Will easy commutes linger?

January 29, 2010
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

One of the few pleasant byproducts of the recession and its aftermath has been relaxed commutes—fewer people driving to work, fewer trucks delivering things, fewer service vehicles zipping about. There seems to be less congestion.

The observation is mine along with others who have mentioned similar experiences driving back and forth to work. If you see something different, chime in with a comment. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with anecdotal evidence because government statisticians don’t track traffic patterns consistently at the local level.

If you’re noticing comparatively hassle-free commutes, enjoy them while they last. Broader traffic counts, which dipped in 2008, are rising again.

Miles driven in the upper Midwest are recovering to 2007 levels. In Indiana, traffic already has exceeded 2007 levels on major city streets and highways; in November, traffic on these Hoosier “urban arterials” almost broke a record set in the same month in 2006.

All of which raises a question: If traffic is surging, why hasn’t gridlock of old returned?

Economist Morton Marcus thinks it’s because people who were laid off are still struggling to find jobs. So they aren’t on the roads during the heaviest drive times.

That explanation is borne out by employment in the Indianapolis area. The region has lost about 50,000 jobs, and the numbers were still dropping as of December.

Marcus believes overall traffic is rising because people who didn’t lose jobs are easing back into normal lifestyles. They’re packing popular restaurants and heading to malls. However, few of them are on roads during peak drive times, so they have little impact on commutes.

Trucks are replenishing depleted inventories in warehouses, but their presence is spread throughout the day, not just during peak traffic.

Eventually, employers will start hiring again, as they usually do during the final stages of a typical economic cycle. Until then, commutes promise to remain tolerable.

What are your thoughts?

ADVERTISEMENT
  • Response from one of the unemployed
    This makes perfect sense to me. As one of the scores of unemployed, I can say for certain I am no longer on the roads during the morning or evening rush hours. I commuted 30 miles for over 20 years and have been off the road during rush hours for the past 6 months. Multiply the effect of that by the number of unemployed commuters and it makes perfect sense.
  • Commuter Driver
    I have told many friends that commutes are getting worse, and that it is indicative of more people back to work. Maybe we are not back to the peak level but at the same time, look at the road improvements along the I69 corridor, 465 on the west side, 465 and I70 on the eastside a few years ago, Keystone from Carmel to 465 some of which is completed, and numerous other smaller projects. I would like to think our tax dollars have made commutes easier because of improved engineering and capacity, as much as fewer cars traveling the same routes.
  • depends...
    Well, it depends. I have seen a downward spiral from 2007 to about March 2009 - when I was let go (and I was off for 8 months), and when I was back in a new job, i noticed a lower car ratio. Since the hire date, I have seen an increase, but then again, the holiday rush has provided alot of that travel (in the afternoon/evening traveling). In this past month, there has been a little more than in march of last year, but it is too early to tell.

    Until the rehiring starts, I will enjoy the commute on 3-4 different routes that I take (pending on traffic on i65 and weather conditions).

Post a comment to this blog

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

ADVERTISEMENT