Caltrans Still Claims 5 Freeway Widening Reduces Congestion, Improves Air

How road widening works. Cartoon via @BrentToderian Twitter
How road widening works. Cartoon via @BrentToderian Twitter

Caltrans District 7 is at it again. Similar to a misleading 2016 video, in this new promotional video Caltrans District 7 inexplicably proclaims that widening the 5 Freeway will (starting minute 3:30) “reduce congestion and improve air quality.” The $1.9-billion widening is funded by Metro’s Measure R.

It appears that Caltrans actually believes the results of studies based on the discredited Level of Service metrics. Freeway construction and expansion projects keep promising to take congestion off of L.A. County roads. After spending hundreds of billions of dollars, those roads remain congested, the air is foul, kids get asthma, and there is plenty of noise, disconnected neighborhoods, obesity, and other problems – all accompanied by budget-breaking infrastructure maintenance costs passed along to California’s children.

See this earlier SBLA article outlining the well-known flaws inherent in Caltrans’ outdated self-defeating thinking. Since the 1960s it has been clear that adding capacity to roads does not reduce congestion. Some day Caltrans might get the memo.

  • Derek Hofmann

    When motorists pay 100% of the cost of the roads through gas taxes and other user fees (right now they pay less than 50%), then you will have a point. Beggars can’t be choosers, don’t you agree?

  • Joe Linton

    source?

  • Campbell Sadeghy
  • Campbell Sadeghy

    “According to the new study:

    Rush hour has been reduced from seven hours to five. The peak drive period formerly lasted from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. It’s now lost an hour on either side, going from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    Wait times on Northbound 405 have become less variable, making for easier planning
    Wait times during non-peak hours have been reduced.
    The number of accidents reported has dropped by about 15 percent.
    Traffic on major arteries in surrounding areas (like Sunset and Sepulveda Boulevards) has dropped between 20 and 25 percent.
    Capacity has improved: 15 percent more cars pass through on an hourly basis, and use of the carpool lane has translated to a nearly 30 percent increase in the number of people passing through every hour”

    All benefits resulting from widening the road.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Honestly, they need to add more lanes to it when they build the subway, which I heavily support. I know, it seems as if I am against transit. That is not the case!

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Yet you want to bring NIMBYs into this trying to use them as a comparison.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Oh I see, so induced demand only works in certain areas. So when OKC widened I-40 about 6 years ago, traffic hasn’t filled it up because induced demand only applies doesn’t apply to OKC. Or do you want to make another strawman argument and accuse me of trying to say LA should be more like OKC?

  • Derek Hofmann

    Freeways don’t fill up where nobody wants to live. This is also why Buffalo, NY has free flowing traffic.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    No it is not. 90% of people in the US commute by car. Adding lanes is a very good idea because people have a right to choose how the want to go to work and travel. They want to live in suburbia, you aren’t providing mass transit that is efficient in suburbia.

    It is cheaper to subsidize it through freeways and roads. Don’t even try to compare us to Europe because there are no valid comparisons to made there.

    Even other BRIC countries like India and China are investing heavily into new freeways. People want to drive. You in the minority. Stop trying to tell others that they don’t get new lanes because you’re scared more people will choose to drive.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    I disagree with you. Drivers already pay a lot to drive. I am 100% against congestion pricing. I am however for HOT lanes and support a toll lane for every two general purpose lanes.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Well, transit riders are in the minority, so wouldn’t they be the beggars? Even in NYC drivers subsidize Metro’s subway system through tolls. Very few transit systems come close to covering their costs for operation which doesn’t including expansion or reconstruction. Look at BART and the failing NYC subway system. Not to mention how the Second Ave. subway line was nearly a century late and costs how many billions again for a 2 mile expansion?

    My point isn’t that drivers should only pay for ‘their’ infrastructure and transit riders pay for ‘theirs.’ It’s everyone’s infrastructure and you are going to pay for things you likely won’t ever use. It doesn’t need to be us vs. them.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    I’m sorry here is another link to the study that provides the numbers I was referring to in reference to local street congestion:

    http://thesource.metro.net/2015/05/28/study-finds-traffic-on-405-flows-better-over-sepulveda-pass/

  • Derek Hofmann

    If the fact that many people live in the suburbs is proof that they want to, then the fact that many people sit in traffic is also proof that they want to! https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2016/11/4/the-myth-of-revealed-preference-for-the-suburbs

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Another straw man argument.

