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Thoughts From Our Director: You Are Traffic

written by Diane Hanson Feb 23rd 2018

Photo of Traffic in Boston

The slogan “You are not stuck in traffic; you are traffic” is one of my favorite phrases that comes to mind when people complain about their car commutes. I follow that up with my vision for traffic reduction.  How can we reduce highway traffic without building more lanes?  What if we all picked one day a week to change our commute?

A coordinated effort could reduce traffic as much as 20%.  Some behaviorists point out that the reduced traffic on the roads may seem so appealing that a coordinated effort would actually attract new drivers. In an ideal world, commuters would realize the environmental benefits of not driving into work, especially alone, and would notice a decrease in congestion.

By taking the train, carpooling, or teleworking once a week, you really can have an impact on traffic.  Better yet, try working a compressed work week (CWW).  Typical CWW programs are either four 10-hour work days per week or 80 hours worked over nine days instead of ten.  When I worked in Las Vegas, most of the City and County office employees worked compressed work weeks. This made a dramatic difference traveling to work Monday through Thursday, as we commuted during off-peak hours. Fridays had a noticeably lower traffic count on the road, when most City and County offices were closed. As an employee, I appreciated the tangible benefit of spending less time commuting during the week, and because there were so fewer cars on the roads on Friday, running errands took less time too. The intangible benefit, of course, is that fewer cars on the road mean cleaner air.

Our vision for less commuter traffic in Massachusetts can become a reality if both employers and commuters commit to changing. A recent study in Virginia noted that one of the most effective strategies for reducing traffic in the D.C. area is implementing a telework policy.  By allowing employees to work at least one day a week from home (one day out of five is that 20% reduction we need), we can have an impact on daily traffic.

By employers supporting a telework policy or allowing CWW schedules, we can get closer to making our roadways safer, cleaner, and less congested.  Employers can also support greener, less congested commute options by subsidizing transit passes instead of parking permits. If employers make it less attractive to drive and park and more appealing to take transit, lower traffic congestion will follow.

Please email me if you think your Massachusetts employer is doing a great job by promoting green transportation options, and we may feature you in our next blog post.

Here are a two interesting transit articles I’ve read lately:

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