Thursday, November 10, 2011

Building More Roads Does Not Ease Congestion

Congestion is not an easy beast to tame for cities around the world. Building more roads and increasing the capacity of public transport does little to improve congestion, according to new research conducted in American cities and published by economists at the University of Toronto. The authors expand upon the classic “law of peak-hour traffic congestion,” published by Anthony Downs in 1962, which states that “on urban commuter expressways, peak-hour traffic congestion rises to meet maximum capacity.” The University of Toronto researchers believe that the law can be applied to all major urban roads, not just expressways. Drivers in São Paulo, Beijing and Los Angeles would likely agree.
Despite this research, many cities are still trying to relieve congestion and accommodate higher rates of car ownership by building even more roads exclusively for cars. But as the former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Peñalosa, said, “Trying to solve traffic problems by building more roads is like putting out a fire with gasoline.” The main issue is the intense demand for space on roads. When a new space is opened, either by building new roads or incentivizing drivers to switch to public transport, the road space vacated is soon occupied by more cars. 

Congestion in Sao Paolo, photo by Fernando Stankuns

Traffic congestion in Sao Paolo, by Fernando Stankuns

Traffic congestion in Sao Paolo, by Fernando Stankuns

more about urban transportation:

Visualizing, Analyzing Vienna's Traffic Patterns

Tehran and the challenges of a metropolis in the millennium

California’s Policy Model to Reduce Oil Use and Vehicle Emissions


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