Traffic is here to stay, but we can plan better

There’s traffic.

Honestly, there’s no need to ask around. You won’t gain anything new by looking out the window, and whatever traffic app you’re using is basically obsolete this time of year. There’s traffic.

There are many people here. There are few roads here. Granted, I’m a word guy who runs away from anything math-related like it’s tofu on an all-natural cracker, but I have a pretty high level of confidence that many people + few roads = traffic.

Is traffic an inconvenience? Sure it is. Can it make the veins on the side of my head move like Electric Boogaloo in “Breaking 2?” Absolutely. Is there anything I can do about it? Nope. 

That’s not to say we should all just sit on our hands and do nothing when faced with adversity, but, seriously, it’s traffic. Tons of new homes have been built over the years. Again, I’m not willing to bet anything significant based on my ability to do complicated mathematics, but if there are more homes, and many of them have indeed been sold to people, there are going to be more people driving on our roads.

“How’s traffic today?”

“It stinks.”

And that’s it. That’s the entirety of a conversation unless we’re trying to stretch it out to fill up some kind of air time. Sure, there are outliers, like if there is an accident or bad weather or a runaway pack of feral bunnies lay claim to Route 26, traffic will undoubtably be worse. But on your run-of-the-mill summer day, just assume traffic is going to be bad, leave a little bit earlier to get where you need to be and deal with it.

Or, don’t. Stay inside and complain about the traffic if it helps. That is your right in this beautiful, freedom-guaranteeing nation of ours. We have the Constitutional protections to whine about whatever we see fit, and God knows we embrace it. Oh, do we embrace it.

We whine about traffic. We whine about the weather. We whine about how the weather impacts the traffic. We whine about how people whine about all the whining we do, and we whine when people whine that people are whining about the whining we do about whining.

Whoa. That’s some next-level stuff right there. 

Look, I’m not trying to minimalize the impact that unprecedented growth has had on our infrastructure. I worry about the roads, particularly in case of a massive evacuation during a storm, and I worry about our sewer and water systems. I worry that enrollment in our schools is growing faster than we can accomodate it, and I worry that the frustration over that, and the accompanying price tag that many people balk at, is going to leave a generation of local children at a disadvantage when they enter the real world. That’s plenty to worry about, and it’s all pretty important.

My father always told me that there is nothing to get worried about in this world if you properly prepare for it. He said that when I would get myself nervous about a speech I had to give, or a test I had to take or a game I had to play, and it makes sense. If you prepare, then you take it on and the chips fall where they may. 

My fear with our infrastructure is that it hasn’t been properly prepared for, and has more times than not been ignored when considering new growth. I hear and read comments from people all the time who criticize “greedy developers” for putting up houses and impacting our infrastrucutre. 

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it. Developers are doing what they do, and that is, well, develop. They provide jobs, flush money into our local economy and inflate our municipal, county and state coffers through fees and taxes.

The problem, in my humble little mind, is that there is not enough long-term land-use planning to allow for smart growth that doesn’t stress our infrastructure beyond its capabilities, and that the current zoning laws that are on the books are often pushed to the side for variances, without supplemental decisions being attached that compensate for the drain on our infrastructure.

Blaming the developers, to me, is like blaming a police chief for spending too much money. The police chief is supposed to ask for as many resources as he or she can to make that department run as smoothly as possible. It’s up to a sitting council to control the purse strings. 

It’s the same way in the corporate world. When I worked for a big company I constantly asked for more reporters, newer computers and more overtime for the people in my department. More times than not, I was shot down — and I probably should have been, especially because I was never smart enough to include a way to pay for those new expenses. 

There are things we can control in terms of the growth we are most certainly going to continue to see around us in the future, and a citizenry that closely follows what happens and votes in their best interests can help that happen.

But there’s still going to be traffic. There will always be traffic.