The Twitter thread below is from a Mayor in a small town near Seattle Washington.
It provides a very clear argument on why many of the traffic interventions of the past have simply made things worse in the long term.
While there are some specific references to US initiatives the core principles are universal and are certainly true for South Fulham.
We are stuck in a negative feedback loop with land use and transportation. Almost everything we do to fix our problems ends up making the problem worse. We’re spending billions on a false promise that takes us farther from a real solution. A 🧵
The main idea that we make land use decisions around is that nobody likes other people’s cars. Which I get. Other people’s cars cause traffic, and they take up the parking spaces that we want to use to store ours.
The problem is that we collectively think that if we allocate more space for them in the form of more lanes and more parking, other people’s cars will go there and we will then have space for our car.
That’s not the way it works. If we turned Bothell City Hall into a pizza restaurant and gave away a thousand pizzas a day, do you think people in Bothell would consume more or less pizza?
More, right? It’s obvious.
It works the same with road capacity and parking.
We don’t like traffic, so we expand the highway. That makes driving easier so more people do it. That means more people on all the infrastructure around the highway – local roads and parking.
Now there’s more “demand” for parking, so we mandate more parking in our cities because if we don’t other people’s cars will fill up the street parking we want to use.
All that extra parking we build then makes it easier to drive, so more people do it. And now traffic on the highway is terrible again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
We end up with a system where driving is often the *only* convenient way to get around because everything’s now so spread out, so almost everyone does it.
Then it’s hard to justify forms of transportation that could be more efficient and convenient if we prioritized them, because people don’t think that helps their problem.
There are a ton of externalities I could go into, but I want to focus this thread on what most people care about – convenience and budget.
If we keep doing what we’ve been doing we’re not going to get different results. Everything we don’t like will continue to get worse.
We can’t afford to maintain the roads we have – and we’re still building more. Every transportation revenue package raises a host of taxes – it has to, because the system as designed is underwater. The status quo will keep making us poorer and transportation less convenient.
The CCA and current transportation package is a big step in the right direction. If we ever want transportation to be more convenient, we have to build transit – because as more people use transit it gets *more* convenient – headways get shorter as capacity grows.
We have to build multi-modal solutions that are safe, protected, and connect us to transit and services. When was the last time you saw a traffic jam on a protected bike lane? It’s not because they’re not used, it’s because they’re far more efficient.
The problem is until the public understands this, we’re limited in what we can do. If I thought someone was acting against my best interest, I’d vote for their opponent if they did the opposite, even if I didn’t realize it was making my problem worse.
And we need elected officials to understand this so they can help educate the public in their community. The good news is that we’re going in the right direction. The bad news is that we’ve got a lot of work left to do. Inertia is powerful.
Every time we spend money on transit or bike infrastructure, we take a step toward actual transportation solutions. But none of them fix the entire problem and make transportation convenient. Please don’t demand that they do.
This is a big ship and it’s going to take decades to turn. There’s no magic bullet that is going to fix our problems – we’ve tried that with road expansions for years. Everyone knows it’s not working.
So please, join me and celebrate every project that funds infrastructure for transit and people who walk, bike, or roll. They’re all small steps toward a solution. Even if it’s not as fast and easy as we’d like.
Mayor of Bothell, Washington, USA
Original Twitter thread: