Texans Think They Can Solve Traffic With Retimed Traffic Lights

If only the traffic lights weren't mistimed.
If only the traffic lights weren't mistimed.

Breathe easy, Texas. Your long-term transportation needs -- the one lawmakers and policy experts have been fretting about for years -- have officially been solved. The masses, in their wisdom, which the Texas Transportation Institute has distilled in a just-published survey, have settled on a sure-fire way to address the state's congestion issues: Texas needs to do a better job of timing stop lights.

Tweaking traffic signals wasn't the only congestion cure respondents overwhelmingly endorsed. Their second favorite was "doing a better job of managing accidents."

Such results underscore a fundamental challenge in dealing with Texas' transportation needs in a meaningful way. Voters are in favor of solutions only so long as they involve no inconvenience and don't cost anything.

And so, while the survey reveals a solid majority favors adding more lanes to state roads (68.7 percent), investing in public transit (65.4 percent), and better funding the current system (63.3 percent), support drops precipitously when actual funding mechanisms are identified. Increasing vehicle registration fees by $10 is the least objectionable, with 36.8 percent support.

The other thing the survey makes clear is that cars will continue to dominate transportation policy. The vast majority of Texans think that drivers should dictate how transportation plans are shaped, with the Texas Department of Transportation running a close second. Pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users, Texans agree, should have a much smaller voice.

Democracy, in other words, might not be the best means of establishing a balanced transportation system. Perhaps a benevolent dictator, a not-evil Michael Morris, is in order.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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