Thursday, July 9, 2009

St. Louis Traffic Congestion Declines; Why That's Bad for the Region

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2009 at 9:34 AM

click to enlarge St. Louis: Seeing less of these lately. - FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/WYSCAN
  • St. Louis: Seeing less of these lately.
The Texas Transportation Institute yesterday released its annual Urban Mobility Report for major U.S. cities. The data for St. Louis was something of a mixed bag, depending on your outlook. (And whether the A/C is working in your car.)

The report shows that traffic congestion in St. Louis has declined a lot since 1997 and much faster than the national average.

The mobility report reveals that in 2007 (the most recent year in which data is available) the average commuter in the St. Louis metro area spent about 26 hours stuck in traffic compared to nearly 39 hours in 1997. And while the 2007 numbers do not factor in the shutdown of Highway 40, officials says that St. Louis traffic congestion remains far below what it was a decade ago.

The reason?

Improved traffic signaling has helped. So too has public transportation (before last April's cuts). High gas prices have also taken some cars off the road.

But the biggest reason my have to do with the overall malaise of the region -- with its shrinking household size and aging population.

As the soon-to-be-retired director of East-West Gateway, Les Sterman, tells the Post-Dispatch this morning: "It's also a lack of economic vigor in the area," says Sterman. The St. Louis area isn't attracting as many young people as cities like Austin and Chicago. And, "as people get older, (they) don't drive as much."

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