Of course traffic is getting worse -- the population is growing

March 01, 2010

Of course traffic gets worse ("Traffic getting worse? Survey says yes," Feb 25th). Those who study population dynamics in the U.S. know that the Baltimore-Washington area has been growing very rapidly, adding roughly 70,000-90,000 people per year, for quite a few years now. For the Baltimore area, if we consider the population increase of Howard, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Harford counties (where many car commuters reside), data available show that the population increase for the combined counties since 2000 has averaged 13,000 people per year! The population of Howard County was 25,000 in 1950 and has grown to over 275,000 today.

Many of these 13,000 people added each year drive. So we expand and widen roads but congestion keeps pace. Roads like the Baltimore Beltway can only get so wide before bridges must be redone. The U.S. has the fastest growing population of any developed country about 3 million people are added each year (50 percent to 60 percent of this is due to immigration and the remainder because births outnumber deaths each year by about 1.5 million). And the coasts are growing at a faster rate than the country as a whole. The U.S. grew from a population of 151 million in 1950 to 309 million today and is projected to reach 400 million by about 2050. It seems clear that at some point this country will need to seriously consider a population policy. In the meantime, without major increases in mass transit, it is very probable that traffic will continue to get worse.

Stan Becker, Baltimore

The writer is a professor of population studies at Johns Hopkins University.

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