Taking a whole new approach to traffic congestion

By guest blogger Joe Irwin

We’ve probably all done it. Taken an on-ramp onto I-5 during rush hour thinking maybe this time it won’t be so bad only to run into a sea of red brake lights, and then subsequently cursing Henry Ford for inventing the automobile.

As most Washington drivers can attest, traffic congestion is becoming routine on certain sections of highway statewide. In addition to numerous projects to improve traffic flow, we analyze and report on highway trends.

We’ve been doing this for the past 12 years, but this year we took our in-depth review a step further and in a new direction. The idea is to provide a much finer level of detail in telling the story behind traveling on our state’s highways.

We recently released the 2013 Corridor Capacity Report, providing an unprecedented look at how transit and park and rides fit into the overall transportation scheme on our state highways, while making note of empty seats and parking spots along specific corridors.

This unused capacity on buses is a big deal because it shows us and transit agencies exactly where we can add more riders, park and rides and/or transit services to make things more efficient on the highways at reasonable costs.

According to the report, mass transit took more than 43,800 vehicles off the road each day in 2012, reducing daily carbon dioxide emissions by 674,700 pounds. Even so, our findings show we can improve transit use and reduce emissions by using the existing capacity we have and filling unused seats during the tail ends of the peak periods.

The report focuses closely on routinely congested sections of highway, which also allows us to figure out exactly where the problem areas are located. Traffic patterns differ during the morning and evening commutes, and determining where congestion is worst, when and for how long, helps us as we work to alleviate it.

As more and more people hit the roads each day, the corridor capacity report is providing us a new tool with which to decide the best ways of helping everyone get from Point A to Point B as efficiently and reliably as possible.