By Joe Milazzo II, PE
Executive Director, Regional Transportation Alliance
The Texas A&M Transportation Institute recently released their annual “Urban Mobility Report.”
Our region has tended to rank well in this report, which analyzes travel time and traffic delay in 100+ metro areas across the U.S. — and the June 2021 edition is no exception.
In fact, the Raleigh-Cary metro ended up ranked as having the lowest traffic congestion in America for any major metropolitan area of over 1 million people.
While we need to take the current year’s study results with a pandemic grain of salt, the fact that we have repeatedly enjoyed low scores from a congestion standpoint gives me confidence that this is more evidence of exceptional metropolitan mobility for our region.
This is a somewhat remarkable result — that a fast-growing market could also consistently have very low congestion.
My sense is that this is the result of 4 fundamental factors:
- “Protected” location along the eastern seaboard
- Dispersed land uses across the region
- Propensity of remote, flexible work in this market
- Purposeful, sustainable mobility investments over time
“Protected” location – The Triangle region has easy access to I-95, the longest and most important north-south Interstate highway in America, even though I-95 does not pass through our three core counties of Wake, Durham, and Orange. This is helpful because we are not subject to through traffic, which reduces our congestion levels.
Dispersed land uses across the region – With multiple central business districts spread across the region, and with Research Triangle Park, our largest jobs center, in the center of the region and outside any municipality.
Propensity of remote, flexible work in this market – While many jobs cannot be performed outside of an office, others can. This high technology region is naturally suited to emphasize work from home/anywhere — the “road not taken” will definitely reduce traffic.
Purposeful, sustainable mobility investments over time – While the above three factors are beneficial, the reality is that the sheer magnitude of our sustained population growth requires sustained investment in mobility over time…
….And we have done, and are doing, exactly that.
This region has opened 50 miles of new freeway just since 2000. Looking ahead — and acknowledging that state funding issues are delaying things somewhat — we are still on track to add 40 more miles of freeway by the end of this decade, including the completion of 540 in southern and eastern Wake.
The bottom line: sometimes low score is exactly what you want — just like in golf. Also like in golf, you have to keep practicing, and investing in yourself, in order to remain successful. The regional business community is committed to just that — bringing people, priorities, and possibilities together to accelerate exceptional metropolitan mobility for this region.
RTA is the voice of the regional business community on transportation in the Research Triangle area. RTA represents more than 100 leading businesses and 25 member chambers of commerce in central and eastern North Carolina.