David BorasinoMonday, May 1, 2023
Photo by FormulaOne, courtesy of Flickr.
In the new era of transportation, when most places in the world are in your reach in just a few hours, we seem to fail at easily getting to places that are close to us. Of course, the price of traveling to Australia is not cheap, but the idea of traveling thousands of miles on an airplane was absurd only one hundred years ago. The first international flight was in 1919. But even with this world-changing improvement, the inefficient transportation systems in many of our own cities waste hours of people's lives. The Departement of Transportation estimated that on average, Americans spend roughly an hour a day in traffic. That time spent could be used to go from Birmingham almost all the way to Atlanta.
My personal journey every day most likely exceeds an hour. It takes me around 30 minutes to get to school. My drive to the soccer field takes about five minutes and it takes 20 minutes to get home (if I am lucky). Most nights I must drive myself or my siblings somewhere as well. I live seven miles away from Altamont, which is a decent way away, but almost everyone in Birmingham has dealt with Highway 280 traffic. There are three main reasons why Birmingham’s traffic is terrible.
The first is the design and geography of the greater metropolitan area itself. The most developed part of Birmingham is not the problem; it uses a grid popular throughout the US. The main issues are in the suburbs. While driving through the Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, and Homewood neighborhoods, you curve up and down, left and right, in every direction. This is a problem of suburbanization and the geography of Birmingham: When houses in the suburbs are built, the grid pattern is almost never followed. It feels like somebody built a house in the middle of nowhere, paved a road to it, and then other people started building their houses around it. The other problem is the hilly nature of Birmingham. Flat land is hard to find here, and it is much cheaper to follow hills as you create roads than to flatten mountains. These two factors have created a serpent like monster in our suburbs. It slithers and slides across the hills going anywhere a house is built.
The second issue is the increasing population in the suburbs. According to Data USA, Birmingham has 210,928 residents, but when the entire area metro is included, this number jumps to roughly 1.1 million, according to Census Reporter. People spreading out of Birmingham creates traffic jams as commuters attempt to go to their jobs in in the city.
The final issue is the terrible public transportation system. The only service that is offered in Birmingham is a bus system that is lackluster at best. Luckily for Birmingham, a new type of bus system was recently implemented. It was originally supposed to come out before the World Games, but COVID delayed the release. These new buses will have their own designated lanes and light priority. Light priority means they can switch the color of the traffic lights to speed up their travel. It won't solve the problem overnight, but it should help us navigate the frustrating jumble of traffic in our area.
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