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Old August 6th, 2005, 05:53 PM   #201
TO_Joe
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A Matter of Choice

Some of my observations:

1. There are big variations of quality within each "system". There are some well-designed highways that are a pleasure to drive on in the US, and there are some incredibly crappy and dangerous ones. Likewise in Europe.

2. There is no free lunch. You get what you pay for. If you want high pavement / signage / markings / safety standards, then you have to pay for it (construction and maintenance). If you want to sensitive be to the environment and integrate it into the surrounding areas, you may need designs / routes that will not be the cheapest.

Sounds obvious but this point is often lost because highways are a collective good and you don't pay for it individually. This is where ideologies can creep in and muddy things up. The frequent comments about "low taxes" or "socialist systems" reflect how ideology can muddy up the obvious.

3. There is a difference in design objectives between the US and Europe. The US system is designed so that it serves a car-centric society where everyone can drive and reach their destinations. In Europe, highways are designed as an augmentation to a rail / mass transit system.

So in the US, standards are set to minimally-acceptable so that everyone can get a license and go anywhere. This is why driver training and examination is not emphasized in the US -- you can see it just by the minimum number of training hours required, the examination standards, etc. The upside is that virtually anyone can get a license. The downside is, unsurprisingly, you get crappy drivers. Compare the US regulations in general (they do vary by state, I know, but take it as a whole) with the European ones in general (they vary by country).

In keeping with the go-anywhere design objective, the US emphasizes building more new roads into new areas and suburbs rather than maintenance. So you get crumbling pot-holed existing roads.

4. Climate of course is a big factor on cost. The climate is harsher in the Northern US and Canada -- particularly the freeze / thaw cycles that crack asphalt and concrete. Even southern US faces problems with the heat and buckling. Harsh climates puts a lot of stress on the roads.

And population density and geography has an effect on design and affordability. Why spend millions on paving a road that is travelled on by only a few dozen cars per week.

5. Of course political systems and existing political realities make changes changes difficult. That is why I use the term systems -- it feeds on itself.

US has chosen "free" highways (not toll-collecting) in general, to pursue low gas tax (in keeping with the car-centric go-anywhere objective), dedicated and protected highway construction funds (particularly the Interstate funds) whereas in other countries highway construction needs to compete with other government priorities from general revenues, use of direct referendums to decide on highway upgrades (by authorizing bond raising on the ballot) in many states or local counties, etc.

Many people have profited and are continuing to profit from this system -- oil companies, car companies, land developers, construction companies, and even retailers. There wouldn't be Wal-Marts and Big Box stores like Home Depot without a car society built with lots of highways and everyone being licensed to drive.

Just think about how many powerful interests you have to fight to change that.

And the society became conditioned this way. The frequent mentions about the car is part of the "American Dream" shows how much of this attitude has been manufactured through decades. Think about it this way: if Otto Daimler and Henry Ford did not come up with the modern car for the masses, then does that mean America will cease to exist and that there will be no "American Dream"? Of course not. It is conditioning.

Then the politicians of course will take this reality and use it to their advantage to gain power. That's why the emphasis on building new roads -- everyone likes to be at sexy ribbon-cutting ceremonies and no one likes to allocate budgets to boring old maintenance that have no political value.

And if you start putting tolls on the highways -- hell, just try to charge for parking in suburban malls in the US -- riots will break out.

Contrast this social attitude to Japan or other countries where you expect to pay toll on highways, pay exorbitant fees for parking, pay a lot of money for gas, etc..

6. The problem is that some negative effects such as pollution, ecosystem damage (like building roads that cut off animal migration paths and resulting in roadkill, etc.) have no obvious concentrated, organized and motivated constituencies like builders and car companies. Everyone is adversely affected but no one person or group can own or takes "responsibility" for it.

For the free-enterprise ideology crowd, note that there is no "market" for this even though there are negative effects. This is clearly an example of market failure that needs to be addressed by some other mechanism -- regulations or creation of artificial market mechanisms like carbon-emission trading, etc. to solve this problem. To ignore it and sweep it under the rug is clearly disingenuous.

