KHOU analyzes commute times pre/post-SAFEclear

KHOU-11's Jeremy Rogalski reports on Houston's SAFEclear program, and whether the promises made by supporters early on actually square with reality:

“Traffic will move a lot faster.”

“Move the traffic along”

“Move the traffic on the freeways.”

Those comments came from Houston Mayor Bill White while he was launching the City’s Safe Clear wrecker program in 2005.

Top ranking officials in the Mayor’s Office of Mobility even went a step further:

“You will see a tremendous difference in the flow of traffic,” said Joe Breshears, Director of the Office of Mobility in December, 2004.

And David Saperstein, the program’s chairman pledged “a huge difference for people getting to work on time” in March, 2004. Six months later, Saperstein added that Houstonians would see “a dramatic uptick in the reduction of drive times.”

So, the 11 News Defenders wanted to know, has the city lived up to its promise?

We analyzed peak drive times for every major freeway into downtown: Gulf, North, Northwest, East, Eastex, South and Southwest. The Katy Freeway was not included due to construction.

The analysis covered the morning peak hours of 6:30a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and the afternoon peak hours between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. 11 News compared average drive times along those segments in 2003 to 2006, which is two years before Safe Clear, and two years after the program was launched.

The bottom line -- 86 percent of those routes saw not a reduction but an increase in average drive times.

Later in the story, Mayor White and Tim Lomax are quoted as downplaying KHOU's results, because more vehicles are on the road. While that may be true, it doesn't change the fact that supporters of the program promised more than it has delivered (or possibly could deliver), or that Mayor White certainly has not been shy about trumpeting any statistic that reflects well on SAFEclear. We suppose that's just the nature of (ambitious) pols.

We also suppose that the sorts of people who get upset with proponents of Texas electricity deregulation when they argue that electricity prices might be even higher without deregulation won't bat an eye when it comes to assertions that congestion would be even worse without SAFEclear.

Now, to be fair, many of us who have criticized SAFEclear will readily concede that getting stalled cars off the freeway expeditiously helps traffic flow -- that seems obvious. However, we did have concerns about the original draconian program (which effectively treated the cars of poor people as a way of paying for the program), and we continue to wonder if the program as currently conceived gets the city the best bang for its ($3 million) bucks. Perhaps city officials could learn something from KHOU's analysis, instead of simply dismissing it?

BLOGVERSATION: Lose an Eye, It's a Sport.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 10/16/07 10:46 PM | |

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