Increasing the number of freeway lanes is not a cost effective way to reduce traffic congestion

Last week posted a story on increasing the number of freeway lanes on the I-5 by four. District 3 Council member, Todd Gloria, immediately responded to the story by stating,

Six additional freeway lanes? No thanks. I’d prefer the money be used to extend Trolley service and build more bike lanes. Much smarter ways to ease traffic congestion.

David Bainbridge, a retired professor from Alliant International University, also wrote in to state in part,

Denmark recently committed $400 million for bicycle system upgrades. That would be $22 billion if we spent the same amount per capita in the United States. This might seem high, but it represents the estimated health costs for obesity in this country for less than one month in 2018.

San Diego would be much better off if the $3 billion or more proposed for I-5 “improvements” was spent on bicycle and pedestrian planning and infrastructure.

I couldn’t agree more. While the argument for increasing the number of freeway lanes is often based on ideas such as job creation and easing traffic congestion, the sad reality is that the jobs created are at best temporary and the increase in lanes only result in induced traffic [pdf link] thus creating a vicious cycle where the underlying problem is only compounded.

San Diego needs to look beyond the automobile in creating options for its residents’ mode of travel. Investing in public transit, walking and bicycling are the only sensible methods to ease congestion and simultaneously create a city that would make San Diegans proud.