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Freeways Are Falling Out of Favor'

‘Once So Chic and Swooshy, Freeways Are Falling Out of Favor’

How could I guess? From the New York Times again. Some of us remember what travel between cities and states was like without freeways. Utopia again. Walk or bike to work, go to a museum on the weekend, have lunch with wine at an outside patio, ain’t it great? Yeah I remember people walking to work and not having cars. Problem was they were stuck at $1 an hour jobs with no mobility. Freeways were built to move people and products quickly. It was and is a great social and economic equalizer.

There’s one big problem with the “freeways are becoming unpopular” argument: commuters.
Start removing a few major motorways used by countless speople daily to get to and from work and see how far the argument goes.


I agree with mountainbike. I don’t like crowded freeways, but I like crowded surface streets even less. I do use surface streets when freeways are too crowded, but it would be intolerable if everyone was forced to do the same.

The most viable alternative to freeways is public transportation, and as far as I see it there is more money going into roads than mass transit, take WI, (please)
Walker killed high speed rail from Milwaukee to Madison costing taxpayers millions in previously agreed to contracts. And now can’t even finish the zoo interchange. OOH lets give away 3 billion to foxcon, and maybe then we can fix the roads.

Republicans who control the Legislature need to decide whether to borrow $252 million for the north-south portion of I-94 as part of a $3 billion incentive package to lure Foxconn Technology Group to southeastern Wisconsin for a massive television and computer screen plant.

You? The Interstate system started in 1956; there were freeways before that.

It is, and it’s the coming thing.

You have this backwards: people had to make more to move out. As such, it allowed the people who could make more to leave cities to the people who couldn’t afford to leave: it increased inequality.

The best thing that could happen to Albuquerque would be removing the Interstates, sending them around the city, reuniting the neighborhoods they split, removing barriers to travel across town, recovering the commerce that would replace them. It would become place for people to live, not drive through as quickly as possible. People could live near their work instead of commuting. Freeways subsidize an elite who can escape at the expense of the majority who live in town.

Maybe this is the new trend: people will work from home via the internet and this will take vehicles off the freeway; people will shop online so retail shops will close. Drones will deliver many goods to people.
I am not certain this is a good trend we are seeing. The university from which I retired tried to coerse me into teaching online classes which I could do from home. I refused–I like the contact with students and the dynamic of the classroom. My son was on a doctoral program at a university. The courses he needed to finish his degree were all online. He transferred to another university where he could actually work with his major professors even though he could have completed the course work at the first institution in a semester and a summer.
I don’t do much online shopping. I like to see what I am buying and I enjoy seeing people when I shop. I even like going to Walmart. The personnel in our local store are friendly and helpful. Yes, I have had helpful people when I have shopped online and have had questions, but it is not the same as a live person.
Now I do like public transportation. I had a colleague when I first began my career in 1965. This colleague commuted from a large city 60 miles away. Before WW II, he made the trip in an hour. He used the interurban. It was abandoned just before WW II. After the war, it took him almost 2 hours to make the trip. When the interstate came along in the late 1960s, his travel time was about the same as that of the interurban. My colleague has long since retired and passed away, but with the crowded interstate, his commute would be again about 2 hours. More lanes are being added to the interstate to speed up traffic flow. Maybe we need to go back before WW II for a better way to move people.

Yeah in your dreams.

Here’s the thing though. People compare the US to Europe and say if only we had the kind of mass transit train system they had. Sure the trains connect the small towns and countries but they don’t go door to door either, plus the freeways are pretty well used too. At any rate, once you get to the town you want to go to, you either have a fair amount of walking to do or you take a cab to where you want to go. From my experience, there is far better cab service in Europe than in the US. Who knows where Uber etc. will end up, but there are many many smaller cities between the great two coasts, that have very little cab service or none at all, and no buses. Why? There is just no demand, plus there certainly is no demand for a rail system or even bus service.

