Chet Skwarcan is an award-winning engineer, writer, and industry innovator in the field of traffic engineering. He is known for leveraging his creativity, logic, and technology to solve today’s engineering challenges.

Where Does Traffic Come From?

Where Does Traffic Come From? I remember the first time my toddler asked that question as if it was yesterday — or maybe the day before. Anyway, I remember it was a Thursday (because the next day we had fish).

Experienced parents prepared me for this day. Well, as prepared as any parent can be when your toddler starts asking questions about traffic. So when a city engineer asked me this exact question last Thursday I had immediate flashbacks to that famous day so many Thursdays long ago…

Stunned momentarily but pavlovian in my response, “Go ask your mother,” I told him. His puzzled expression made me wonder if he heard me. “Go ask your mother,” I repeated. And then it hit me, perhaps his mother lives in another state or maybe doesn’t have email. So, I took a different approach and did what I always do when asked a difficult question, I recited our mission statement, “We have committed to authoritatively and professionally produce access to cost-effective and engineering-based six sigma programs to improve our long-term ability and proactively and collaboratively simplify advantages for effective and mission-critical data in order to utilize interdependent and emerging catalysts for change.” He nodded and slowly backed away. I guess we were on the same page.

When I got back in the office, I started thinking, “Where does traffic come from?” I came up with a few additional thoughts…

  1. Building anything increases traffic. And the increase is not linear — it depends on land use. Residences, offices, warehouses, retail — all have very different impacts on traffic.
  2. And the distance between where you live and where you work and where you shop and where you go to school — all contribute to traffic volumes. If you can get some of these needs met by walking or biking (or golf carts), traffic diminishes.
  3. And keep in mind, traffic congestion is a good thing (order your t-shirt now). It means you built a place people want to be. Bonus: congestion creates demand for other modes of transportation such as walking or biking (or golf carts).
  4. And there are times when communities grow faster than their infrastructure. This is when traffic studies identify opportunities to optimize traffic signals, add a roundabout, adjust speed limits, or revise circulation patterns.

I get it, toddlers ask difficult questions. And toddlers grow up to be city engineers and the difficult questions continue. But now you’re prepared — read the book!


Chet Skwarcan (traffic engineer, author, unique insights) with over 25 years of traffic engineering experience — online help available at