Those with a stake in more and wider roads have relied on the Standard Argument (the one the Province is using to justify Gateway) : increased capacity will allow for freer flowing traffic – and hence less pollution.
But that logic is based on the assumption that new capacity won’t fill up with more traffic – and hence, in the end, neither solve the congestion nor the environmental problems they generate. So they’re pulling out reports that purport to prove that new capacity won’t result in increased traffic.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is playing up its conclusions:
Roads ‘good for the environment’, says study
EurActiv.com, 11 April 2007 – Bigger and better roads contribute to cutting pollution by removing bottlenecks, states a report commissioned by the EU Road Federation. The study follows criticism from green groups that investing in roads is contrary to Europe’s sustainable development goals.
Citing a study undertaken by an independent Norwegian research organisation, the SINTEF Group, the ERF claims that infrastructure capacity increases are directly linked to decreases in polluting emissions from motor vehicles.
I can only assume that they expect most readers (and newspaper editors who reprint their quotes) will never actually read the report.
Here’s page 10:
And here’s the most significant quote in the paper:
The results of the study show that we get a substantial growth in car traffic when the capacity of the congested urban motorway is increased by one extra lane. An increase from 43% to 62% in use of car is actually ca 45% increase in car traffic and decrease from 43% to 24% in trips by public transport. In reality it will not be sufficient to increase the capacity with only one extra lane. Two or three extra lanes will be needed to get free flow on the motorway. In most large cities in Europe there will be a lack of both the economic resources, land space and political will to go for such a solution and the results more or less emphasizes the “old truth” that when cities are larger than a certain size, it is more or less impossible to solve the traffic problems by increasing the road capacities.
May I repeat that:
… when cities are larger than a certain size, it is more or less impossible to solve the traffic problems by increasing the road capacities.
They’d argue for even wider roads, of course, always hoping that another lane or two will get the traffic moving. I’m still looking for a successful example in North America, where instead, highway expansion invariably leads to more car- and truck-dependent land use, as we’re currently seeing with the Sea-to-Sky corridor.
The motto of Gateway, however, is: “It won’t work, we know it won’t work, we’re going to do it anyway.”