Thursday, September 25, 2014

Building new roads does NOT increase traffic congestion

There is a toxic meme going around that traffic congestion occurs because you are building too many roads.  The idea is that when you build more roads, this encourages people to use them, and traffic congestion paradoxically gets worse.  This is a deception designed to distract you from the obvious effects of too-rapid population growth.

It is true that sometimes building more capacity encourages more use.  When the capacity of computer storage increased, people filled it up with ever more data.  When someone builds a garage, it is often the case that before too long it is packed with even more stuff.  But not always.  As usual, you have to THINK about the situation and examine the real numbers.

In California they have been building schools like mad, but school overcrowding is getting worse.  Do we conclude that building schools causes classroom overcrowding?  Do we resolve the problem by not building schools?  What rubbish.  The problem obviously is that California has not been building schools fast enough.

In the last few decades India has had major increases in food production, yet half the population is chronically malnourished and most of the rest is not much better off.  So does growing more food cause malnutrition?  Is the solution to hunger in India to stop growing more food?  That is, of course, insane.  The problem is that increases in food production have not outpaced the demands of a growing population.  Either the rate of increase of food production needs to accelerate, or the rate of population growth has to slow.  THAT is the correct answer.

According to the United States federal highway administration highway statistics series, between 1980 and 2012 the total number of highway lane-miles increased from about 7.9 million to 8.6 million, roughly a 9% increase.  Yet during this time the population was increased from 226 million to about 315 million, a 39% increase. 

So it is simply false to claim that the problem is that building more roads causes more people to drive.  It is instead a fact that the United States is just not building enough roads to keep up with forced population growth. 

Now given that much of the highway system is already in place and more and more of the country is built up, you may not be able to build enough new roads even if you wanted to – because you would need to tear up so much existing structure to build them.  Also, as the nation’s population is increased past a half billion to a billion and beyond, the United States will likely be too poor for most people to be able to afford to drive. 

But this is not because cars are evil, or building roads causes traffic.  It’s just that a system designed for 170 million people won’t work for a billion.  Yes, Americans are probably going to have to give up their freedom to travel, and be packed in crowded buses and subways, but that is entirely due to population growth.  With a more moderate population density cars and highways work just fine.

But the rich want cheap labor, they want to turn the United States into another Mexico or Bangladesh, and they will stop at nothing to achieve this goal.  Thus even the most basic observations of the effects of rapid population growth are censored from public thought, and we are led to the absurd idea that if we increase the number of people on the roads, and don’t build any more roads, and traffic congestion increases, it’s because cars are evil and building roads makes traffic worse. 

Is ANYONE paying attention out there?  Can blatant absurdities be published and everyone just accepts it without thought?  Is public ‘debate’ today only the passive acceptance of empty slogans presented without any grounding in fact? 

No comments:

Post a Comment