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Think Wider Roads and More Freeways Will Help Relieve Congestion? Think Again.

Most people might think that adding more lanes on roads and freeways for automobiles might relieve traffic congestion. Generally, this is not the case. The somewhat counter-intuitive theory of induced demand is explained well in the Wired article titled What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse. The same theory can be applied to free parking, which may be something to think about as we discuss parking at the Transit Center. Here's an excerpt from the article but I highly recommend you read the entire thing.

As a kid, I used to ask my parents why they couldn’t just build more lanes on the freeway. Maybe transform them all into double-decker highways with cars zooming on the upper and lower levels. Except, as it turns out, that wouldn’t work. Because if there’s anything that traffic engineers have discovered in the last few decades it’s that you can’t build your way out of congestion. It’s the roads themselves that cause traffic.

The concept is called induced demand, which is economist-speak for when increasing the supply of something (like roads) makes people want that thing even more. Though some traffic engineers made note of this phenomenon at least as early as the 1960s, it is only in recent years that social scientists have collected enough data to show how this happens pretty much every time we build new roads. These findings imply that the ways we traditionally go about trying to mitigate jams are essentially fruitless, and that we’d all be spending a lot less time in traffic if we could just be a little more rational.

Read more at Wired.

Weekend Reads: June 27

It Didn't Used To Be This Way