The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is now getting into the music business — it has launched a 2013 concert series called Traffic Jam 2013. The concert series will actually take place along the highway in various locations infamous for their traffic.
I guess the conclusion was: if you can’t fix the traffic, at least make it more enjoyable.
“Saying the year-round outdoor events were designed to attract music lovers of all ages to the country’s interstate highway system, department heads confirmed that more than 90 artists have already signed on, with top-drawer headliners such as Jay-Z, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Avicii, and Bon Iver set to play across the nation on more than 200 major U.S. roadways,” the Onion reports.
“Our goal was to put together exciting lineups that would encourage Americans to drive up the on-ramp of their nearest interstate, roll down the windows, and enjoy some live music as they travel,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “Whether you want to hear Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre rock the mic on a Long Beach frontage road or a rousing program from the Boston Symphony Orchestra across six lanes of I-90, we have something for everyone.”
Apparently, tickets will be sold for $55, and it will be sponsored by Bud Light Lime and Vitamin Water.
Aside from the music concerts, “the festival will also reportedly include dance performances atop freeway guardrails, nightly movies projected onto vacant billboards, and a wide variety of local food carts and beer concession stands scattered through passing lanes.”
The Truth Always Reveals Itself
Ah, of course, the Onion is a satirical news site (and my favorite old-school newspaper in college and grad school). If you’ve been to DC, you’ve probably seen stacks of the hilarious newspaper on many street corners. In other words, yes, the above story is a complete joke (you can read more here — it gets better).
But what is written below is not a joke.
The Price Of Traffic
In all seriousness, we have a huge traffic problem in the US… as does anyplace with a high percentage of car ownership and transportation. And that traffic adds up to some huge costs, many of which aren’t often linked to our transportation choices.
For example, as research by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) has shown, transit saves the US about 785 million hours of delay each year. But we all know that the large majority of our transportation is still served by automobiles, and we often see the traffic jams that result. If the relatively small transit ridership we have today saves the nation 785 million hours a year, how many hours are still wasted by single-occupancy vehicles sitting in traffic?
Of course, time is money, and all that lost time is essentially lost money… or lost time with our families and friends, lost time relaxing at home, etc.
Beyond the time costs, pollution from automobiles costs us much more than an arm and a leg. Automobile emissions cause lung cancer, heart attacks, asthma, and much more. This stuff is not your friendly cold. It’s not cheap, and it sure as heck isn’t pleasant.
Transit does save us hundreds of millions of gallons of fuel, hundreds of millions of hours in traffic, and tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution. (By the way, US transit riders actually save about $10,000 a year simply on fuel and car maintenance costs — per person.) Cyclists and pedestrians also cut all of those nondesirables, of course. But we still waste much, much, much more than we save. And while I loved the Onion article mentioned above, most of the time, traffic is really no laughing matter. It’s something I think we should all contemplate a bit more and work to address.
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