“What you measure is what you get,” the saying goes, and for a long time, America’s transportation policy establishment was obsessed with measuring one thing: car congestion. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent in the quest for free-flowing vehicular traffic. The result is wider highways, more sprawl, and more people stuck in congestion.The changes:
But this week U.S. DOT took an important step to change course, releasing new standards to guide how transportation agencies measure their performance. Advocates for transit and walkability say the policy is a significant improvement.
An earlier draft of these rules would have codified outdated highway-era dogma, emphasizing the movement of cars and trucks as a primary goal. Thousands of comments poured in demanding an approach that factors in the value of transit, biking, and walking — and the agency listened.
The revised U.S. DOT standards will lead agencies to assess their work in ways that support investments in transit and active transportation, according to Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America, which led the charge to reform the rule. Keep in mind that funding is not at stake here — U.S. DOT can’t reward or punish state DOTs based on how they perform. But state DOTs will now have to set new goals and report on their progress, and advocates will have new ways to hold transportation policy makers accountable.
- Movement of people, not just autos must be tracked.
- Carbon emission impact must be measured.
- People using mass transit, bicycles, and walking must be counted.
- The final goal is no longer a traffic jam free rush hour.