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The Odd Professional Congestion Consensus
Beltway traffic. Flickr photo by derang0.

Beltway traffic. Flickr photo by derang0.

Dr. Gridlock received an e-mail with a set of suggestions for how to reduce congestion in downtown D.C. He responds by giving his own list, which basically consists of enforcing double-parking laws, not building more parking downtown and then implementing congestion pricing, bike lanes and priority bus service.

The ease with which he can provide these suggestions beautifully illustrates one of the stranger dynamics in transportation today. We are in a moment of paradigm shift where sustainable and urbanist transportation ideas have reached near-consensus among the intellectual community, have basically won the public discourse in large sections of the country, but have not penetrated the technocratic community that still runs the transportation bureaucracy. This is why Dr. Gridlock, who is far from a radical—his main job is letting you know where there is a traffic accident—can support bikes and buses over parking and lanes without raising a stir but the collective efforts of the entire local environmental movement may not be able to stop the widening of I-270.

Maybe the best analogy is farm subsidies, another policy where policy elites generally agree that the effects are harmful but where the political system is perfectly designed to keep the policy in place for many years to come.

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