It is interesting to note that highway safety (death and personal injuries) does have a powerful constituent. It is not so much the highway users themselves (who are either unaware or don't think too much about the risks of a good or bad highway or sharing the road with good or bad drivers), or traffic engineers and transport departments, but it is the insurance companies who want to limit their payouts. That is what drives the highway safety lobby ultimately. Other with their own political agenda tap in -- such as drunk-driver campaigns (which is motivated by an underlying moralism rather than public safety) or law enforcement and municipalities (since traffic ticket fines go into the city or department's revenues).

7. Finally, and perhaps the most important point is that engineering techniques are not an issue at all. Highways have been designed and studied to death -- construction methods, costs, maintenability traffic flow, human factors, and there are global best practice standards that everyone uses or has access to them. This ain't some new technology like nanotechnology.
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Old August 6th, 2005, 11:55 PM   #202
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That's not the case everywhere here...there are some states that use very high quality products when constructing their highways and are very well maintained.i wish i could say the same for California...

California is a beautiful state,but our freeways are not and i blame it on our lousy state government.
Quote:
Originally Posted by chiccoplease
I think American highways are crap because when it comes to construction in that country, everything is done half-heartedly. A new road is finished -- 1 year later it looks like it's been out there for decades. In this aspect I don't see much difference between the US and Russia.
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Old August 7th, 2005, 04:40 PM   #203
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California has a real excuse, though -- the density of cars and the landscape are untypical for the US. However, when you drive over potholes in the lightly populated North of America, especially in Upstate NY, you really wonder why the standards are so low.
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Old August 9th, 2005, 07:19 AM   #204
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nick-taylor
The 401 by the way is one of the worst scars on the face of the planet, I'd rather have cancer than have that in my city.
Well, it's the only highway that goes east west straight through the city, Toronto decided they rather widen it than build an extention of another highway. I can count how many Highways are in my city, its 5, can u? probably not.

Nobdy hates the 401 cause its massive, because if they did ANYTHING to reduce capacity, there could be an outburst of severe traffic EVERYWHERE.
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Old August 9th, 2005, 08:48 AM   #205
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JayeTheOnly
Well, it's the only highway that goes east west straight through the city, Toronto decided they rather widen it than build an extention of another highway. I can count how many Highways are in my city, its 5, can u? probably not.
If you're talking about full freeway conditions (and major links, not just short connecting freeway's) I believe there are at least 7 in the inner part of Frankfurt's metro (Rhein Main), there will be more in the full Rhein Main.
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Old August 9th, 2005, 09:22 AM   #206
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I remember I tried to count how many were Chicago, I almost went crazy.
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Old August 10th, 2005, 02:13 AM   #207
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Quote:
Originally Posted by .::G!oRgOs::.
I thought this thread was dead ages ago...
haha, same here
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Old August 10th, 2005, 05:05 AM   #208
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I didn't notice any difference. I think most of the US highways are more a lot safer though.
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Old August 10th, 2005, 01:35 PM   #209
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I'm not sure if this really hasn't been mentioned after 10 pages, but I didn't see it in my skim over this thread:

The US has some of the biggest and heaviest vehicles using its roads, such as SUVs, pick-ups, tractors, and semis (seemingly in higher frequency than other countries that rely more on smaller trucks and trains). Not sure how a big a factor that is on road wear though.
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Old August 10th, 2005, 04:46 PM   #210
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Quote:
Originally Posted by addisonwesley
I didn't notice any difference. I think most of the US highways are more a lot safer though.
That's because most Americans drive slow and defensively.
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Old August 10th, 2005, 06:50 PM   #211
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"That's because most Americans drive slow and defensively" - there's nothing wrong with driving defensively, it helps to prevents collisions. In Canada, new drivers are also taught to drive defensively. It's not like there's some big race, that's the kind of thinking that causes accidents (that and drinking).
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Old August 10th, 2005, 07:01 PM   #212
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The reason US highways are so crap is that they only lay on average 12inchs on concrete as Germany and other European Highways lay on average 40+ inchs. It means Germanys etc dont crack during temp changes and US ones do.
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Old August 10th, 2005, 11:27 PM   #213
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andysimo123
The reason US highways are so crap is that they only lay on average 12inchs on concrete as Germany and other European Highways lay on average 40+ inchs. It means Germanys etc dont crack during temp changes and US ones do.

