To reduce congestion, widen roads. Right? No, wrong!

Penang heavy traffic on highway -  one way

The Politicians and Engineers are Wrong, Widening Roads will not Reduce Congestion, says Councillor

By Balvin Kaor – 18 May 2016.   Reprinted from

Conventional belief that widening roads will reduce traffic congestion is wrong, said Penang Island City Council (MBPP) councillor Dr Lim Mah Hui.

Lim said it was still the mindset of engineers and political leaders that widening roads would reduce traffic congestion.

However, he said, the conventional wisdom was time and again proved factually wrong.

“In fact, the counter­intuitive is right, namely the road widening creates more traffic congestion.

“While the counter­intuitive is not obvious, the factual evidence is staring us in our face,” he said in a statement issued today.

Lim said from Bangkok to Beijing, the endless spaghetti of super highways has only worsened traffic congestion.

He said Beijing started with the first outer ring road to relieve city traffic congestion and today it has eight such outer ring roads, and the traffic has gotten worse.

“The most recent evidence of the failure of road building and conversion to the new paradigm comes from Sylvester Turner, the new mayor of Houston, a car centric city.

“In April 2016, he admitted that the city spent US$2.6 billion (RM10 billion) to construct the world’s widest highway with 26 lanes and this only contributed to worsening traffic congestion.

“The mayor then called for a new paradigm ­move away from widening roads to public transportation solutions and encourage car sharing and HOV (high­-occupancy vehicle) lanes,” he said.

Lim said the U.S. had spent trillions of dollars trying to reduce congestion by road widening but this has actually created new car trips that would not have occurred without road widening.

He said this was because increasing the supply of roads only creates higher demand for its use.

“Two things happened, firstly like the mathematician, Braess, predicted decades ago, motorists who have taken alternative roads now converge on the widened road resulting in congestion.

“Second, people who would have used public or other modes of transport now opt to drive as it is more convenient.

“So we get back to square one; and we are worse off financially and environmentally,” he said.

Penang - adding a traffic lane and cutting down ancient trees to increase traffic

He said despite this overwhelming evidence, Penang, that prides itself as forward looking and leading, was actually caught in a time warp.

“Despite Penang state government’s transportation slogan of moving people not cars, it is actually doing the opposite.

“This is evident from the priority the transport plan gives to road building both in terms of timing and expenditure, “he said

He said under the Halcrow transport plan 61% of the RM27 billion was for road improvement and building.

“Under the first phase of the proposed SRS transport plan, 50% is for building roads, which is moving cars, not people.

“The first phase of the SRS transport plan proposes to build the Pan Island Link (PIL) and a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line from George Town to the SRS island B between 2017 to 2011.

“The PIL1 is estimated to cost RM6.1 billion and the LRT line RM6.2 billion for a total of RM12.3 billion,” he said

He said if the state was serious about increasing the public transport modal share from the present paltry three per cent to 40 per cent by 2030, it should spend most of the money to build public transport and not roads.

“It should simultaneously take proactive steps to discourage motorists from using private vehicles.

“However, the present strategy of the Penang state to prioritise and provide far higher investments in highways only serves to encourage motorists to drive and use the highways particularly when they are free of charge.

“This will discourage public transportation use,” he said.

He said the SRS proposal was to spend RM6 billion to build the PIL to the airport cutting north­south travel time to 15 minutes and no tolls will be collected.

“This whole strategy is fundamentally flawed from the start. ” If it is cheaper and faster to use the PIL to get to the airport, people will shun the LRT for cars.

“This will lead to financial disaster as public ridership will be reduced,” he said.

For example, he said, the actual ridership of the KL PUTRA LRT line reached only three per cent of projected ridership in 1999 and 44 per cent four years after starting operation.

“The experience in the KL­Klang region clearly demonstrates the folly of such a failed strategy where despite the provision of two LRT lines and one monorail line public modal share of transport dropped from over 40 per cent in 1970s to 17 per cent in 2014,” he said.

Read More :

Penang protesting tree cutting car lane

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