Just to provide one example, the Port of Seattle is opening freight activity at 5am instead of the usual 7am (https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/tunnel-effect/how-t...). Some terminals are opening 3 hours early (https://mynorthwest.com/1231341/port-of-seattle-viaduct-clos...).
Other things are in place temporarily as well - for example ferries that don't service commuter routes are temporarily operating as water taxis. There are extra temporary park and ride lots set up in some locations. And on a personal level, I have time-shifted and even cancelled some of my activities and trips to minimize the time I spend in otherwise worse traffic.
There is a cost to adapting to these circumstances - reduced quality of life, increased inconveniences, etc. Just because it is hard to measure doesn't mean it isn't happening. Frankly, assuming otherwise and boldly making claims that roads are unnecessary seems incompetent or purposefully biased.
This is the claim of the article.
If people were given a realistic estimate of the costs, both financial and quality of life, I think there would have been a drastically different outcome.
All of them I know of are run by people who have to stand for election so they are accountable to the voters who put them there.
Personally, I live in the South Sound and I would love alternatives that would allow me to visit the city without the hassle of bringing my car.
Their argument is not that removing roads doesn't reduce quality of life – their argument is that cities _adapt_ and that tearing away infrastructure for cars in favor of housing and "human-scale" neighborhoods won't necessarily result in doom and gloom.
Of course removing a highway will result in some temporary issues. But cities are living organisms and they can adapt. America is after all a free-market economy. If a road trip to a faraway store becomes inconvenient, a new store will open in due time. If it becomes impractical to drive around, neighborhoods will reconfigure to serve customers within walking distance. And if a hypothetical highway closing permanently were to cause single-car commutes to become impractical, companies will respond by moving offices, encouraging telework, and subsidizing public transit commutes.
We all think we need our cars, but somehow the majority of commuters in cities outside the United States manages to commute via public transit just fine.
When transportation becomes impractical, it first becomes impractical from the bottom (like artists and service workers) -- the rich will always find a way, whether it's paying hundreds of dollars a month (no exaggeration) for parking, or using delivery services for every meal.
This isn't causing grocery stores to be built and public transit to be improved. It's pushing everyone making less than $100K to pack up and move 30 miles away. High-paid tech workers often get subsidized transit, but most other jobs do not.
Seattle is turning into Manhattan, only without any of the services (everything shuts down at night!) that allow Manhattan to work. Even apart from the temporary 99 closure, this is not sustainable.
Public transportation is a nice to have, especially getting to the airport. Inner city transport is still a PITA, I prefered biking (Lausanne) or taxis (Beijing) to maintain my quality of life. “If I had to” it would work for sure, but it will still mean giving something up vs personal transportation.
- We know it's only temporary, and we knew about it ahead of time. It can be easy to put off many types of errands, or work from home (lots of tech workers here), for a little while. That doesn't mean it's sustainable.
- They've upped the water taxi routes for the closure (but not buses, AFAICT?), and they're taking hundreds more passengers per day. That's not going to last. Adding more public transit options permanently would be fantastic, but apparently that's not a sustainable option, either.
- A lot of commutes are being time-shifted. The rule of thumb I've been hearing is "Double your normal transportation time". That's a significant cost. I know of people leaving home early, and then sitting in the parking lot because their workplace isn't even open yet. There's a huge number of person-hours being wasted just to deal with this added constraint.
- I seem to recall hearing that the vehicle accident rate was up this week. Based on the wrecks I've seen and the sirens I've heard (I'm hearing some right now), I believe it.
- The Google traffic map only shows speeds down to "Slow" ("stop and go", claims this article), but that still covers a wide spectrum. There's 3-block section near me that Google says is orange-to-red on a typical weekday at 4-6pm, but I avoid it entirely because it literally takes 45 minutes to drive down those 3 blocks. (Personally, I'd call that "gridlock".) Google Traffic is probably designed to tell you what regions to avoid as a driver, not as a statistical analysis of traffic volume.
What other real-world costs are not visible on a simple color-coded traffic map?
Howell St towards I-5? Basically impossible. Everyone zips down Boren from Capitol Hill and jumps in front of the line.
People deciding to stay home because getting around is too much hassle isn’t a victory condition.
We throw a bunch of other people's money at K12. I suspect most families would buy fewer years of schooling if they paid the true cost.
We throw a bunch of other people's money at the military. If people had to pay the true cost of America's autonomy, they'd suck it up and learn Russian.
The compelling cost argument, IMO, is that a subway system could offer more mobility at the same price point.
In the context of schools, literally everybody benefits from population wide literacy and education. The benefits are diffuse enough that it is worth subsidizing...although we're probably hitting diminishing returns on the amount that we do spend. And the idea that we need to learn russian if we don't have a military 10x bigger than the rest of the world is a cold war rhetorical relic. Of course we could do with less military funding.
