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Vol. 10, No. 4 - July/August 1999

Congestion Is Here To Stay...You Might As Well Learn to Enjoy It - Commentary
"The most important thing to understand about traffic congestion is that it is a problem that cannot be solved. There is no remedy for traffic congestion." So says Anthony Downs, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, distinguished scholar and author, and an acute observer of the urban scene. Mr. Down's commentary has been adapted from an address he delivered at a recent GAO-sponsored Conference, "Moving Into the Future: Surface Transportation in the 21st Century."

News Analysis & Commentary

  • GAO Report: Extent of Federal Influence on "Urban Sprawl" is Unclear
    A new report by the U.S. General Accounting Office concludes that the impact of federal policies on "urban sprawl" and decentralization is difficult to determine. The conclusions come as a disappointment to "Smart Growth" advocates who had hoped to use the GAO report as ammunition in their campaign to "federalize" the issue and embark on a series of "anti-sprawl" initiatives.

  • Court Reins In EPA's Regulatory Zeal
    In a decision that may have far-reaching implications for the rule-making powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the EPA's revised standards for ozone and fine particulates (PM), issued in July 1997. The court has found that the delegation of authority to the agency was too broad to pass Constitutional muster. The court's decision, if affirmed by the Supreme Court, will effectively set a new limit on how far Congress can delegate to the Executive branch complex technical judgments affecting the public health and welfare.

  • In Southern California, Commuters' Travel Habits Have Remained Remarkably Unchanged Despite Regulatory Mandates
    Neither the trip reduction regulation nor its subsequent relaxation seem to have had much impact on Southern California commuters' travel habits. This is the conclusion that can be drawn from the data published in the latest annual State of the Commute report which has been tracking commuter travel behavior in the Los Angeles region since 1990.

The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority: A New Experiment in Regional Cooperation
The Georgia General Assembly recently passed legislation creating a transportation superagency with sweeping powers to address transportation and air quality problems in the Atlanta region. Whether the new agency will be able to effectively solve Atlanta's problems remains to be seen. But whatever the outcome, the Georgia initiative represents a rare example of regional cooperation.

Car Makers See New Business Opportunities In Catering to Motorists' Needs

The variety of telematics services - i.e., wireless delivery of information, music, entertainment, emergency assistance and other services to drivers in their vehicles - is increasing rapidly. For auto makers, providing telematics services to car customers long after they leave the showroom potentially represents billions of dollars of added business. It is not surprising, therefore, that telematics is becoming a subject of intense interest and scrutiny within the auto industry.

Commuter Rail Comes of Age
Unlike urban transit, whose ridership continues to erode, commuter and regional rail services are booming. More commuters are riding rails than ever before. Since 1989, eight urban areas have launched commuter rail service, bringing the total of metro areas with regional rail to 15. New rail operations are being considered in several other metropolitan areas. But commuter rail is also a prime factor behind something that transit advocates do not like to talk much about: growing metropolitan decentralization, a.k.a "suburban sprawl."

On the Cutting Edge of Traffic Management
Traffic management is turning out to be one of the Intelligent Transportation technologies' most successful applications. Advanced communication and information technologies are being used to more effectively control traffic flow, manage highway incidents, collect highway tolls and allocate parking space. Described below are a few of the more imaginative applications, as documented by MIT's International Mobility Observatory which monitors the state of transportation innovation throughout the world.


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