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!