Cars though, are mostly a benefit to the occupant, and either a detriment to everybody around them, or entirely capable of being priced into the benefit of the goods they buy. Yes, I can afford paying $0.0025 more for a pound of apples if it means the trucking company pays their true costs. And why should we subsidize your drive in a BMW to your office when you can easily pay for the whole cost yourself, or take transit? Why should we be subsidizing cars over the much more efficient alternatives?
Cars and transit are competing forms of transportation...a vehicle mile not traveled is very often a fare paid. Car costs scale linearly with the number of people-miles driven, until congestion and space constraints hit and then costs scale exponentially. Transit costs are step fixed costs, and therefore the more riders the less they cost per person. When we subsidize car travel, it forces us to subsidize transit travel even more, because taking away riders makes transit less efficient. It should be remembered that before we started price capping transit companies and subsidizing roads, transit was one of the most profitable industries in the world. That's the power of the cost efficiency of transit.
So yes, mobility is important and roads shouldn't just go away, but the amount of roads and car infrastructure that we fund through general taxes is absolutely obscene and should be scaled back dramatically. Mobility can be much more efficiently provisioned to the public with transit.
Education is more of a private good than you seem to realize. It is definitely excludable and in traditional settings it is quickly becomes rival past small groups of similarly motivated people.
Self learning is not rival, i.e. my learning of something does not prevent you from being able to learn it, but then that cannot be used to justify government provision of education.
Once one learns something, it becomes part of one's human capital and one cannot be separated from it. Hence the difference between loans for college versus mortgages.
Now, in this case, people are finding out that roads are not very public goods either (even though government entities have take over provision). First, roads are excludable. Second, they tend to also be very rival when they are most needed. The reduction in capacity highlighted their nature of quickly becoming rival.
Finally, if it people actually benefited from all the time-shifting, taking ferries instead of driving, leaving home at 5 am and sleeping in the parking lot waiting for the office to open, they all had that option before the construction began. Ergo, people are made worse off by the change no matter how they are adapting.
Do you think the voters of any major city would agree that it is too easy to get from place to place?
>Mobility can be much more efficiently provisioned to the public with transit.
I think this is at least sometimes true, depending on factors like geography, density, labor costs, etc. But it's orthogonal to whether there is too much or too little mobility. You could take the efficiencies of public transport and deliver better overall mobility with the same budget. That's an easier sell for the public than "that extra hour with your kids after work is unsustainable and you don't really need it" or "having your own house in the suburbs is wasteful, share an apartment with 3 other families in the center instead."
Education is fundamentally (mostly) a positional good - what it buys is the right to be considered for white-collar jobs ahead of competitors who haven't spent as much time getting educated. Families already spend as much as they can afford in education to win this tournament, the only thing that would reduce education spending is if everyone else stopped buying as much education.
I want the roads to be built ahead of and shaping demand. But I also want emission costs to be fully internalized be the drivers. I expect this would cut down demand for excess commuting quite sharply.
I don't mind people traveling in general, as long as we can sustainably afford it. Right now, we can't sustainably afford current levels of fossil-fueled transport.
What's to say we can sustainably afford current levels of public transport? Should construction costs and associated disruptions to the city be fully internalized by riders?
Add a full carbon tax to price of fuels, and the answer should quickly become apparent.
>The compelling cost argument, IMO, is that a subway system could offer more mobility at the same price point.
So, yes and yes?
The entire economy benefits from roads. You can’t reduce your dependence on roads for your own personal travel needs and then claim some sort of moral high ground.
Imagine the price of groceries rises to 100% of your wages, so you stop running the furnace. "If being warm were so valuable, you would still do it even when it means skipping a few meals."
Welfare is still harmed by austerity and boosted by growth.
A better line of argument, IMO: a denser environment would offer more value for less travel. Or, driving to a faraway discount store is only profitable because you pay 100% for manufactured goods and X < 100% for highway mileage.
That leaves out the fact that this is a three-week window that people know is temporary and have time to plan for.
After the new year everyone goes to the gym and eats better. But nobody would think of saying "if this continues until February, that's a powerful indication that obesity will soon come to an end."
> In a few weeks, much of this capacity will be replaced by a new 3 billion dollar highway tunnel under downtown Seattle
It's worded wrong. That tunnel won't be functional for years.
In longer term situations, people move where they live, or change jobs, until their commute is just barely tolerable. Moving away from the core gets you more space for the same money, working near the core often is required to get your best salary, so the compromise results in a perpetual state of annoyance-but-not-catastrophe.
