Reducing Highway Size Doesn’t Negatively Impact Congestion

Nobody likes being stuck in traffic and in the recent past the solution was to build more roads (or add more lanes). Ironically this makes traffic worse as an increase in traffic capacity means more people will drive places. These narrow-minded solutions are still applied in some places like Toronto where Crack-Mayor removed bike lanes. Hopefully the next time transportation options are being looked at crack-voters will come to understand that the best way to make traffic flow better is to not cater to car drivers.

Whenever some city proposes taking lanes away from a road, residents scream that they’re going to create a huge traffic snarl. But the data shows that nothing truly terrible happens. The amount of traffic on the road simply readjusts and overall congestion doesn’t really increase.

For instance, Paris in recent decades has had a persistent policy to dramatically downsize and reduce roadways. “Driving in Paris was bad before,” said Duranton. “It’s just as bad, but it’s not much worse.”

So where did those other drivers go? Many of them switched to public transit, which in Paris has increased by 20 percent in the last two decades. Other trips have simply been avoided, or done on foot. It’s not just Europeans who are eager to get out of their cars. San Francisco removed a highway section, called the Central Freeway, that carried nearly 100,000 cars per day in 1989. The boulevard that replaced it now only carries around 45,000 daily cars and yet they move. (Yes, I’ve been stuck in traffic on Octavia Boulevard, but it’s not like you never get through.) Perhaps the biggest success story has been in Seoul, South Korea, where the city tore down a highway that was considered a vital roadway corridor, carrying 168,000 cars per day. After replacing the cars with a river, parkland, and some smaller roads, traffic didn’t get worse and many other things, including pollution, got better.

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