Study: Building Roads to Cure Congestion Is an Exercise in Futility

Source: Tanya Snyder, DC Streets Blog, May 31, 2011

We hear it all the time: The road lobby insists that the only way to reduce mind-numbing traffic congestion on the roads they built is to build new roads. Federal funding gives huge blank checks to state DOTs, which tend to prioritize road building over transit, bridge maintenance or anything else. But mounting evidence suggests that building new roads won’t do anything to alleviate congestion.

In a paper to be published soon in the American Economic Review, two University of Toronto professors have added to the body of evidence showing that highway and road expansion increases traffic by increasing demand. On the flip side, they show that transit expansion doesn’t help cure congestion either.

We’ll spare you the calculus in the report. Here’s the upshot: “Roads cause traffic.”

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