As Kennedy said some people dream of things that never were and ask why not? Well often the reason is there is no demand for those utopian dreams. It just is not what the public demands. Years ago when I had a engine put in my car at a dealer 150 miles away, there was absolutely no way to get within 50 miles of the place with even bus service. When its ten below out, you need to get within blocks not miles. Plus I remember going to school was a 45 minute flight, a four hour drive by car, or a 7 hour bus ride. I did all three but bought a car and have had a car ever since.

This is Car Talk after all, not patio wine and cheese talk.

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In places where more people use mass transit (cities) money goes into mass transit.
In places where more people use freeways, money goes into freeways.

What point is pushing money towards mass transit where nobody uses it? There used to be a train running through Manchester NH to Boston. I took is as a kid. I think it went to Maine. But once the highway was built, nobody used it anymore and it was discontinued. Which is cheaper to maintain; a highway or a railroad? Amtrak answered that for us. The answer is a highway. So why pump money into a railroad that nobody wants?

This is a very real and recent issue in NH. I-93, which is a major highway running North-South, has needed updating to carry modern loads for decades. Some areas are downright dangerous, and people were dying there. A major project to widen the highway was designed a few decades ago. It’s finally becoming reality, some ten years behind schedule because the Boston-based “Conservation Law Foundation” filed repeated lawsuits in the NH courts to try to force the money to be used to put in a rail system instead. Financial analysts determined that such a system would be unaffordable to NH and that few people would take it, but the group continued delaying the highway widening… and people kept dying. These self-anointed earth-savers from out of state didn’t care how many people died. They only wanted to force their agenda.

I realize there are different situations and different perspectives. But please, let us put in what WE need. And don’t try to force on us what we cannot afford.

I’d guess mile for mile rail-road track would cost considerably less to maintain than a 4-6 lane highway. But it wouldn’t carry as many passengers per hour probably. You have to compare the two based on a person-mile travelled basis I guess.

Public transport works best when the stops are so frequent you don’t have to bother with consulting a schedule. There’s a bus route nearby I use and the bus comes by every 5 minutes. That’ route is well used. The ones with the busses than come by every 30 minutes, not so much. Cost is a factor too. Public transport fees here in San Jose have risen dramatically in the last 20 years, to the point where the fee is discouraging all but those that get a subsidy, the poor, the elderly, etc. The other problem I’ve notice with public transport, homeless folk are beginning to be the main segment of the users, and that is turning off other people from using it. But all those problems could be overcome if there was enough of a political will, at least in an urban area like San Jose.

Mass transit works excellently in urban areas. It does not work well in areas less densely populated. The overwhelming majority of the contiguous United States is less densely populated.

I have absolutely nothing against mass transit. I love it in the cities, where it works. But public money should be focused on whatever system best meets the needs and desires of the taxpayers paying for it and the people using it. Forcing money to be spent on an unwanted and unaffordable system on a peoples that neither wants or can afford it in lieu of investing in the system that they do want and can use is ethically criminal.

Regarding the cost, it needs to be calculated using the amount of people that will actually use it, not the potential if everyone did. The feds kept spending billions upon billions supporting and promoting Amtrak, long after it was well proven that it was a money-hole. It didn’t work.

There is, however, a third option for areas too spread out for trains/trams/subways and heavily enough traveled to overload highways : bus routes. The busses and thus the variable costs can be easily adjusted to fit the demand, and the cost per rider is cheaper than cars and far, far cheaper than trains. There already exists in the area I’m referring to a bus route. I believe if it were better promoted and perhaps had more stops and perhaps more runs it would be an excellent option. I’ve taken it into Boston before and it worked beautifully. IMHO bus routes are too infrequently included in the highway vs. rail debates.

