The carmageddons that didn't happen: Atlanta, LA, Minneapolis, Little Rock | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The carmageddons that didn't happen: Atlanta, LA, Minneapolis, Little Rock

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 7:48 AM

click to enlarge ATLANTA FREEWAY: Road disruption hasn't yet produced the traffic calamity feared. - NBC NEWS
  • NBC News
  • ATLANTA FREEWAY: Road disruption hasn't yet produced the traffic calamity feared.

City Lab in The Atlantic provides another reason
to rethink all the conventional wisdom you hear from freeway builders in Arkansas about the imperative of making the concrete gulch through Little Rock ever wider.

Heard about the fire that caused closure  section of the hugely traveled I-85 in Atlanta? Traffic chaos was predicted.

But surprisingly, nothing of the kind happened. As Brian Taylor and Martin Wachs explain in an article in Access, people mostly avoided taking trips in the area, or chose alternate routes, with the effect that traffic was actually much lighter than normal. They report that “rather than creating chaos, the first closure greatly reduced traffic congestion.” Taylor and Wachs explain that “crying wolf” about likely gridlock depressed trip-taking in the affected area, but that effect faded as travelers realized things were nowhere as bad as predicted.

This is old news by now, City Lab reports. No calamity ensued following closure of 10-mile stretch of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles for 10 weeks. And there was Minneapolis:

But even the year-long closure of I-35W in Minneapolis, following the collapse of a highway bridge over the Mississippi River in 2007 produced similar results. Travelers quickly changed their routes and travel times, and many people simply stopped taking trips that crossed the river. David Levinson reports that there were about 46,000 fewer trips per day across the river after the bridge collapsed
Let's add Little Rock to the list. My own fears of a nightmare during the closure of the Broadway Bridge didn't materialize. People chose different routes. They chose different drive times. Some traffic lights were adjusted.

Indeed, just yesterday, with the new bridge open, I was stuck for a time at Second and Broadway by people blocking the intersection rather than waiting their turn to get through lights on Broadway to the new bridge.

D'OH: Don't tell the Arkansas Department of Highways about induced demand. It doesn't figure in its freeway building obsession.
  • D'OH: Don't tell the Arkansas Department of Highways about induced demand. It doesn't figure in its freeway building obsession.
Here's the point from City Lab. Clip and send to the Arkansas department of highways (DOH) which steadfastly rejects 30 Crossing opponents' talk of induced demand that would follow the $600 million-plus concrete gulch:

Arguably, our mental model of traffic is just wrong. We tend to think of traffic volumes, and trip-making generally as inexorable forces of nature. The diurnal flow of 250,000 vehicles a day on an urban freeway like I-85 is just as regular and predictable as the tides. What this misses is that there’s a deep behavioral basis to travel. Human beings will shift their behavior in response to changing circumstances. If road capacity is impaired, many people can decide not to travel, change when they travel, change where they travel, or even change their mode of travel. The fact that Carmageddon almost never comes is powerful evidence of induced demand: people travel on roadways because the capacity is available for their trips, and when the capacity goes away, so does much of the trip making.

If Atlanta can survive for a month or two without a major chunk of its freeway, that’s a powerful indication that more modest steps to alter road capacity don’t really mean the end of the world. If we recognize that traffic will tend to adjust to available capacity, we then end up taking a different view of how to balance transportation against other objectives. For example, this ought to be a signal that road diets, which have been shown to greatly improve safety and encourage walking and cycling, don’t have anything approaching the kinds of adverse effects on travel that highway engineers usually predict.

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