National and regional policymakers scramble to solve this congestion and its dangerous and frustrating circum-
stances through the perceived assumption that there is a demand for new and more roads. Yet, building and widening roads ironically only increases traffic. The more roads that are built, the more people that use them, a phenomenon called induced demand. Essentially, the more people get of something – the more of it they will consume.
Matthew Turner and Gilles Duranton, two economists, compared roads that were built to the total number of miles driven over the course of a 20-year period. They uncovered the existence of a one-to-one relationship. They concluded that the “increased provision of roads or public transit is unlikely to relieve congestion.”
Dating back to 1955, Lewis Mumford, an American Historian, stated, “People, it seems, find it hard to believe that the cure for congestion is not more facilities for congestion.” Indeed, Turner and Duranton found in their study that mass transit simply allows for the movement of more people while simultaneously opening up more “spaces” for additional cars on congested roads
Once we start to think of our network of roadways and transit systems in this manner – that building more actually increases congestion, it is imperative to consider what will happen as our population continues to rise. Even more people will demand the use of even more roads, and we can’t continue to think that we can build our way out of this problem. The solution to more is not more; it is less. 95% of population growth is from immigration. We add 1.5 million more people to the roadways every year. How many more roads can we build, eating up personal property and open spaces along the way, before we run out of space? Imagine in 2065 when an additional 103 million people are using our roadways and transit systems. How many days per year will the average American spend commuting when that number becomes a reality?
Content Writer for NumbersUSA's Sustainability Initiative
Updated: Mon, Apr 27th 2020 @ 5:05pm EDT