I had colleagues when I was still employed at a university that didn’t care for the community where the campus is located and decided to live in the suburbs of a large city and drive over an hour each way. That is their privilege. However, it is not their privilege to request special teaching assignments to match their commuting hours. I chaired a search committee and one candidate told us that because of her commute, she couldn’t be assigned a class before 10:00 a.m. and would have to leave at 2:30 in the afternoon. I ended the interview at that point.
It was difficult enough for me when we moved from a house 1 mile off campus to a house two miles off campus. It doubled my commuting time from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. It put twice as much wear on the car. The only thing that saved me was I had a friend and colleague that lived at the halfway point in my two mile commute. I would stop at his house for coffee on my way to work and he would carpool with me to campus. On the way home, we would have cocktails at his house so I could get up the energy to drive the final mile. Seriously, though, our great city planners did not put in sidewalks and the roads were too dangerous to ride my bicycle. It’s rather sad that I would get up at 6:00 a.m. to go walking around the arena enough times to make three miles, but it wasn’t safe to walk the two miles to campus.
When I went to do my graduate work back in 1962, there were no interstates from my home to the school I attended. I made the trip on state highways in my $75 1947 Pontiac. Fortunately, once I got there, I found I could make the trip home and back during breaks by train within 20 minutes of the time I could drive the distance and I could read and study as the train rolled along. If I had an hour or more to commute to work, I would want some type of public transportation so I could read or do something productive with the time rather than to steer an.automobile.
Now I have nothing against interstates. I particularly like beltlines around major cities if I don’t plan to visit the city. If I had a job in a big city, I would not want to live in the city–there is too much country boy in me for that. However, if I had an hour commute, I would prefer a commuter rail line so I could do something productive with the.time.

One time, when I was in the Navy, I was sent to a conference in El Monte, CA. A hotel across the street from the conference was recommended, but being an enlisted man, I didn’t have unlimited per diem like the civilians did, so I stayed at a hotel on Colorado Blvd in Pasadena. I was warned the commute would kill me.

First morning, I asked for directions to the conference at the front desk of the hotel. I was told to go out the front, take the on ramp that was just across the street to the freeway, take it to the intersection to another freeway and then take a certain offramp.

I pull out onto Colorado Blvd, six lanes wide and I’m the only vehicle in sight. the Freeway was a parking lot, but since Colorado Blvd ran parallel to it, I decided to follow the freeway as far as I could on Colorado Blvd until I had to get on the freeway. I followed it all the way to where it intersected with the other freeway. It was also a parking lot but there was Rosecrans Blvd, 6 lanes wide, no traffic and parallel to the freeway, so I followed it.

Ten minutes after leaving the hotel, I was at the conference, listening to all the civilians complaining about their rat infested high dollar, conveniently located hotel where my affordable hotel was very nice. But I had to endure that killer commute ;).

I would have done exactly the same thing.
It is the needs of the organization that the employee needs to meet, not the other way around.

The exception would be a prof who has the ability to bring in large money. Like an ex-congressman, or a retired military general. Or a friend of mine, a PhD physicist of many years who wintered in Los Alamos and to whom the pentagon came for guidance. This guy could bring in millions in grants. But he never abused that influence.

@keith. My doctoral advisor was never one to overspend someone else’s money. He brought in large grants that included travel money. However, when he would go to Washington, D.C. he would stay at the YMCA. When he turned in meal receipts, it was usually for a hamburger at a fast food establishment. Now when he would entertain out of his own pocket, he was quite generous. I always admired the way his frugality with government grants.

You gotta remember that the interstates might have been completed in the larger cities but it was well into the 70’s before they were completed in the midwest. Even so I remember the main two lane road going into Minneapolis. No four lane roads. And take a trip to Yellowstone and it was all dangerous two lane roads and little town after little town.

I didn’t end the bank interview when they said I would have to live in that little town of 200 people instead of commuting from Sioux Falls 30 miles away. I waited until I got back in my car and took five minutes to drive around it. I never expected commute time though to be done on work hours.

Nobody takes the interstate anymore, it’s too crowded.


When I moved to L.A. in January 1974 I discovered the same thing. The interstates were basically a parking lot while the parallel boulevards were nearly empty. You would encounter a few traffic signals but they were not all red lights. By the time I moved back home in November 1976 many others were catching on crowding the boulevards.

Exactly how am I supposed to do that . . . ?

I’m a mechanic, not a blogger


@db4690. If everyone works from home, we won’t have cars and therefore we won’t have any need for mechanics.
I don’t want this kind of society. I like to work with people. When I taught mathematics and computer science courses, I could look at the students and see whether or not they were understanding a concept. That isn’t possible with online classes.