Traffic as Social Ill

by dloughin

Why don’t more people view traffic as a great social ill? There are four primary headings under which this can be organized:

  1. Lost productivity: Sitting in traffic can be an excellent opportunity to create human capital, but most do not take advantage of this. Further, there are plenty of better uses of time that are cannibalized by wasting away behind the wheel.
  2. Accelerated Climate Change: Move to point 3 if you are convinced climate change is pseudo-science. If you have any interest in spelling the inevitable, you shouldn’t like traffic. We can acknowledge that people need to move across fixed distances–whether we travel too much is a different debate–while also acknowledging that traffic exasperates the amount of fossil fuel burned to generate the required amount of movement.
  3. Social/Familial/Relational Fragmentation: More time spent in traffic–assuming a fixed, structural portion of time devoted to sleep and work–necessarily decreases the time available for relationships with friends, family and loved ones. There is too much literature in existence already to doubt that ours is an age of decreased relationship. Some may argue that this is not cause for concern, but what cannot be argued is that traffic doesn’t accelerate this process.
  4. It Sucks: If we’re in the business of building a better society (on whatever scale you find most applicable), then getting rid of such an obviously terrible experience should be a priority.

Increased availability and scope for public transit as well as the advent of a driver-less car could spell some portion of these effects. But as is the case with anything Anonymous, you first have to admit you have a problem.