    80% of new home buyers choose to live in suburbia. People want to live there. As with anything, there are exceptions. Be rational here and quit with the strawman. Are you the same guy who was arguing with me on Twitter?

  • Derek Hofmann

    Not a straw man, just an analogy. Please read the link about the myth that people want to live in the suburbs.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Buffalo also has projects planned to reduce lanes in certain areas if I recall correctly and even a plan to downgrade a freeway connector due to low traffic counts.

    If the traffic counts warrant it and safety won’t be compromised, I am all for it.

    Since you just admitted on your own accord that people want to live where freeways back up(which isn’t true) then why did you try and make some strawman argument that people want to sit in traffic?

    If anything, the notion that people “want” to sit in traffic to go back to their suburban home shows they do in fact, “want” to be in traffic. Though I’m sure if given the option between having a freeway flowing commute and living in the suburbs or being stuck in gridlock and living in the suburbs, I’m sure they’d still live in the suburbs. Well, funny enough, the majority of people do.

    Maybe for better schools, maybe because it’s cheaper, but I don’t know anyone who lives in the suburbs that has ever said they’d live in an urban environment if it had better schools and was cheaper.

    Being closer to nature, having more green and open space, your own private yard, and the ease of accessibility for you and your car against urban areas seems to be good enough reasons. . . Oh, and that’s without the amazing schools and low costs of housing giving people 2-3x the amount of space they could get in an urban area plus large private yards. Yes, I do recognize that has to be subsidized by the government.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    I didn’t see the link.

  • Derek Hofmann

    That reminds me of the old Yogi Berra quote: “nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

  • Joe Linton

    Do let us know when drivers start paying for the majority of their infrastructure.

  • Derek Hofmann
  • Derek Hofmann

    According to that study, “Total travel times are slightly lower between the 10 and the 101 except during the peak of the afternoon commute (about 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) when travel times are slightly higher.”

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    There are plenty of benefits. What needs to happen is more double decking and tunnels. While this is expensive, more research needs to happen to make cars more eco friendly and freeways less expensive to build, tunnels being no exception.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Of course and I understand there are negatives to freeways. Never once there weren’t. But instead of saying “no” to every new road or freeway project, how about working with city planners to increase connectivity, supporting more research into construction materials to make freeways and roads(as well as rail infrastructure) cheaper to construct, more eco friendly tech for cars to reduce emissions, and last but not better methods to allow for cheaper tunnel construction.

    Why is no one having those discussions? It always quickly devolves into “no new lanes” “INDUCED DEMAND” “more pollution” and my favorite one “I don’t want it by me!” The end result often ends up with the freeway happening expansion or new road being built anyways without potential improvements because the opposition didn’t want to improve it but just stopping it or it gets canceled and pollution stays the same or gets even worse because of increased congestion.

    More cars are coming on the roads whether they get expanded or not. People want to drive. It is evident. Ridesharing services have already given huge blows to transit with almost every transit agency reporting drops in users. Cheaper gas and cars have allowed for the poorer to buy cars again which is happening. This is because people want private cars. Wait until autonomous cars hit the road en masse then wait until they become affordable. Mass transit will essentially be obsolete and likely non existent or completely privatized. Mark my words.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    Slightly lower. Yes, I even pointed that out aside from all of the other added benefits. Now that adding lanes does reduce travel times, they need more and a lot more on more freeways than just the 405.

  • Campbell Sadeghy

    If you read the link I posted, local streets actually had a fairly significant drop in traffic. I support adding new subways in this area as well.

  • When we subsidize the roads and force businesses to provide abundant, cheap parking, this evidence suggests that people don’t really want to drive. If we made drivers pay 100% of the cost of the roads (right now they pay less than half) and allowed business owners and developers to provide as little as they think the market wants, then we would see what people really want.

  • The new lanes produced mixed results (sometimes travel times are higher, sometimes lower). 10 years from now if we do the same study again, do you think the results will be better or worse than today?

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