In the last 24 years the United States has created over 30,500 miles of road, a 42% increase in road building. Commensurate with that is congestion, which has increased by 144 % in the same time period. A new report from Smart Growth America called The Congestion Con examines American highway construction and breaks down the costs.
“Each lane-mile of road costs between $4.2 and $15.4 million to build and another $24,000 a year to maintain. States alone spent $500 billion to expand roads between 1993 and 2017.”
Think of it~that is just the capital outlay and does not factor in pollution or the cost of crashes. This is induced demand at its finest, with more roads and lanes appearing to speed up traffic, but just fills up with more cars. In fact a California researcher discovered that each percentage of extra road capacity created produced the same amount of miles traveled.
As more roads get built, people commute farther and the statistics in this report prove it. Since 1993, the average American driver commutes an extra four miles a day.
One way to mitigate congestion is to build transit infrastructure and to incentivize it. In Seattle bus trips grew as a percentage from 42 percent to 58 percent in seven years, with a decrease in single occupancy vehicle trips to 25 percent. Housing infill in denser neighbourhoods and cycling and walking infrastructure also aims to assist people in commuting less and more sustainably.
Despite the congestion gains found in slowing traffic, densifying downtowns and building resilient transit systems, many transportation planners and politicians still plan roads the way they always did, thinking roads will solve congestion issues. Politicians focus on congestion “symptoms” instead of causes.
You just can’t build your way out of congestion with new roads and bridges.What you can do is support denser cities, active transportation, and revamped transit options offering alternatives to travel by vehicle. Add road pricing to private vehicular use, and all of a sudden transit is a viable option.
What will it take for the “congestion mindset” to change?