You Will Always Be Stuck In Traffic, Or, “Induced Demand”

Everyone hates traffic. And if you’re like me, you frequently wish for a route — another lane, perhaps, or a less busy street — to get around all the other cars. And that’s more or less what planners are also thinking when they widen streets and build new roads as population and traffic surges.

But that idea has been widely criticized by some experts because they say it falls into the trap of “induced demand.” Basically, the idea is that as you increase the supply of something — in this case, roads — you give people an incentive to consume more of that thing. Pretty soon, those new roads have new users and end up nearly as crowded as the old roads.

The video below offers an entertaining, 4-minute explanation of this idea. It’s specifically about Mexico, so some of the application it brings up doesn’t exactly work for Utah, though the problems it mentions are generally only worse here because a greater percentage of the population is driving.

The point is that the best way to decrease traffic — as well as all the negative side-effects of intra-city car travel — isn’t to make driving easier or to build more places for people to drive.

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5 Comments

Filed under commuting, driving, economics

5 responses to “You Will Always Be Stuck In Traffic, Or, “Induced Demand”

  1. Nathan

    I love this analogy. Parkinson’s Law also applies.

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