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Induced Demand

2014-06-17 17:29:23.208606+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

Wired: What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse:

If a city had increased its road capacity by 10 percent between 1980 and 1990, then the amount of driving in that city went up by 10 percent. If the amount of roads in the same city then went up by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000, the total number of miles driven also went up by 11 percent. It’s like the two figures were moving in perfect lockstep, changing at the same exact rate.

Yep. We use roads at capacity, which would be fine if we were making money on roads, but we're not. We lose money on roads, and they've become a huge drain on our economy.

[ related topics: Interactive Drama Currency Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2014-06-17 21:05:35.987721+00 by: Larry Burton

I need to point something out here. Just because the government isn't making money on roads doesn't mean we aren't making money on roads. Trucking companies are making very good money on roads.

#Comment Re: made: 2014-06-17 22:43:13.43791+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, but unless we're assessing road users enough to actually pay for the roads, those trucking companies are doing it at the expense of my income tax (and maybe to a lesser extent my property and sales tax) dollars. And we're not able to afford to keep it up.

So when I say "we lose money on roads" I mean that we don't charge nearly enough use/fuel tax to users the financial models we use to justify roads are over-estimating the impacts of those roads on property and sales taxes.

#Comment Re: made: 2014-06-17 23:12:29.96264+00 by: spc476

We have a gas tax that obstensibly is used to pay for the roads, but how do we tax electric vehicles? Should bikes be taxed?

#Comment Re: made: 2014-06-17 23:21:43.075066+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think there's an argument that some portion of the roads should be paid for by property tax dollars, and maybe that some should be paid for by income taxes. I think that if we start with the cost of what maintaining decent sidewalks and pathways for lightweight vehicles, and say that that's just a part of keeping a functioning society together, then we've got a great starting place.

Heck, I'm even okay with saying that we're going to take the cost of facilities for heavier vehicles out of property taxes, given that we're going to presumably provide fire protection (and probably other similar infrastructure) services out of those taxes, and providing roads is a part of that.

That, at least, would provide a more direct incentive to not sprawl all over the place.

But gas taxes are woefully insufficient to maintain our roads at our current levels of sprawl, and as you point out are particular to a certain sort of motive force. I think that, between rising fuel economy and electric and other sources, sometime fairly soon go to a VMT, possibly even a time related VMT (so we can do congestion pricing).

What this is going to to do privacy and the social contract... I don't yet know. I suspect it means that all your travel data are belong to the NSA, deal with it.

#Comment Re: made: 2014-06-18 00:57:12.005919+00 by: Larry Burton

I have no problem with the government tracking commercial vehicles. I have a huge problem with the government tracking private vehicles. I refuse to just deal with it. There has to be a better way to finance infrastructure that respects the citizens privacy and equitably divvies up the cost of it.

#Comment Re: made: 2014-06-18 06:53:07.150382+00 by: ebradway

The core issue is that people don't understand the cost of operating a car. We think of only the cost of gas. Car sharing programs are changing that. The rate for car sharing includes gas, insurance and the cost of buying and maintaining the vehicle. Car sharing is growing quickly and perhaps the model will extend to cover real road costs.