Nobody wants to spend time sitting in traffic. It's frustrating. It wastes time, money and natural resources. It pollutes the air and water. It's bad for individuals, families and communities.
Experts in transport planning have been grappling with this issue for decades. The cause of traffic congestion is easy enough to understand if you think about the trips you take in a car on a regular basis. You may drive to work or school, drive to shops, services and even parks. Every trip equals another car on the road, and some types of trips cluster around specific times of day... the dreaded rush hours, or in Erie's case, the school pick ups!
Last year, traffic problems were exacerbated in Erie due to poor leadership that resulted in overlapping road closures for construction and road maintenance. The closures more or less resolved themselves over time as projects completed. While I make no apology for the incompetence that caused the road-rage of 2021, the bigger concern is the increased number of cars that add to Erie's traffic congestion every time a new sprawling residential development is filled with hundreds or thousands of trip-taking residents. Can Erie really handle more people and cars?
There are a couple schools of thought when it comes to resolving traffic congestion, but they all rely on the same basic premise: if you can reduce the distance between people's homes and the places they go, they will make fewer trips by car. For some people, that will mean moving closer to their work or school and riding a bike (like my biker-chick daughter). You may be thinking "Great! That's one less car on the road for those of us who aren't able to easily move closer to work". Some policy-makers would try to "encourage" people to move closer to work. They increase the cost of fuel or tax mileage until the commutes get so painful that people can't afford NOT to move.
But that doesn't solve the problem in Erie. As people move closer to their work - most likely outside of Erie, the houses they vacate are filled by new families that are just as likely to be making those trips each day, and adding to the traffic.
This is where smart growth comes into play. Erie needs to balance residential development with its own commercial center that attracts primary employers - the big ones like Google or a community college. If Erie can attract those types of employers, then the people who move to Erie as part of the town's long-range build-out plans won't be making trips to Boulder, Longmont, Fort Collins and Denver. They will ride their bikes or walk to work, leaving the roads available for those who must endure the longer commute. No punishment necessary.
Erie's elected officials have suggested that they support smart growth. I'm sure that they know what smart growth is because they smiled and voted in favor of the Town Center plan that the Duany consulting firm drew up... but they may not understand what it means to support it. That's an issue for another post.