Complaining is easy

This morging was only slightly different compared to others: traffic was bad.
This time it was 525KM bad at it’s peak, a few minutes past 9 in the morning.

We Dutchies have always been very good at complaining about any- and everything. Weather, immigrants, politicians, the national football-coach, the neighbors and the traffic.
True, all named above do have flaws, faults or less desirable characteristics but complaining about the traffic has become a national sport. And also yes: there is a lot to complain about.
The only issue is that often it only remains at complaints, and no thoughts are given to solve the issue properly. Short-term solutions are often favoured as they accomplish quick-wins, but do not guarantee effects in the future.

A nice example is the often considered solution of laying down more tarmac. The reasoning behind this is that more tarmac allows for more traffic to go to the destination, and simple provides more space for the traffic to drive on.
At first it seams a really nice solution. We’ve got the spare land to build more highways on, or extend the existing highways; but there’s a catch. What to do about the existing bottlenecks? I’m talking about bridges, tunnels, fly-overs and other obstacles that are there due to our other infrastructures or nature itself. All of these will also have to be adapted or otherwise modified for the roads to consistently be improved.
Aside: the often cited argument of environmentalist groups that greater supply (of tarmac) leads to greater demand (traffic using the tarmac) is untrue, or at most of a very little influence on the daily commute in my opinion. Even if it is true, the daily practice learns us that with the current methods to get commuters out of their cars (high added taxes on fuels, fuel-dependent tax when buying a car, economy-priced public transportation) in place, traffic is still bad. More demand only adds little to the traffic as many already fear the morning-queue on the highways and try to avoid it by using alternative transportation methods.
More tarmac: insurmountable issues.

The second is to improve the public transportation. More supply, greater demand.
This also only has limited effect on the daily traffic, as many commuters have to travel to and from places not connected (well) to the public transportation network. And in many cases, using a car is simply faster than going by bus/subway/tram/train/lightrail.
To truly improve public transportation, a considerable investment has to be done to connect more cities by train, expand existing subway and tram-nets or intensify bus-services. It can only be guessed whether the proposed improvements are worth the massive investment. My guess would be that this would require at least €200 billion over the next five years: a price we simply cannot afford.

More could be added, but you would probably have guessed a single solution is not sufficient.
My proposal would thus be to combine several solutions, while the question still remains whether the issue can be solved at all.

If I were to have a saying in this: I would lay down more tarmac (both new highways and improvement of the current ones), improve the secondary road network to only have the inter-regional traffic using the highway, local traffic will use the secondary network. Also, I would cut down on highway-exits: less traffic is switching lanes leading to less accidents and better flow through.
To not end this list: I would intensify the public transportation by running more trains / buses / trams / lightrails / subway trains over the same route. More available space and with competitive pricing would almost certainly get more people in the public transportation.

In short: a combination of all these solutions might provide an answer to our daily growing problem.
With the emphasis on might, I’m not sure whether it can be solved at all.
What about you?

7 thoughts on “Complaining is easy”

  1. Environmentalists aren’t interested in stopping tarmac because it’ll not help stop congestion; they’re opposed to more tarmac to stop fucking with our environment (more tarmac = less enjoyable environment and more human footprint) and to stop more cars polluting our environment.

    Any solution that’s actually solving the traffic congestion is doomed to fail because people aren’t willing to invest some of their own welfare in the wellbeing of the environment. Simply put, people aren’t willing to give anything up for long-term environmental improvements. So if at any point you decrease traffic, by whatever method, the available space will be taken up by others using the car.

    What we need is a mentality switch. It shouldn’t be normal to use the car – it should be a last-ditch solution only used when there’s no other option. To achieve that, other solutions dó need to be viable. I agree with your argument that public transportation should be improved to stretch beyond the main hubs in our network, although you’re pulling that number (200B over 5 years!!) out of your ass, considering the fact that the Betuwelijn ‘only’ cost 9B over the last decade. 200B, that’s a third of our economy dude 🙂

    With a mentality change and a viable alternative, pressure on the national roads will already decrease substantially. Add to that measures to increase the amount of home-work traffic (extra workdays spent at home, subsidies for people getting jobs close to home, more focus on cycling instead of lease traffic, etc) and I think you’ve accomplished a more substantial decrease in traffic pressure than you ever will by spending tremendous amounts on redoing our tarmac network.

