Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 12, 2015

Wide open spaces

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

Some folks believe that the only solution to the traffic Armageddon that they slog through every day (the WORST traffic ever!) is to build more lanes.  Or another exit and entry point into Alameda.  Or just stop building all together. Somehow these three things separately or together will magically make what should be a 30 minute commute even in the best circumstances, a 20 minute or less commute.  According to City Lab, Caltrans, the people in charge of building extra capacity, recently linked to a report that found that adding more capacity only exacerbates the problem of traffic.   From the City Lab article first:

The brief, titled “Increasing Highway Capacity Unlikely to Relieve Traffic Congestion,” was compiled by UC-Davis scholar Susan Handy. Here are the highlights:

  • There’s high-quality evidence for induced demand. All the studies reviewed by Handy used time-series data, “sophisticated econometric techniques,” and controlled for outside variables such as population growth and transit service.
  • More roads means more traffic in both the short- and long-term. Adding 10 percent more road capacity leads to 3-6 percent more vehicle miles in the near term and 6-10 percent more over many years.
  • Much of the traffic is brand new. Some of the cars on a new highway lane have simply relocated from a slower alternative route. But many are entirely new. They reflect leisure trips that often go unmade in bad traffic, or drivers who once used transit or carpooled, or shifting development patterns, and so on.


What’s significant about the Caltrans acknowledgement is that induced demand creates something of a mission crisis for transportation agencies that spend most of their money on building new roads. (The same can be said for peak driving.)

Then from the report itself:

Conversely, reductions in roadway capacity tend to produce social and economic benefits without worsening traffic congestion. The removal of elevated freeway segments in San Francisco coupled with improvements to the at-grade Embarcadero and Octavia Boulevards has sparked an on-going revitalization of the surrounding areas while producing a significant drop in traffic.13 Many cities in Europe have adopted the strategy of closing streets in the central business district to vehicle traffic as an approach to economic revitalization,14 and this strategy is increasingly being adopted in cities the U.S., from New York City to San Francisco.

Good and short read, worth it for anyone who sits in traffic and wishes that there were five lanes of traffic instead of four.



  1. You’re right- cut access to one bridge and people will drive less. Turn streets into bike lanes and people will bike more. Eliminate stop signs and traffic lights so bikes bikers can go faster. Sell permits for street parking and cars will dwindle. Take public transit and meet a whole new class of people. Eliminate parking lots and put in there place colorful containers for new living space. Brave New World.

    Comment by Captain Obvious — November 12, 2015 @ 6:37 am

  2. We need a coranado style bridge connecting to highway 80 and 24 with an off ramp in jack London. A shuttle bus to the ferry in the mornings and evenings would eliminate a lot of cars as well.

    Comment by Scott — November 12, 2015 @ 7:38 am

  3. #1 reminds me of this quote by Barack Obama:

    It’s funny, if you ask a Republican in Congress if they believe in climate change, they say, well, uh, I’m not a scientist. “I’m not a scientist” — that’s what they say. But when it comes to a woman’s right to choose, suddenly they’re a doctor.

    It’s the same thing with transportation planning. Despite research and studies by actual agencies that do this kind of work, somehow our gut feelings about how adding an extra lane will magically reduce traffic trumps data and stuff.

    Comment by Lauren Do — November 12, 2015 @ 8:23 am

  4. Let me be the first to nominate Captain Obvious for a promotion: General Ignorance.

    It’s hard to argue with someone who mourns the loss of parking lots. Perhaps the new general needs a traveling show with parody songs decrying the day “they unpaved parking lots and put up a paradise.”

    Comment by Jack Mingo — November 12, 2015 @ 9:07 am

  5. When I was an undergrad, years ago, there was concern about overpopulation. If you look at the history of civilization, the population was pretty stable until industrialization and then it sky rocketed. Nobody seems to talk about this anymore. I see so many of our problems as stemming from too many people in too close proximity. Noise, light, garbage, air pollution, and traffic jams.

    #3 funny, I agree. And Lauren, there is something to be said about just plain old common sense. Statistics and numbers may prove any argument. So my gut tells me more than words, numbers or statistics.

    Comment by Hugo — November 12, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

  6. Lauren, thanks for posting this. I am thrilled that Caltrans is finally integrating this obvious truth–that you cannot build your way out of traffic congested freeways or roads–into its policies.

    I am sure we will hear more about this at tonight’s ‘Getting On and Off the Island: Alameda’s Transportation Future’ forum from the League of Women Voters of Alameda–at the Alameda Free Library, 1550 Oak Street, 7-9 PM.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — November 12, 2015 @ 5:24 pm

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