Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Life on the slow track

Here is Wendell Cox, responding to this piece in The Economist.

An old trope is that Europeans wisely invest in infrastructure (especially rail) while dumb Americans are stuck in their cars in heavy traffic.  Read no further than their lede:  "America's transport infrastructure: Life in the slow lane."  One should immediately be suspicious.  Wendell's post sets the record straight, but look for the magazine's report to be widely cited and quoted.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I have been looking at the EU's Urban Audit which includes city-specific and metro area-specific commuting data.  Urban Audit and The Economist's source both have Hungary/Budapest with the worst travel times.  But even if I include Budapest, an unweighted average for 13 major European cities for 2001 is 34 minutes one-way (all modes).  It is slightly less for 12 major metro areas (Dublin included in city list only), 32 minutes one-way.  In most cases, the metro numbers are lower because they include the less congested suburbs.

Go to the survey that The Economist links to and they report an EU average commute for 2000 of 37.5 minutes (clarification: one-way).

I had reported earlier that the 2009 (NHTS) averages for U.S. commuters were lower, 25 minutes for urban areas and 24 minutes for suburbs (22 minutes for what they call "second city", and edge city label).  These are also one-way and all modes.

Why are the U.S. averages lower?  Probably because we have more suburb-to-suburb commuting.   But that's the last thing that a proper and cosmopolitan reporter would come up with.