Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Who says you can't pave your way out of congestion?

I don't know how many times I've heard it said by all the planning ninnies around here, but I'm sure you've heard it too: "We will never pave our way out of congestion." It comes with lots of corrollary statements, such as "If we build more roads, that will just bring more cars."

Of course nobody in their right mind would apply this ridiculous principle to any other facet of their life. Would they ever say "If we install the big pipe, people will just poop more." Or "If I make more money, I'll just spend it."

OF COURSE increasing road capacity will decrease congestion. And in today's Oregonian, we have a great example of it. It concerns the Bridgeport Village retail center. Planners can't stand Bridgeport Village, because the entire thing is built with cars in mind. There aren't bike racks everywhere, not rail lines coming in. Although there is a bus mall nearby, I've never seen anybody get off the bus and walk over to Bridgeport.

In short, Bridgeport Village is hugely successful, precisely because it has rejected every single element of the planner's dogma.

Especially with regards to road capacity.

When it was in the planning stages, all the naysayers said that adding 800,000 square feet of retail space in that area would create a crisis in an already troubled intersection. So they upgraded the intersections and roads around the center. The improvements were very well thought out.

In fact, the developer said that there is even room to grow, because the road improvements were made to handle "a larger office and retail complex than was built."

So there you have it. Turns out if you build more road capacity, you can handle more cars and congestion goes down! And if you add on to your restaurant, you can seat more people. And it if you add 100 amps of electric service to your home, you can run more appliances. And if you ....

Oh you get the idea.


Chris McMullen said...

Right on the money, Rob. I drive by Bridgeport Village every day and am pleased to say traffic flows much better through there than before the road expansion.

Of course, a "dumb-growther" tried to convince me BV -was- built near transit because of the commuter rail project running "near" by (by near, I mean it's about a mile away).

And don't forget about Washington Square, they just added a few 100,000 square feet to the mall -- no transit "near" there either.

AAMOF, it seems most new retail isn't anywhere near transit. So much for the TOD theory.

Anonymous said...

The same politicans who scream "if you build more roads it will just mean more cars"....are also the one's who get red faced when someone says "if you spend more on homeless programs it will just mean more homeless come to town".

Jim Evans said...

Above 90% drive cars. That is what I call a huge majority. This is an education issue, what do I mean? Sometimes voters need to be educated on why an issue is important to them. The Portland area and I would argue the whole state, has been denied adiquate road construction for many years because the "smart growth set" want to drive people from their cars and into transit. That has caused congestion, limited growth, and eroded quality of life(who wants to sit in their car all day). Smart growth is an abstract concept, but make the issue of road building concrete and people will understand whats at stake (Rob, your post is an example of making the issue concrete). I believe this is an issue that can persuade folks to rethink some of their notions of how good "smart growth" really is. There are votes here if one can present how all this lack of road building effects the individual voter. The veneer of smart growth can be stripped away from many who now support it because they are not truly aware how it has effected their lives, and have relied on progressive leaders for their thought processes. The progressive leaders must also be challenged so their ssumptions can be exposed to the average voter. I have faith when presented with a compelling message that Portland and Oregon can do better on road building voters will reward the candidate making the case.

steve schopp said...

Clackams County is about to spend $23 millon UR dollars to help expand Clackamas Town Center
How stupid is the Clackamas County Commission?
The new 205 light rail will stop there so look for other Transit Oriented Development tax breaks as well.
An absolute insane fiscal and transportation quagmire.

Dare!PDX said...

I always like to point out Californian growth. Completely sustained at record levels by continual expansion of freeway infrastrucure decade after decade. Of course the Californian model of growth is the boogeyman in Portland. Growth is bad and planning away undesirables is good.

We all make value judgements but mine never makes milionaires and potentially billionaires at public expense. Manybe I'm in the long line of work?

Anonymous said...

Yhat is the shocking thing, the planners all but say they want L.A. density, not the necessary road network to move people around

Anonymous said...

Just look at the success on the Sunset hwy where the extra lane has been added out to Cornell Rd. It's made a big difference, next to 185th, Corn. Pass and beyond,

Anonymous said...

What people mean when they say you can't pave your way out of congestion is that it is a very poor long-term strategy. As soon as you build the road and relieve congestions some enterprising soul builds more houses and/or commercial development which attracts more trips and more cars. I have lived in Oregon long enough to see this happen over and over again. I can't remember seeing any place that built a road to relieve congestion that hasn't had to build more roads to relive the new congestion twenty years later. I think I have stumbled on to your blog my mistake, since I am clearly not in agreement with anything I read on it or with other people who have posted, but it doesn't hurt to try and communicate. By the way - my great grandmother was born in Oregon so I don't feel I am part of an eastern utopian group who has hijacked Oregon's politics:-) Thanks for the opportunity to say something I know you will disagree with.

Thersites said...

Sorry, but Jesus, you're shortsighted! In an old agrarian society, you'd be telling everyone to go ahead, eat the seed corn instead of planning for the future. Planning involves looking at the most likely possible futures (not just one, but what the likelihoods are), and then building long-term developments like Bridgeport in a way that increases the likelihood of their being successful and workable both now and in the greatest number of foreseeable circumstances. Saying, "it works now!" is like eating the seed corn and saying, "see, you fools who wanted to save some for planting were wrong, 'cause look, I'm FULL!"

As to increasing capacity not increasing usage: you asked, "Would they ever say 'If we install the big pipe, people will just poop more?'" Answer: of course! Not that that's bad, but of course there's a causal relationship! Look at the land use densities that can be achieved in areas served by septic systems: low. Look at the land use densities in areas served by central sewers: high. More sewage capacity, more people, more poop. Ditto with providing running water to homes, for instance: in places where people have to carry water in a bucket, they use use very little water at home. In modern, plumbed homes, we flush the toilet to dispose of a Kleenex. You get the picture.

Thersites said...

P.S.: dare!pdx wrote: "I always like to point out Californian growth. Completely sustained at record levels by continual expansion of freeway infrastrucure decade after decade."

When's the last time you even visited California, dare? Did you grow up there and see the changes? Just for kicks, try checking out real estate prices for basic family homes (3 br, 2 ba) in middle-class places like Vacaville or Modesto, and explain how anyone who isn't already in the market can afford to buy a home for their family. California growth a success story? Your ideology is blinding you, bud.