    Off-topic, it’s fun to see that while I naturally oppose your viewpoints as that’s what I’m supposed to do ;), we do really usually have opposed opinions. Bloody liberal versus treehugging hippie ftw 🙂

  2. I knew I forgot to put something in 🙂
    The reasoning of the environmentalists is exactly the same as I intended to mention, I forgot to do so though.

    Indeed, I am stretching the limit on my 200B-claim, I intentionally chose it this big as, and you mentioned it, the Betuwelijn cost us 9B. Think about the expansion: it should not only include adding lines (10B each) but also upgrading existing lines or doubling/tripling line capacity. This is a number I cannot regurgitate, so I guessed it to be 1B each. Multiply it by the number of heavily-used lines and voilà: you get a number in the vicinity of 200B. As a bonus: it is about a third of our “BNP” and is easy to work with. 😉

    Treehuggers sometimes rule, yet they don’t when it comes to blocking all sorts of projects intended to give Holland a little bit of extra “Schwung” to remain competitive on the global market. Shall we say: internal mobility (the extended A4 near Vlaardingen & Betuwelijn), harbor competition (Maasvlakte 2), and more. These projects are usually delayed or even canceled due to the effort put in by the environmentalist groups to stop the project from “polluting” the environment.
    Usually their arguments are crap, and their intentions good but without any perspective on the rest of our country.
    But then again: I’m not a huge fan of groups like PvdD, WakkerDier, Dieren Bevrijdings Front, Groenfront and Milieudefensie.

    I agree on the mentality-change, I however think it is really hard to accomplish, as we all have turned into selfish morons, only striving for personal success and comfort. No, that is not a flame specifically to you. 🙂

  3. These projects are usually delayed or even canceled due to the effort put in by the environmentalist groups to stop the project from “polluting” the environment.

    Good. Your attitude is exactly the attitude that is stifling international efforts to reduce human footprint on our environment. “But if we do it, we’ll be outcompetited by others who don’t!” Boo fucking hoo, that’s the endlessly repeated argument of those opposing environmental movements. It’s the same line of arguing that allows people to toss used cans on the street, as “just one has no impact anyway”. It’s a slippery slope and you know it is. While you might’ve only read or accepted the arguments that state that there’s time left to waste when it comes to thinking about our environment, I don’t think it’s a chance we’re capable of taking. Already reports are surfacing that we’ve crossed some threshholds. Sure, probably they’re exaggerated, I’ll give you that. But if they’re not we’re taking more risks than we could possibly ever take. And reducing our effect on the environment takes time, too.

    Usually their arguments are crap, and their intentions good but without any perspective on the rest of our country.

    Usually the arguments on the other side are crap, with good intentions (human welfare increase) but without any perspective on the rest of the world and the flora and fauna in it.

    Indeed, I am stretching the limit on my 200B-claim, I intentionally chose it this big as, and you mentioned it, the Betuwelijn cost us 9B. Think about the expansion: it should not only include adding lines (10B each) but also upgrading existing lines or doubling/tripling line capacity. This is a number I cannot regurgitate, so I guessed it to be 1B each. Multiply it by the number of heavily-used lines and voilà: you get a number in the vicinity of 200B. As a bonus: it is about a third of our “BNP” and is easy to work with. 😉

    The Betuwelijn was a construction project that needed a whole lot of buyout for a mostly new line. Increasing our rail network to stretch to smaller hubs as well is mostly placing railway over small stretches from existing network. Nowhere near comparable.

    I think doubling/tripling line capacity isn’t that expensive either. Just a few days ago ProRail released a report that stated that by 2012, they could probably house about 150% more railway traffic on the existing network with a limited total amount of spending (link). So if I’d venture any guess I’d go along the lines of 5B for expanding capacity, then 1B for each individual new line, let’s say we connect the 50 next largest towns, you get 55B. Add some new material for another 10-15B and you get up to 70B. Maybe.

