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Lower Service Levels are self-defeating & Sprawl generates more traffic  
An essay from Peggy Schultz, WILMAPCO Citizens Advisory Committee and Women's League of Voters.

As we know, "If you build it they will come"; and come and come and then come some more. Todd Litman of the Victoria (B.C.) Transport Policy Institute has published a comprehensive review paper which discusses the concept of generated traffic and induced travel. According to Litman, "Travel time budget research indicates that increased traffic speeds often results in more mobility rather than saving time." People decide that they can live in housing further from their jobs, and they shop further from home. A new or improved road acts like a kind of sponge (my analogy, not Litman's) to absorb trips from other roads in the area. Trip time stays about the same, but trip distances increase. Sprawl is thus encouraged, and it takes the same amount of time to get to work. The author concludes: "Adding capacity generates traffic, which leads to renewed congestion with higher traffic volumes." You can find the article at It includes an excellent bibliography which cites the original research from which Litman draws his conclusions.

Just as with Route 1, if you build a nice fast highway to get traffic off one road, the new fast highway will also fill up. People will move farther away, knowing they can make it to work in a shorter time. This increases demand and it fills up again. Route 40 used to be a barren, bucolic drive. We've expanded the road, and intersections, but with so many people living there, it will likely never be LOS A or B again. Transit helps (which has been added), improving walkability helps, but if you want a successful area that can support retail and employment, you're going to need a certain amount of traffic. Our major cities all have failing traffic, but people have alternatives (subways, walking etc.) so they don't feel as trapped and they appreciate the benefits with the drawbacks.

A fellow-responder has already asked, what about transit?! Is there a possibility that the correct response to traffic problems is not always more

You may not be aware that WILMAPCO (I am a member of its Public Advisory Committee), in its CMS (Congestion Management System) report looks at congested corridors, and not just at isolated intersections. They look for patterns around a certain area and then they try to find solutions for the entire area. They begin by trying to reduce the number of cars (transit, improved pedestrian access, etc.), and then they look at the timing of the lights; light timing adjustments have been successfully used on Main St.,
Newark, and on the Kirkwood Highway. As a last resort, they recommend lane widening. New Castle County, as you know, is a member of the WILMAPCO Council.

There's a possibility that those of us who are a bit more senior than others in the community may never again realize the halcyon days when we could leave for work fifteen minutes before the workday began. But life isn't over, and if we could just forget for a while our love affair with the car (induced as Prof. Shinya Kikuchi says, by the public relations efforts of a Detroit trying to sell cars following the Great Depression), we might even grow to love walking and biking and yes, even riding a bus.

[Thanks to Alison Burris of WILMAPCO for providing the reference data.]

Peggy J. O. Schultz
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