The Urban Mobility Report published earlier this year revealed a surprising dichotomy about congestion in St. Louis. Despite congestion continuing to decrease since 2000 as represented by the report’s travel time index statistic shown on the right, travel time for the average St. Louis commuter has increased.
As mentioned before, the reason for the dichotomy likely lies with the sprawling nature of St. Louis’s suburbs. Between 1950 and 2000, St. Louis’s urban population grew 48% while urban land area grew over 260%.
The difference between population and land area, however, tells only part of the story; it shows how thinly the region’s infrastructure is being stretched. The data underlying the Urban Mobility Report tells another part; it shows that our road infrastructure is likely overbuilt.
According to the Urban Mobility Report, since 1982, the total number of lane miles in the St. Louis urban region (areas with densities greater than 1,000 people per sq. mi.) has more than doubled from 3,145 miles in 1982 to 6,615 miles in 2009. Over the same period, however, the region’s population utterly failed to keep pace with the flurry of road building and grew by only 25%.