When roads and streets were built many years ago, the biggest task facing the road builder was to keep them passable in all types of weather. The problem of moving large numbers of cars and parking them was not significant.
As the number of cars increases, taxing the capacity of our streets and highways, the field of traffic engineering has become increasingly prominent. Each year more people own and operate cars. Urban growth has increased the need for public transportation, for improved movement of goods, for new shopping and industrial centers, and for transportation terminals. Funding for new roads has decreased, due partly to environmental concerns. This has resulted in an increased emphasis on improving the existing road system as much as possible. Traffic Engineering is helping to meet these challenges.
Traffic Engineering extends beyond the local level. It plays a vital role in the functional design and traffic operations of the Interstate Highway System. The Traffic Engineer must formulate recommendations for the integration of freeways, shopping centers, and industrial complexes into communities which will serve the population and benefit future development. Traffic Engineers design and operate highway control and communication systems and devise ways to expand capacity and improve safety of existing roads and streets.
Traffic Engineering involves two major areas of activity:
(1) team decision making about new streets, highways and other transportation matters:
(2) responsibility for the efficient, convenient, and safe use of existing transportation facilities.
The Traffic Engineer is concerned with groups and individuals and their needs, desires, actions, characteristics, capabilities and limitations as related to the roadway system. His decisions affect drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
One of the tasks of traffic engineering is long-range transportation planning. Working with sophisticated, computer-aided techniques, engineers and planners determine future transportation needs.