Archive | Demand Management

I Can’t Believe I’m Saying This

I actually find myself agreeing with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters.

No, not when she says that bicycle paths aren’t transportation infrastructure.

But in yesterday’s O, she has a letter to the editor pointing out that increasing gas taxes would not help deal with congestion.

She’s right, congestion pricing would be a much better way to go. So are progressives (because it incents desirable policy outcomes) and conservatives (because it’s market-based) going to find middle ground on congestion pricing?

Elasticy of Roadway Demand Illustrated Again

There was a lot of discussion in various media and blogs last week about the traffic jam that didn’t materialize when I-5 was severely limited during construction in the Seattle area. Demonstrating once again that all those drivers apparently do have real choices. Either the trips really weren’t vital, or they have other options. Here’s a column from a Seattle paper, quoted on the Pricelines blog:

The short answer is that this is always what happens….

In 1998, British researchers studied what happened to traffic in more than 100 highway and bridge shutdowns in Europe and the U.S. They found that on average 25 percent of all car trips simply evaporated.

People still went to work. Some commuters drove, some found another way in. Some other trips were just not made.

“Drivers are not stupid,” (Oliver) Downs says. “They change schedules. They don’t take some trips, or they delay them. The net effect of all these little decisions can be dramatic.”

There’s that word again. Is it me, or does “little” keep rearing up when the subject is our big problem, transportation?

Seattle’s primary transit corridor, the downtown bus tunnel, is closed. Gridlock was predicted. We dodged that by doing a “thousand little things,” such as moving bus stops and banning cars from Third Avenue.

Now we have closed part of our largest freeway. Still no gridlock. You drivers made sure of that. You did “fifty thousand little things.”

Yet all the plans for what to do next are big. Build big rail lines. Bigger roads. Paid for by the biggest tax increase.

Maybe some answers to our traffic mess are little ….

This is not limited to the Seattle region. Recent local examples include the diversion of West Burnside for sewer construction and major maintenance on the Interstate Bridges.

Alternatives to Congestion Pricing Don’t Meet Muster

The Regional Plan Association, a New York area advocacy group has done a critique of alternatives (PDF, 120K) offered up to the congestion pricing proposal for Manhattan. Their conclusion is that the two major alternatives would not provide the same benefits:

  • License plate restriction schemes (i.e., you can’t drive in the city on the 2nd, 12th and 22nd of the month if your plate ends in a ‘2’) don’t provide the same reduction in auto use (many households can avoid this by having multiple cars – some might even buy another car, or individuals who only drive into the city occasionally will just shift their trips to different days).
  • More draconian truck restrictions would have very negative impacts on the economy.

But at the same time the congestion pricing plan seems to be having trouble getting traction in the New York state legislature.