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Good News! San Diegans Are Stuck in Traffic

The latest nationwide report from the Texas Transportation Institute shows that San Diegans spend an average of 57 hours a year sitting in idle traffic during rush hour.

The institute puts out the Urban Mobility Report every year. This years report puts San Diego County at number six in the country for the length of time motorists are stuck in rush-hour traffic. This is time drivers spend in their cars in addition to the time their commutes would take if traffic werent an issue. The national average, by the way, is 38 hours a year. Traffic delays have grown faster in San Diego over the past 25 years than they have in any American city besides Dallas.

I know a lot of people say this is bad news. But I think its great. Consider a couple of facts. For one thing, its good for public radio. People stuck in their cars have to spend even more time listening to Morning Edition and All Things Considered on KPBS. Im tempted to put my own show on that list too. But These Days comes on a little bit after rush hour.

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Secondly, if we get sick of being stuck in traffic, we may actually be motivated to change our communities to move away from aggressive suburban sprawl.

Think about it. What if people could live 50 miles from their place of employment and still drive to work at the speed limit? There would be no motivation to change our dependence on cement freeways and steel, gas-powered cars. And you know the rule about creating more road and freeway capacity: If you build it, they will come. More roads mean more people, more cars and even more hellish sprawl.

San Diegans are spending more and more time stuck in traffic because our population has grown a lot faster than our road capacity. Thank God for that! Otherwise our county would be covered with concrete from the shoreline to the mountains. Maybe you cant stop people from moving to San Diego. But you can insure that theyll have a miserable commute if they contribute to sprawl.

Im optimistic enough to hope that we will eventually come to our senses and understand that living close to where we work and shop is something thats going to make our lives a lot better. Hopefully well understand that cutting down on car use is the thing we can all do to stave off global warming.

So be glad that its not easy to drive at rush hour. And if you do insist on driving, stay tuned to 89.5 FM!