TOWARDS A PROGRESSIVE TRAFFIC ENGINEERING MANIFESTO: Values and Priorities To Guide 21st Century Road Work
The “spirit” of a law or policy is really just as important as its “letter”. The frame of mind – the professional culture – of those implementing a policy, their underlying values and assumptions, will shape their decisions and actions just as much as the words. Nearly a decade ago, one of my first LivableStreets blogs, Traffic Engineering Myths Revealed, explored what seemed to be the car-focused, Interstate-derived consensus among road-design professionals. Today, while transportation policies have radically changed, too often much of the old designs still infest road projects. It’s time to promote an explicit and short description of a more progressive vision.
Here is a rough outline of what I think should be in a short summary of the framework for 21st century traffic engineering. As you can tell, much of this is drawn from past blogs. This is just a start: what do you think should be added?
CLOSING THE GAP BETWEEN TRANSPORTATION POLICY AND ENGINEERING PRACTICE: We Won’t “Bend The Trend” Until Professional Culture Changes
Thirty-seven percent of Bostonian households (37%!) don’t own a car. But that still leaves most of us, especially suburban and rural dwellers, car dependent – forced because of the individually-varying distances between our homes and workplaces and shopping/socializing destinations to use individual vehicles to get around. Our transportation system has to acknowledge and service that reality.
While ignoring the current need for cars is both functionally and politically self-destructive, ignoring the need to “bend the curve” of future demand would be even worse. While Massachusetts policy regarding transportation infrastructure has begun recognizing these realities, and actual road design has significantly improved, the gap between vision and reality is still enormous. And a key reason is the lag between new ideas and their incorporation into the transportation profession’s culture. We need to change some of the metrics and defaults that shape road engineer’s decisions to nudge them towards more creative and complete incorporation of the new vision and values into their work.