Skyline of Los Angeles with freeway traffic,CA

  1. More Roads Equal Less Traffic – It seems logical, right? If there’s more space on the road, then there won’t be as much congestion. Wrong. That’s because putting in more roads is sending an open invitation to people to start driving their cars. It’s called “induced demand,” and it leads to even more traffic.
  1. More Transit Equals Less Traffic – This follows the same logic as more roads. People think that if more commuters start taking the bus or train, it’ll open up more space on the highways. Wrong again. What do you think will happen with that extra space? Motorists will flock to it like ants on a hill. Exhibit A: This recent analysis of the new Expo light rail line in Los Angeles found no change in travel times along the nearby 10 freeway. It did find, however, several other significant benefits of an integrated transit system.
  1. Bike Lanes Make Traffic Worse – This is the argument heard over and over again from anti-bike laners. The debate over bike lanes on Westwood Blvd centered around this myth as well. But studies have proven that well-designed bike lanes improve traffic. Like in New York City, where car lanes were reduced from 12 to 10 feet, protected left turn lanes were implemented in addition to bike lanes, and they were able to reduce travel times by as much as 35%.
  1. Wider Roads Are Safer – Here’s that space issue again. The common perception is that wider roads give drivers more space to maneuver their vehicle, which makes it safer for everyone. What is actually does is lead to increased driving speeds, which makes it more dangerous for everyone on the road.
  1. The Next Lane Over is Moving Faster – It’s a “roadway illusion” created by the fact that it takes longer to be passed than to pass someone else. In short, we watch drivers pass us more often than we see ourselves passing other drivers. That lane next to yours isn’t really moving any faster.  But drivers continue to change lanes about every 1.25 seconds. This constant weaving in and out of traffic is not only very risky behavior, it adds to traffic.
  1. Traffic is Bad Because Everyone Else is a Bad Driver – Ever heard of “shockwave” traffic jams? Every imperceptibly imprecise move in a car (tapping the brake too hard or gassing it for too long) sends a ripple effect of congestion back through the rest of the road. So the problem is everyone’s inability to hold a steady speed and following distance.
  1. Get Lots of Cars Off the Road to Reduce Traffic – Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take much to make an impact when it comes to traffic. In fact, removing only 1% of vehicles from the rush-hour commute causes an 18% reduction in travel times. Remember Carmageddon? Popemageddon? Instead of the crippling traffic everyone thought there would be, thanks to social media (namely Kim Kardashian), some drivers avoided impacted routes and traffic moved pretty smoothly.
  1. Eliminating a Major Highway would Make the Commute Worse – When Toronto’s city planners voted not to tear down a mile-long stretch of elevated highway for a city boulevard, the rationale was that it would cause a traffic disaster. However, studies have shown that removing highways don’t always make traffic worse. What actually happens is some cars just disappear. Why? It’s a phenomenon called “disappearing traffic.” When the road they normally take is removed or altered, drivers adapt by changing their route or simply not driving at all.
  1. Cheap Gas is Better for Everyone – In 2015, gas prices were incredibly low, and for this, many drivers rejoiced. But it’s not all good news. Maybe your bank account is a bit healthier, but there’s a bunch of hidden social costs of driving, estimated at about $3.3 trillion a year. At least $1 trillion of that can be attributed to time lost at home and at work to being stuck in traffic. Plus, cheaper gas mean more cars on the road, and more cars on the road means more accidents.
  1. Drivers Pay the Full Cost of Road Maintenance – This has been the belief since before we landed on the moon. Americans, however, actually have some of the lowest gas taxes in the world. It’s not nearly enough to cover the full cost of public roads. For the first time in 20 years, government officials opted not to raise gas taxes and instead relied on other funding sources, further putting a wedge between motorists and the cost of road repairs.