A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a local office of realtors with an update on White Flint redevelopment. During our discussion of the multi-faceted way we are approaching the area’s traffic problems, someone asked “Why don’t we just build more roads? I’m going to drive anyway.”
There are many answers to this question including the fact that roads are much more highly subsidized than transit and, overall, more expensive to build. And, because we will experience a disproportionate improvement in traffic when even a small number of people make different choices and get out of their cars, we can still drive when preferred. But recently, there’s been another reason why building more roads isn’t the answer for the future.
Last month, Atlanta was paralyzed by two inches of snow because they did not have adequate infrastructure to accommodate the mass exodus of commuters. It’s estimated that one million cars flooded the highways in a matter of hours that day – those drivers had no other options for reaching their destinations and no realistic amount of new roads would have held them. Even without approaching the cost comparisons between building roads and building transit, there are logistical considerations that make this matter of choice critical.