s the commuting behavior of recent immigrants, who are far more likely than their new countrymen to carpool, bike, walk or take public transportation to work.

However, after they’ve been here five years or more, they have assimilated American commuting habits and drive just like the rest of us — alone.

For more depressing information on commuting and why it’s likely to get still worse, the study is available at

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)


  1. SimonC

    Ask a European planner and they will tell you that if you build a road, you encourage car use and people will drive more. Build a rail link you encourage transit use and people will take the train more. It’s not something that “market” forces deal with very well: geography and infrastructure shapes behaviour.

  2. Teleri

    Can we all say mass transit? Railways, subways, busses? Good grief. The next time I hear some idiot city planner complain that busses/subways etc are all very well but there aren’t enough riders to justify making the system USEABLE, I may go postal. It is soooo frustrating.
    I moved within 2 blocks of where I work, & can walk, thank goddess.

  3. TruePatriotWarrior

    Indeed, in major studies done in Britain it has long been shown that if you add more freeways they will fill up. Home developers love it of course, but it makes little economic sense when the alternatives are cheaper and more personally satisfying.