“Henrico’s traffic planners figure that, as a general rule of thumb, the average residence produces the equivalent of 10 vehicular trips per day.”*

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Photo: Traffic on I-64.

In the interest of full blogger disclosure, I’ll admit my bias up front: I hate cars – they cause pollution, fatness, and death. I’ve never understood people’s fascination with old cars, luxury cars, those little model cars, any of it. Sure I like the mobility afforded by the automobile, and the ability to get out of town. But any day of the week I’d prefer to bike, walk, or take a train and leave the car at home. One of my proudest moments in using public transportation (I know, it’s a weird thing to be proud of) was when I made my way from my house in Richmond to the airport in DC without a car: I took the 13 bus to Main St. Station, took Amtrak to DC, switched to the metro at Union Station and traveled to L’Enfant Plaza (which necessitated changing lines), and then took the 5a bus to Dulles Airport. It was a beautiful thing. But ridiculously complicated! In Germany, the trains stop inside the airports- here I had to take two metro lines and a bus to get there.

But back to the point at hand. 10 trips a day! Where is everyone going? Let’s see if I can’t figure this out:

Work: 2 trips (1 there, 1 home)
2 people working?: 4 trips

Grocery shopping: 2 trips (but presumably not every day?!?)
Take the kids to school: 4 trips (2 trips to pick them up, 2 to take them home)
Kid’s soccer/ballet/piano lessons: 2 trips per child
Post Office, Drug Store, or other random errands: 2 trips (although, is it 3 trips if you go to the grocery store(1), then the post office(1), then home(1)? Or is that 2 trips? Good lord, I don’t want to be a traffic planner- talk about dull conversations. I’m boring myself just writing this.)

Well I guess that’s it- a household with 1 person working, 2 kids in school who also participate in extracurricular activities, and one daily trip to the grocery store would generate 10 trips.

But, at the risk of boring my readers even more, the National Household Travel Survey (Read their reports, impress your friends!) shows that Henrico’s number is pretty far above the national average. In 2001, the last year I can find data for, the average household took about 6 trips per day (for the nerdy amongst us, more data can be had here). Does the county have real data (one would hope) indicating they’re above the national average? Does the county board chair know what he’s talking about (again, one would hope)? Do they fudge their numbers to make the case for more roads? At any rate, apparently people who live in Henrico drive – a lot – 10 trips a day, every day.

So, do Henrico-ites drive more than the rest of us? Is the whole Richmond region above average (and I mean that in the worst way)? And most importantly, will this ever change?

One of the depressing aspects of this quote was that it came in the context of discussing the New Urbanist development of Rockett’s Landing- a community that’s designed to be walkable and cut down on car dependence. It would seem the county is not counting on this “new” type of development to actually lessen residents’ impact on traffic patterns.

Well, I guess it’s up to all of us to get out of our damn cars. Start using the bus system (it’s not that bad, really!). Bike, walk, and start asking your local politicians to increase our transportation choices. Move somewhere where you don’t have to drive to get to work or the store. We shouldn’t have to use our cars for everything!

For more, read John Sarvay’s recent Buttermilk & Molasses post on “The U.S. Through a Canadian’s Eyes.” – Incidentally, living in Canada is what changed the way I think about cities. I couldn’t agree more with this Canadian’s assessment of the difference between our two societies.

Also, there’s a great movement around the country to build “complete streets” – that is, streets that are built for multiple uses – bikes, pedestrians, etc. Louisville is the latest of 22 cities to adopt a policy to build all new roads as complete streets- and to retrofit old ones when when they’re repaved.

*According to Henrico county’s chairman of the Board of Supervisor, James Donati, Jr., as quoted in the March 5th City Edition article, “Coming Soon to East Main Street: Traffic Tsunami” by Phil Wilayto.

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