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Old Posted Aug 1, 2017, 6:16 AM
Car(e)-Free LA Car(e)-Free LA is offline
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Location: Los Angeles, California
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Originally Posted by BrownTown View Post
The whole, "induced demand" this is mostly just a convenient myth people use to oppose highways. Sure, if you widen the highway more people will use it, but those trips aren't people driving in circles, they are people going to work, going to the store, etc. They are contributing to the Economy and improving infrastructure helps grow the Economy. Yes, eventually it catches up again but at a higher overall level. The few examples NIMBYs like to use of why widening freeways doesn't work usually involve widening one section of road in a large road network. Obviously one small improvement to one part of the network isn't going to solve much as cars just flow from other routes to the newly widened one, the whole network has to be expanded.
It may be true that there is demand for these trips, and you can eventually build your way out of congestion, but at what cost (a 40 lane wide 405?). However, there are two flaws with that assumption:

1. Mobility should be priced absurdly low: If you price something way below its value, then it will be over used. Certainly, you're allowing more economic activity, but with diminishing returns. It's like a Soviet bread line. Low pricing doesn't necessarily encourage economic activity that wouldn't otherwise happen--after a certain extent, it just results in people being more casual and less efficient with their car trips (ie. Two small shopping trips rather than one big one.) Just like hospital emergency rooms, roads need some small fee to discourage utterly unnecessary trips that clog up the whole process.

2. If you build it, they will come:
That's not to say that demand is unlimited, because it is, but if you're investing in road infrastructure, people will drive more and development patterns will orient themselves towards roads. Conversely, if you invest in transit infrastructure, people use transit more, and development patterns orient themselves around transit. Essentially, whatever type of infrastructure you build better is what most people will use, and if you build roads, you aren't necessarily allowing more economic activity, rather than shifting people away from whatever form of transportation is not being heavily invested in.

3. People want automobile mobility specifically:
That don't. People follow the transportation path of least resistance. If you want to allow 40,000 more trips per hour along a certain corridor, you can build a 10 lane freeway for _10 billion or a 2 track railway for $2 billion. What you invest in is what people use, and roads have remarkably low performance per dollar compared to other forms of infrastructure, not to mention being more polluting and harmful to the urban fabric. Every time a road is built, an opportunity is missed to build a rail line that can transport far more people at a lower cost, with little pollution and minimal urban disruption. Opportunity costs are real.
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