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Ahmad: We need to explore new ways to prevent traffic gridlock

The main solutions to the problem of freeway gridlock in large cities have been to increase the number of lanes, build multi-story freeway structures, to open the shoulder traffic, and to assign one-way lanes to alternate traffic directions at ru...

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The main solutions to the problem of freeway gridlock in large cities have been to increase the number of lanes, build multi-story freeway structures, to open the shoulder traffic, and to assign one-way lanes to alternate traffic directions at rush hours. These solutions are commendable, but how many more lanes can be added as the thoroughfares in densely populated areas widen to their limits?

There are programs for traffic monitoring and adjusting traffic signals accordingly to improve the flow of traffic. These and similar efforts only make small improvements.

Problems cannot be solved without identifying and eliminating their root causes. The main cause for traffic jams in large cities is the imbalance between employment and housing in employment centers. Housing is expensive closer to city centers because there is not enough available for all the people employed in the city centers. If the cities start balancing the number of jobs to the number of housing units then jobs will have to move to where people live rather than people commuting to them.

Often, cities lure employers to already overburdened areas by offering tax incentives. They can consider incentives for employees living closer to their work.

To evenly distribute employment and housing, cities can designate 10-square-mile square or hexagonal blocks and limit the employment in each block to the available housing. Continuous expansion at employment centers without corresponding housing expansion eventually chokes the thoroughfares and leads to frustrating commutes.

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Employers want to vie for employees who are experts in particular fields locating close to hubs for the related technologies, creating Silicon Valleys and automobile factory towns. But cities can help locate jobs in a way that prosperity spreads without having to turn the roadways into parking lots at rush hours.

Parents look for better schools for their children. If employment and housing are distributed evenly, talent will follow suit decreasing differences in the quality of neighboring school districts.

A plant I visited in Japan had erected a large multi-story apartment building right next to it so that its employees could just walk to and from work. The employer provided discounted meals so employees did not have to leave the plant to eat. An employer can absorb such expenses by making the related costs a part of the total compensation package for the employees.

A short-or preferably no commute-provides an employer a fresh and alert employee. A long commute results in an already-tired employee trying to stay alert by making frequent trips to the coffee bar. America should prevent traffic gridlocks in order to improve productivity and spread happiness and pleasure among workers.

Freeways are American lifelines. Cities and businesses should work together to help traffic flow freely for the benefit of all.

"Let my people go," do not hold them waiting in traffic gridlocks.

Ahmad has authored, translated and compiled “Points to Ponder,” “Why Islam is My Choice,” “A Gift for the Queen” and “Words of Wisdom.” He lives in Fargo and is a regular contributor to The Forum’s opinion pages.

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