The Commute of The Future

The commute of the future may include more tollways and smaller, electric cars.

ByBill Weir, Drew Millhon and Imaeyen Ibanga via via logo
February 08, 2009, 9:56 AM

Feb. 8, 2009 — -- The clogged traffic lanes along the nation's highways serve as a headache for millions of commuters, who spend an estimated 4.2 billion hours a year stuck in traffic. But the problem isn't a new one; in fact it goes back centuries.

"Caesar was having trouble with carts and chariots cluttering the streets during the day so he says, 'Ok, you're only allowed to come in at night.' This brings up a new problem; people are having trouble sleeping because of all the horses' hoofs at night," said Tom Vanderbilt, author of "Traffic."

But the solution to less congested highways and byways may come at a price.

"Highways will become toll roads. Your credit card will be constantly refilling the little box on your windshield that will be charged by the mile," said Chris Leinberge, an urban planning expert at the Brookings Institute.

Every errand, every outing literally would count, as the meter ticked away for each second you spend on the interstate.

"Imagine a kind of system where there's monitoring of traffic congestion in real time on a block-by-block basis and then prices are adjusted in real time on a block-by-block basis," said MIT Media lab professor William J. Mitchell. "So if you decide to run errands at rush hour, you'll pay more. And if you want to use the fast lane, you'll pay more."

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