Building Roads Creates More Traffic


traffic image

Well, the part of a recent study summarized in my title above is sort of well-known among city planners (a discipline I have a master’s degree in), but I often wonder how many normal folks know that building roads only limits congestion for a very short time, and that empty or underutilized roads stimulate traffic. Building roads induces traffic, it doesn’t really relieve it.

The interesting part of a new study, however, as reported on at Sightline Daily and reposted on Grist, is that increased public transit service also has “virtually no effect on traffic volumes.”

What?! Transit doesn’t cut automobile traffic?

Well, it’s the same thing as with the new roads — opening up space on the roads entices people to drive. Of course, if you’ve got some kick-a** transit options, people might not be so enticed by those empty roads. But if you really want to get people out of their cars, just adding or increasing transit service probably won’t have a huge effect.

This is probably a downer to some transit lovers and moderates who think we can expand roadways as long as we increase transit service. But, really, it’s a clear indication of where we need to go, because it clears up two things.

Those two things:

  1. As you relieve space on the roads, more people are encouraged to come and use it and bring traffic volumes to a sort of acceptable, but not efficient (and certainly not environmentally- or health-friendly), level.
  2. If you really want to cut back on automobile usage, increasing transit usage alone won’t due the trick, you also need to STOP building roads, or even convert roads into transit-only routes or bicycle/pedestrian paths.

More on this discussion over on one of the sites above — good stuff there if you are new to this topic.

Traffic image via shutterstock

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