Home > Design the Details, Economics, Engineering Design, Visual Stimulus > Choose Your Sweet-Spot: What’s The Cost Of Driving In Your Community?

Choose Your Sweet-Spot: What’s The Cost Of Driving In Your Community?


Choose Your Sweet-Spot

Adopted from a demand curve in the study “Generated Traffic and Induced Travel” by Victoria Transport Policy Institute’s Todd Litman.

This is a simplified representation of how a city or road agency can encourage or discourage more vehicular travel by considering the perceived costs to drivers. Are the costs removed, as is the goal with an expressway (wide, straight, built for speed) or are the costs so high that motorized traffic is basically removed, as is the costs with Mackinac Island where pedestrians, bicycles and horses rule the ROW (and cars are banned).

What’s The Cost?

With any new project, be it a new road or a traffic calming project, this is ultimately the decision being made. Often, policy makers pretend as if it is not a choice and that somehow roads are neutral. They believe that people always make rational choices about driving and aren’t influenced simply because it is made easy to do so. The behavioral concepts and studies behind generated traffic and induced demand are showing us that those perceptions are misguided. Who we elect and who your local government hires are the architects of our public spaces and thus, to some degree, the architects of our behavior.

If you’re not one of them, your job is to remind them as clearly and as often as possible of where you want your neighborhood to fall in the above curve. Is the space for motorized traffic a singular pursuit that leans towards unobstructed speed and convenience? Or, can we afford to increase the costs of travel to favor high quality neighborhoods for all of our citizens? Can we make these choices with an increased level of intention?

Level of service, the congestion grade applied to roadways, is a community choice and too important to leave solely to engineers and politicians. If we are serious about reducing the negative impacts of motorized traffic in our community, at a certain point, we have to be willing to increase the costs of driving in it.

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NOTE: Since the question has been raised consistently regarding the Boardman Lake Avenue project, the goal is to write more about generated and induced traffic later this week.

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