Eco-Living Magazine

More Roads Makes More Traffic

Posted on the 24 July 2011 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

More Roads Makes More TrafficIn a recent study out of the University of Toronto comes the startling revelation that “if you build it they will come.” While the line comes from Field of Dreams, the study’s findings say as much. The study’s official title, The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US cities, demonstrates that increasing the volume of roadways will increase the volume of traffic, not ease congestion by adding lanes.

What then about public transportation? There is no evidence “that the provision of public transportation affects [vehicle-kilometers traveled]. We conclude that increased provision of roads or public transit is unlikely to relieve congestion.” What can be done then to relieve congestion? Is incentivizing public transit the answer? An NPR story points out that many places have taken to charging fees. “Cities like London, Singapore and Stockholm . . . have adopted ‘congestion pricing’”, which may be the best solution to reducing traffic. This gets back to a recent discussion on 2nd Green Revolution about how money is not always the deciding factor for people to ride public transportation. Convenience and monetary benefits both highly impact consumer decision making.

Why then do municipalities spend billions adding lanes (a la the widening of the main highway connecting the westside of Los Angeles with the San Fernando Valley, my hometown)? Drivers. That’s why. The demand for more access leads to the construction of more roads. As discussed recently, road construction is not a particularly “green” activity. Having grown up on the north end of the current expansion taking place in LA I remember the pre-carpool lane days. I can’t recall exactly how many lanes there were when my family lived on the southern end in the swankier part of town, but I can still picture the halcyon days of fewer lanes and less growth along the corridor linking my first home and where I spent a majority of my youth.

More recently I’ve wondered why there wasn’t light rail or some dedicated bus lane running down the center of the 405 freeway. I know LA is capital of the car culture (sorry Detroit). I rode the public bus on occasion as a kid, mostly home from school. Usually we carpooled to allow parents to go to work on time, not necessarily to save gas. Sometimes I took the Fly Away bus to the airport. However, buses never played a significant role in my transportation. Alas, the car is king.

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