Traffic congestion can actually be a good thing for urban districts

Engineers are well-known for coming up with solutions to rid our communities of dreaded traffic congestion. To most people this seems logical, but do we always want to rid ourselves of traffic congestion? In urban shopping districts you want lots of pedestrians, cyclists, transit and cars…it means that there are lots of potential customers. More from Strong Towns:

If people enjoy crowded places, it seems a bit strange that federal and state governments continue to wage a single-minded and expensive war against traffic congestion. Despite many hundreds of billions dollars spent on increasing the capacity of our roads, they’ve not yet won, thank God. After all, when the congestion warriors have won, the results aren’t often pretty. Detroit, for example, has lots of expressways and widened streets and suffers from very little congestion. It also has lost 2/3 of its population and is in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee.

After all, congestion is a bit like cholesterol – if you don’t have any, you die. Like cholesterol, traffic exists as a “good kind” and a “bad kind.” Congestion measurements should be divided between through-traffic and traffic that includes local origins or destinations, the latter being the “good kind.”

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  • Mark Christol

    I first heard of this when I was a kid in Springfield, OH & the city wanted to build a CBD bypass on Spring Street. This necessitated the demolition of a Big 4 train station and, with the subsequent building of a mall NW of town, pretty much eliminated any congestion (& any traffic) in the CBD. So they tore it down.
    The CBD, not the bypass…

  • TimSchirmang

    The piece in Strong Towns does a great job making a complete hash of the topic. It repeatedly confuses the terms traffic and congestion and uses them inconsistently to arrive at a logical destination lacking any real substance.

    • Thank you. That was bugging me too.
      Congestion is by definition too much traffic, no matter the situation.
      This should be about regulating for right-sized traffic flows.