Phoenix--For a population that likes to be on the move, Arizonans spend a lot of time stuck in traffic. In fact, people who live in Phoenix or Tucson lose the equivalent of one work-week every year sitting in traffic, and traffic congestion costs Arizonans $2 billion annually in lost time and fuel.
Arizona is stuck in traffic because were stuck with old ways of thinking about how to solve transportation problems, argues Dr. Byron Schlomach, director of the Goldwater Institute Center for Economic Prosperity. In a report released today, More Roads to Travel: A Path to Transportation Solutions, Dr. Schlomach explains why Arizona suffers with traffic congestion and how we can get moving again. (Click on the underlined title to enter the interactive fact sheet.)
We need to think outside the box, says Dr. Schlomach, because the transportation funding plans we have in place wont get us from here to there.
This fall voters may be asked to approve a tax increase to address Arizonas transportation funding issue. The initiative would increase the sales tax, with proceeds funding new transportation projects. But the Goldwater Institute believes Arizonas transportation needs can be met without a tax increase. Solutions include:
- Create a new transportation funding mechanism--toll roads. Twenty states have toll roads funded, under construction, or in place as part of the interstate system. Asking drivers to fund the new highways they will use directly, and allowing the private sector to pay the up-front costs of new road building would dramatically reduce the need for more tax revenue.
- Stop requiring the Arizona Department of Transportation to purchase state land. Currently, it is illegal for the Arizona State Land Department to turn property over to other state agencies for any purpose other than building a school. Therefore, ADOT must buy land--which amounts to the state buying land from itself. The state constitution should be amended to allow the Land Department to give ADOT land at no cost to build needed roads. This would reduce the time and cost of road building.
- Consider tolls or congestion pricing to reduce traffic at peak hours. Fully half the people on the roads during rush hour arent coming from or going to work and could be encouraged to travel at a different time, if financial incentives were in place.
- Minimize expensive and inflexible mass transit and legalize inexpensive, flexible, private mass transit. Metro-Phoenix isnt dense or centralized enough to be a good candidate for mass transit. The $898 million in contracts that have already been awarded for the Phoenix light rail would be enough to build 19 miles of four-lane freeway. Cities throughout the world allow private companies to operate small vans and buses that run on flexible route and time schedules. Arizona should legalize this approach.
- Implement known techniques to improve traffic flow. Signal synchronization, building grade separations, converting streets to one-way, and adopting restrictions on truck lanes would help improve traffic flow. Smart road technology, such as dynamic signage, can help too.
More Roads to Travel: A Path to Transportation Solutions in Arizona is available online at www.goldwaterinstitute.org. To have a copy of the report mailed to you, please call (602) 462-5000.
The Goldwater Institute is a charitable research and litigation organization whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters.