Our congestion "solutions" have failed
Tell your governor & state reps what they can do instead
In the United States, conventional wisdom holds that the solution to traffic congestion is more and wider roads. But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Really wrong.
It's been well documented for years that wider roads create more traffic rather than reduce it. Research showing this dates back to the 1960s and Transportation for America's new report—The Congestion Con—shows clearly that on average congestion has more than doubled in the 100 most populous urbanized areas since 1993, despite billions spent on freeway expansions.
Unfortunately, many state officials in charge of directing how we spend transportation dollars haven't gotten this memo and keep advocating for more roads as a solution to congestion.
It's time to end the con. Send a message to your state legislators and governor to make sure they have this new data.
There are dozens of prominent examples around the country that demonstrate just how futile highway widenings are, like the Katy Freeway widening in Houston or the I-405 widening in Los Angeles. Both epitomize induced demand, where new lanes just entice more people to drive. More insidiously, new freeways also spur sprawl by making previously remote land more readily accessible.
Governors can sometimes be the worst offenders here. Many have grand—i.e. expensive—highway plans to "solve congestion" and they appoint transportation secretaries that will make their pet projects a reality. In many cases, governors see their department of transportation (DOT) not as a holistic transportation department, but primarily as a highway department. DOTs could just as easily be put to work eliminating our road maintenance backlog or building robust networks of biking, walking, and transit infrastructure that would reduce traffic burdens instead of digging us into a deeper congestion hole.
But governors are absolutely not the only ones to blame here: state legislatures can and do set limits for or give directives to DOTs through legislation and oversight. Legislators can be just as complicit in the congestion con, whether they know it or not.
Take action to make sure elected leaders in your state have the information they need to make informed transportation investments.