    Keep up the posting though, I enjoy these kinds of arguments. Allows us both to take an extremist stand 😉

  4. Can I note you agree with the argument that aerosols emitted by traffic going 80km/h is less of an issue as those emitted by the very same traffic rolling along at 100km/h?
    The emission of aerosols is one of the reasons for the traffic to only be allowed to move at 80km/h on the highways around Rotterdam; a rule which has led the minister of Verkeer & Waterstaat to conclude the queue’s worsened by about 25%. (hey, is that the same as the speed-reduction? :+ )
    This aerosol-claim has been emphasized by several environmentalist-groups in order to let the neighboring people live in a aerosol-low environment. But they totally are oblivious of the economic effects of such a draconic action: 25% more congestion is huge, and easily outweighs the danger of the added aerosols.

    I strongly disagree with you on the fact that you say I’m the same as those not willing to do individual commitments to a cleaner environment. I do throw away my own trash, and I do try to buy products not placing too high of a burden on our global environment. Without me trying to be the best kid on the block: I’ll admit to not trying it hard enough: quick wins also work for me. 😉

    I’ll be posting more soon, and you know I like this sparring too 😀

  5. Can I note you agree with the argument that aerosols emitted by traffic going 80km/h is less of an issue as those emitted by the very same traffic rolling along at 100km/h?

    Nope, you can’t. It depends on the percentage reduction. 20% speeddecrease leading to more than 20% aerosol emission is a positive. Equal means a net effect of 0. Less than 20% reduction in emission means a net increase in total emission as less speed = more time traveling. In addition, if traffic queues cause cars to spend even móre time (in addition to the extra time spent due to the lowered speed limits) emitting, that’s an even worse benefit.

    It’s about emission per traveled km. That’s what you want to reduce.

  6. Oh, and a final note. I’ve turned this into an environmentalism debate and that’s not what it was about. Reducing congestion wás. I agree that just increasing tarmac will probably have zero effect. If anything, it’ll cause more people to get stuck in traffic equally long. However, I don’t think increasing tarmac coverage is part of the solution at áll.

    As argued, it’s about increasing viability of alternatives, as regional traffic has other options, and public transportation is sub-optimal at best, and about inducing a mentality shift. How that’s to be done, I’m not quite sure. It starts with education and upbringing, but that’s only a long-term measure. Short-term, mentality shifts are implausible measures, and I’d move away from discouraging car usage (it’s been proven to be uneffective; up the price of gasoline and all that’s happening is people are paying more to get stuck in the same traffic, because they don’t consider any alternatives to be truly viable) to encouraging alternatives. Ticket prices for trains are mentally steep: you spend 25 euro’s on a two-way ticket, which is just a single journey basically. Of course, with taxes, maintenance and fuel included, cars aren’t really cheaper – costs are, however, spread more evenly. So you should either concentrate on eliminating this mental price barrier, or making trains in general more attractive. Plans for building parking lots near train stations, greenwheels and train combo’s (buses aren’t really more environmentally friendly than cars anyway), rent-a-bike, carpooling solutions, stimulate those and alternatives become viable. Then get some top notch marketing guru’s on it and get people to move along. Students could be a good trend-setting group – they’re usually quite hip and trendy.

    Without me trying to be the best kid on the block

    Eh, I take showers that are way too long and buy fruits in wintertime that are obviously a) imported or b) grown in greenhouses that use way too much energy. I’m sure you act decent most of the time. It’s the reasoning that you’re displaying that’s faulty in my humble opinion.

  7. I still strongly disagree that with more tarmac, more people will be equally long stuck in traffic; simply because of the fact that I think there’s truth in your argument, yet only it holds to a certain extend.
    I think there’s a “buffer” so you will of people eager to travel by car while they are now using alternatives; but I also think this is quite a small buffer.
    It however all depends on how much more tarmac is to be laid down, but to overcome the now daily issue of traffic I’m guessing it’ll be quite a lot. This assumption also makes for easier understanding of my previous statement.

    Starting to influence the minds of those at a young age to be more responsible is always a good thing, yet I think it’ll be overdone as we all tend to want too much at a too fast pace.
    Also, if there is a way to make not traveling by car hip and trendy, I’m guessing it’ll be a big hit as we are really into hypes nowadays. 😉
    ^^hmmmz, maybe a new topic to ponder upon?

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