???? do you have source for all of america?
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Old August 10th, 2005, 11:47 PM   #214
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Nope I was watching a program on the worlds highways. It was saying that Germany's highways have to be a really good quality or they wouldnt be able to handle the high speeds which people travel at and also they need them to last longer. As for the US highways the speeds aint as high so they dont lay as much down. Basicly the faster the highway the better the road.
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Old August 11th, 2005, 04:15 AM   #215
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I like complexity, I like massive chaos, ordered chaos to be more specific. That's basically what a city is. And I like transport systems (freeway systems) for the reasons). In terms oh highways, the US is better than Europe, imo. Each city has a complex network of transport, and there's a certain feel, a buzz, you get when you're on a busy highway within a big complex of highways, each having their own personality, all transporting hundreds of thousands of people a day (as miles and miles of the city pass you by)

Think of car chase scene on The Matrix Reloaded and then imagine that on multiple (10+) highways within the city.

I think size does make a difference as some people here have denied. Travel on Atlanta's I-75 (which has something like 8 lanes for each direction) and you'll certainly be "moved." It was very impressive when I saw it. A massive highway feeding into an elaborate interchange (there are plenty in each US city) that joins major arterials, city streets, and sometimes even 2 other major expressways. It's quite exhilarating, imo. In many metros you can drive for an hour and constantly be surrounded by a sea of cars, "There are like million cars on the road" is the feeling you get. "Where are all these people going."


American highways in general have to endure this kind of wear and tear day in, and day out ....

Seattle



Cincinnatti

I-75
I-71


Chicago















wow... traffic in 1959...Did Europe have this??

Last edited by streetscapeer; August 11th, 2005 at 04:25 AM.
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Old August 11th, 2005, 06:47 AM   #216
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Another typical "X in Europe is better" post. No different than the sports arena or vs forums.
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Old August 11th, 2005, 08:01 AM   #217
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rantanamo
Another typical "X in Europe is better" post. No different than the sports arena or vs forums.
funny you say that, as many Americans seem to be doing the same from their side here. "X in America is better".

Looks to me like both sides have the same atitude.
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Old August 12th, 2005, 02:32 AM   #218
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you re forget France The Autoroute system in France consists largely of toll roads, except around large cities. It is a network of 12,000 km worth of highways

electronic panel in the rural highway



Paris peripherique freeways
traffic in 2002: between 1.1 and 1.2 million vehicles per day: 89% light vehicles, 7% trucks, 4% motorb
road
total length: 35.04 km (21.8 miles)
surface: 1,380,000 mē
bridges, exchangers, surroundings
156 off on- and off-ramps, total of 54 km and 380,000 mē
6 exchangers, 44 access points
300,000 mē service pavement



the europeen busiest freeway
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Old August 12th, 2005, 03:05 AM   #219
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1.2 million vehicles a day? That's too many on a highway like that!? Unless it was congested 24/7.
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Old August 12th, 2005, 03:18 AM   #220
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I don't agree that European highways are 'much better than American ones'. I think this statement is too general, as they vary greatly between each country in Europe. I do think that the road surfaces are better in Europe, I find the primarily concrete road surfaces in the US very noisy, I have travelled a lot on them in the US and it's difficult to hear someone talking to you or something on the radio. However, the standard of drivers is generally much higher in the US than most European countries, with the exception of the UK, meaning that the highways in the US are generally safer than European ones, with the drivers driving at lower speeds than in Europe. The drivers in France, Italy and Spain are particularly careless on highways, and the severe lack of patience is also a problem. This is not the case in the US, where the drivers are more courteous and drive with more care than these European countries. I would say that the US is just behind the UK in driving standards, and a long way ahead of most of Europe. On top of this, the highways across most of Europe (with the exception of the UK) are extremely narrow in general, as demonstrated by many of the pictures, leading to a less comfortable driving experience, whereas in the US the lanes are wider. Overall I feel much safer on US highways than on ones in mainland Europe.
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