Saturday, June 27, 2015

Three Reasons to Doubt the Costs of Congestion - updated

Here are three short reasons to doubt the autoist propaganda machine.

Number 1: There are bigger threats

with assist from CO2Now

Moreover, earthquakes will completely disrupt freight and the local economy, and that too is a much greater threat.

We're nowhere close to being ready in any real way
We should fix and maintain before we give any thought to auto capacity expansion.

Number 2: Arbitrary End-points
Traffic Counts are actually pretty flat, and cherry-picking 2008 and 2013 is not very accurate. Even the Federal Highway Administration has downgraded its projections for growth. A recent Federal court case in Wisconsin also gave reasons to doubt the prevailing model of traffic projections. Things aren't as bad as the headline or arbitrary datapoints suggest.

with assist from ODOT traffic counts
Number 3: A Biased Source

internal tension between editorial and advertising
Freight is important, but widening roads and making drive-alone trips easier is not the most cost-effective way to ease congestion and freight mobility. This will just add more traffic.

Making it easy to choose not to make drive-alone trips is much sounder approach to freight mobility. This will make less traffic and use existing capacity much more wisely and efficiently.


Here's a link to a draft version of the study, "Economic Impacts of Congestion in Oregon."

It was funded by the Portland Business Alliance, the Oregon Business Council, and the Port of Portland.

It assumes annual growth in car trips of 1.3% from 2010 to 2040. By contrast, the Feds currently estimate 1.04% over the next 20 years and 0.75% over the next 30 years.

(Just north, WashDOT's revised estimate assumes even a decline, a negative annual growth rate.)

Moreover, the report doesn't ask the question: If we propose to spend X dollars on highway expansion, what happens if we spend the same X dollars on "transportation demand management" and instead seek to reduce drive-alone trips? Can we enhance freight mobility with an even smaller investment than by spending big on highway expansion?

Nope, the report assumes highway expansion is the only possible solution.

For each person who dies, eight are hospitalized
and 100 go to the ER
Finally, there is the question of death and injury. If we are going to analyze costs, what are the costs of current road crashes and what is the benefit by investing in safety rather than expansion?

Update 2

Hey, look at this! A reader points to a 2011 AAA study that compared the costs of crashes to the costs of congestion.

2011 AAA Crashes vs. Congestion Study
  • In the urbanized areas in this study, the total cost of traffic crashes is over three times the cost of congestion – $299.5 billion for traffic crashes and $97.7 billion for congestion. 
  • In every city studied, the crash costs on a per person basis exceed the congestion costs. Overall, crash costs per person is more than two and one-half times the cost of congestion. For very large urban areas, crash costs are nearly double those of congestion. In large urban areas, crash costs are over three times more than congestion; for medium areas, crash costs are over four and one-half times more than congestion; and for small urban areas, crashes are nearly six times more costly than congestion.
  • The cost of crashes on a per person basis decreases as the size of the metropolitan area increases. An inverse relationship occurs with the cost of congestion, which increases based on the size of the metropolitan area.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added link to the version of the report it was easy to find. Also some additional comment.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all your points. AAA had a study a few years ago that found that the cost of crashes is much higher than the cost of congestion. The highest performing urban economies also are the most congested. What little congestion Oregon has is nothing compared to those places. There is actually a positive correlation between traffic congestion and economic performance.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the AAA reference! Updated the post with it.