Oh, cut it out, would you?
The City of Nanaimo [British Columbia] will reduce greenhouse gases and vehicle congestion by improving a busy stretch of road…New traffic lights, widened traffic lanes and improved access to the Swy-a-lana Lagoon Park… will improve traffic flow and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from idling vehicles.
So says the government of BC, propagating a silly urban legend as if it were fact.
I don’t mean to be grumpy…no, forget that, I do mean to be grumpy. This is just rubbish. It’s similar to the argument that adding lanes to a crowded highway will reduce emissions—and for a detailed analysis of that myth, go here.
But you don’t even need a detailed analysis. I mean, think about it for a second—is it really plausible that the key to a climate-friendly transportation system is to build wider, faster roads? Can people really say that with a straight face? Really?
Unfortunately, people do say it, all the time. I think it’s a form of selective reasoning: people hate traffic congestion so much that they’re willing to believe anything good about congestion relief. But, unfortunately, it’s the rare instance that widening a road brings both congestion relief AND climate relief. More typically, wider, faster roads leads to extra driving. And the climate impacts of extra driving, combined with the impacts of construction itself, absolutely dwarf the modest fuel savings from congestion relief.
So sure, widening a busy stretch of highway might save a bit of fuel over the short term. But over the course of a few decades, wider roads become a climate menace. Luckily, The Tyeehas their number on this one. You go, Tyee!
We’re hearing this line at the SR-520 Bridge Mediation Team meetings as well. Too bad none of the research supports it.For starters, Cervero in 2003 demonstrated conclusively that new lanes generate new trips (in his analysis 39% of traffic on widened roads was induced by the easing of congestion). Further, US EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality reported (2000?) that emissions benefits of congestion relief only extend to the primary monitoring zone and that traffic generated by the project (see Cervero) actually generated more emissions in the secondary and tertiary zones.Finally, the TRB in 1995 (Expanding Metropolitan Highways: Implications for Air Quality and Energy Use) concluded that air imapcts from highway expansion are measureable and negative.
There is nothing wrong with idling on a congested road if you drive a hydrid which shuts down the engine when the vehicle is coasting or at a full stop.While sitting in traffic and watching the exhaust from other vehiles idling, I have often tried to imagine the difference if every car operated like a Toyota Prius. As you inch forward in only electric mode, yet still inhaling the fumes from everyone else, imagine the difference if 100% of the vehicles had the same smart technology.