Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cheap Oil's Going to Hang out for a Bit: So What about Traffic Projections?

A fivethirtyeight chart on gas spending lines up pretty nicely with the chart on bridge crossings.

But traffic did increase a bit in 2014 - via N3B
So the question is, is the uptick in 2014 bridge crossings mainly a product of swooning gas prices in the fall or something else?

And if you think there's a correlation with oil and gas prices, and that there's a meaningful chance for the trend line in 2015 and 2016 to go back up as consumers enjoy less expensive gas and feel freer to drive, what does that mean for the Third Bridge?

Fans of the bridge will likely appeal to the increase in bridge crossings, say it demonstrates demand, and suggest it represents a trending exit from the decade-long plateau.

We critics may not be able to depend on the plateau to say we don't need a new bridge because demand is slack, and may find we need more of a prescriptive analysis that doesn't depend as much on simply describing a "flat" or even declining demand.

The best reason to oppose the bridge is not because "we don't need it," but because it's bad policy and would be harmful. It's more than gratuitous; it's bad. Even if bridge crossings were trending up, the solution is for better land use in West Salem and for building out kinds of mobility other than the drive-alone trip.

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