Why Road Widening Doesn’t Reduce Traffic Congestion

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This is the last transportation post of the day probably, but here is a great analogy from a commenter at the Greater Greater Washington blog explaining why road widening projects don’t reduce congestion. The only good thing about Tom Corbett refusing to lead on transportation funding is that the state hasn’t been funding any pointless highway widening boondoggles:

Let’s give everyone free McDonald’s hamburgers. Let’s put 10,000 hamburgers a day on a table in front of the Capitol (or wherever).

What would happen? People would take and eat the hamburgers, and once word got out, all 10,000 hamburgers would be taken very quickly every day. We may thus infer that because people need food and they really seemed to like those burgers, McDonald’s hamburgers are an important public good.

A city planner might notice a problem: those 10,000 hamburgers just aren’t enough. They get taken very early in the morning, so not everybody has a chance to get a hamburger. The obvious solution—because burgers are a highly-valued public good—is to provide more free burgers. So the city planner starts to provide 20,000 hamburgers a day.

You can see where this is going. People start going out of their way to get the free hamburgers, and planning their day around that trip. The city has to keep providing more and more free burgers—eventually millions a day—to keep satisfying the demand for free hamburgers.

(h/t Angie Schmitt)

This entry was posted in Economy, Transportation.

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