Friday, May 29, 2015

More lanes in Houston, and longer traffic times

Here's a great example to buttress the point I made earlier today, in "Highways, congestion and a power broker's lessons." Which was this: Since at least the 1930s planners have known that adding highway lanes does not reduce congestion, but rather counter-intuitively seems to increase it.

As reported by Thursday by Angie Schmitt in,  a Houston Tomorrow analysis of driving time on the I-10 Katy Freeway found it took 51 percent more time to get from downtown to Pin Oak on the newly expanded, 23-lane freeway than it did in 2011 right after the new lanes opened. An expansion project that ended in 2010 cost $2.8 billion-with-a-B which was $1.17 billion-with-a-B more than its original price tag.

Coincidence: The Federal Highway Administration's 2012 list of projects that details the cost of the Katy Freeway also lists the Monroe Bypass, with a due date of 2016. Better get hopping on that one, guys. Or better yet, don't.

Jay Crossley of Houston Tomorrow concludes: "Traveling out I-10 is now 33% worse - almost 18 more minutes of your time - than it was before we spent $2.8 billion to subsidize land speculation and encourage more driving."

Highways, congestion and a power broker's lessons

Frontispiece of The Power Broker maps Moses' roads, bridges, parks and playgrounds. 
The headline in this morning's newspaper could not have been more appropriate for the day I have to, at long last and reluctantly, return to the UNC Charlotte library my copy of Robert A. Caro's The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.

I checked it out in September 2013. It's roughly the size of a cinder block and just as heavy, and the librarians graciously let me keep renewing it, since apparently no one else wanted the tome. Which is sad. Published in 1974, it should be required reading for anyone studying public administration, transportation, planning, urban studies, political science, sociology and journalism. I finally finished it a few months ago but after so long it felt almost like a family pet and I didn't want to part with it.

The headline today: N.C. DOT says Monroe Bypass construction has started. The article by Steve Harrison notes a lawsuit over the project is still active, and it could well be stopped for a second time.

As it happens, one of Robert Moses' faithful techniques for getting money for his projects was to start work on them