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"Gridlock in America"

A cover story article in published on May 28, highlights the crisis of traffic gridlock in America. The story, subtitled "Traffic is making millions sick and tired. The bad news? It's going to get worse unless things change in a real big way," cites a "blizzard of brand-new data (that) confirms just how bad congestion has become."

Here's some of that data:

Since 1982, while the U.S. population has grown nearly 20 percent, the time Americans spend in traffic has jumped an amazing 236 percent.

The good news! "After a half century of decline, ridership on mass transit is up dramatically. Survey data show more people are forsaking their cars for subway, train, and light-rail alternatives."

Ridership on the nation's public transportation systems has grown by 21 percent since 1995 (compared with an 11 percent increase in driving) and is now at the highest levels in more than 40 years.

And, consider this. "Last November, there were 553 state and local measures on ballots dealing with transportation and growth issues. According to the Brookings Institution, 85 percent of the initiatives calling for more mass transit and alternative types of transportation passed."

The article goes on to ask the all important question: "Will building new highways help people who don't want to use mass transit or who can't afford to live where it's available?" Citing more statistics and traffic projections the article flat out says NO.

Congestion worsens as highways widen. "Build a new road, and sprawling new development will soon spring up to take advantage of the land that becomes accessible," says the authors.

Finally the article quotes a recent survey sponsored by Smart Growth America, a new coalition of public-interest groups, which asked a cross section of Americans: "Which of the following proposals is the best long-term solution to reducing traffic in your state? Build new roads; improve public transportation, such as adding trains, buses and light rail; or develop communities where people do not have to drive long distances to work or shop."

"Three quarters of respondents called for either improving mass transit or developing less auto-dependent communities; just 21 percent called for building new roads. Talk about a tipping point. America's long love affair with the car, it seems, may have finally soured into a less healthy relationship, one based not on freedom but on its opposite."

MORE STATS - courtesy of the Associated Press