Would 4 hours of commute instead of 2 infringe upon your quality of life?
Rail is expanding in Seattle but it's slow going. West Seattle is planned for 2030, and Ballard for 2035. You don't build a rail system overnight, especially when you've got hills and oceans and lakes and existing development to contend with.
We're the fastest growing large city in America -- population is up 20% this decade. (500K to 600K took 50 years. 600K to 700K took only 7.) That's a lot of extra bodies to transport. Any city would struggle a bit with that.
Of course, nothing will change as the rich people still want to drive, no matter how much they pretend to support public/alternative transport in a bid to look progressive.
Even if I somehow perfectly engineered my life, so that my shops and housing and employment and recreation were all right nearby each other -- there would be no way to do the same for my spouse or child or the rest of my family. And that also assumes I never ever change jobs even once (which in this economy, is effectively like taking a 10% yearly paycut).
This is why cities depend on reliable public transportation infrastructure (including freeways). It's a critical component of quality of life, as well as a requirement to make financial ends meet.
It's a little bit of a stretch. The problems people are facing due to road closures are not measured by images of Google maps. Just because complete gridlock doesn't happen doesn't mean that people aren't having significant problems because of it. People adapt but this article provides no real way to measure the cost.
Seattle has a remarkable amount of work hour flexibility in the short term. They closed 90 a few years back for a week, asked 50k to stay home and iirc got around 110k who did.
Seattle folks are so anti-infrastructure, the commutes people have to endure there insane. Especially given how short a distance they cover.
Panic would cause awareness to skyrocket, motivating people to prevent the thing they were panicking about.
Perhaps the system is working exactly as it should.
I often wonder why new highways / lanes of highway don't get assessed in economic terms, but I suspect much of the day-to-day work would not be justifiable in such terms.
This is so frustrating. It feels like debate around a mile of bus lanes or rail can drag on forever, but spending billions of dollars on highways just happens.
Building roads doesn't "induce" demand. Rather, it _fulfills_ demand. There is a limit to that demand - it's not like supplying infinitely more of something would infinitely scale the associated behavior. There are only so many humans and only so many trips they are willing to make in a day. And an area that is 100% roads obviously would not have any destinations worth traveling to (leaving aside edge cases like race tracks).
The reality is people get some marginal benefit from each extra trip the road system allows. People do tend to apparently undervalue their time though.. so there's some point where building more road capacity doesn't make real economic sense. But I don't think we are anywhere close to that point in Seattle...
Coming from a chemistry background, the idea of traffic and travel choices being an equilibrium process is a very natural and easy concept to grok.
I like the term "latent demand" more, because "induced" sounds like demand was suddenly created, whereas "latent" implies it's already there, but can't be fulfilled just yet. A saturated solution with more soluble material waiting at the bottom of the flask. If you add a drop of solvent, a little bit of material from the bottom will dissolve - just like if you add another road, you'd only eat into the latent demand.
But the fix to this problem isn't "don't build new roads because induced demand". It's "build even more roads", up until you eat up all that demand, in the same way you could add more and more solvent until you dissolve all the remaining material, and then some more, to keep the solution unsaturated.
Build public transit out enough, and you get that as well. And funny enough, cities in developed nations other than the United States don't have issues with crime on public transit. Is it a problem inherit to public transit or is it systematic underinvestment?
>Building roads doesn't "induce" demand. Rather, it _fulfills_ demand. There is a limit to that demand - it's not like supplying infinitely more of something would infinitely scale the associated behavior. There are only so many humans and only so many trips they are willing to make in a day. And an area that is 100% roads obviously would not have any destinations worth traveling to (leaving aside edge cases like race tracks).
First of all – building roads absolutely does induce demand. In fact, _any_ sort of transportation infrastructure, _including public transit_, induces demand. This is pretty well-known. Induced demand isn't about creating larger trips - it's about creating demand through trips that were once not possible. For example, a new train line or highway out in the suburbs will induce people to move close to that piece of infrastructure. This is a well-documented phenomenon, and it happens even for public transit.
The problem is that roads for one-person cars don't scale. Downtown Seattle, in particular, is constrained by Elliott Bay on one side and Lake Washington on the other. Amazon is building out tons of towers in the last bit of open land near downtown Seattle. If every Amazon worker were to commute by driving alone, it just wouldn't work because there's no place to put in new highways! Public transit (or living close to where you work, or not commuting at all and teleworking) simply scales better.
That's this stupid simple. I'd guess 80% of American gridlock is due to that not being done.
What you see in US cities, is that central planning itself stands in way of common sense; that car centric lifestyle in USA was pretty much enforced from above.
Take a look on city plans from sixties, or watch some documentaries about that time