Opinion: What American Transportation Engineering Gets Wrong

And how transportation decisions could more effectively prioritize safety.

1 minute read

March 13, 2024, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Bird-s eye view of multi-lane road intersection with medians and crosswalks.

artiom.photo / Adobe Stock

Writing in Streetsblog San Francisco, Roger Rudick describes the view of a transportation engineer working in the Netherlands, who says the American approach to transportation engineering contributes to our high number of road deaths and poor pedestrian infrastructure.

According to transportation engineer Steffen Berr, “the American transportation system is fundamentally broken because ‘transportation engineering’ is a specialty within civil engineering when it's really a separate field. They think ‘transportation engineering is just where the paint goes. They don't know what transportation infrastructure actually is.’”

For Berr, “It's why cities continue to widen streets or refuse to implement lane reductions that would actually reduce traffic congestion.” And “It's why American DOTs violate fundamental principles of safety, such as isolating the largest vehicles from the smallest and most vulnerable to the extent it's possible, and limiting speed with infrastructure wherever it's not.”

Berr says it’s not that the Dutch don’t complain about loss of parking. But engineers there take a more collectivist approach. Berr says “his responsibility as a European transportation engineer is to provide a street for everyone, not one for car throughput and parking, with every other consideration made secondary.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Streetsblog San Francisco

Satalite image of a bright green lake surrounded by brownish-green land

California’s Largest Natural Lake Turns Green With … Algae

A potentially toxic algal bloom has turned Clear Lake in Northern California bright green, fed by increased runoff from human activity.

June 4, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Gravel walkway along lake at Earvin Magic Johnson Park in Los Angeles County.

‘Parks After Dark’ Helps LA County Communities Thrive

Los Angeles County's popular Parks After Dark program continues to serve communities in need and offer multiple important benefits, as documented in a recent UCLA study.

15 minutes ago - UCLA Newsroom

Delivery drone holding a brown paper wrapped box hoveringin air with city in background.

Utah Establishes Air Mobility Framework

The program outlines a statewide approach to delivery drones and other air transportation options.

1 hour ago - PR Newswire

Amtrak train at Union Station with Chicago skyline in background.

St. Paul-to-Chicago Borealis Rail Line Launches

The Amtrak service, 12 years in the making, doubles the number of available trips on the corridor.

2 hours ago - Route Fifty

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.