Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 18th 2015 Contents Grandad switches off the
ignition. We are trapped in
standstill traffic on the Princess
Margaret Highway. It must be
around 1980. The car is a
Renault 12. That was the original
box-model car before anybody
had even dreamed of the Sentra
B12. The air-conditioning is the
open window---and for that to
work the car has to be in
motion. Right now we are not
going anywhere. I fiddle with the
radio. There is something playing
with a lot of static---but maybe
the static is the fuzz of my
Mana, that was the nickname
for my grandfather, gets out of
the car, leans on the door and
with annoyance looks for the
cause of the gridlock. He never
cursed so he muttered: "Foot!
Blasted traffic." We never figured
out what caused the jam. The
road simply reached capacity and
that was that, no space to move.
Since then the highway
received a new name, extra lanes
and an interchange. What
remains is the traffic congestion.
Granddad would still be "foot-
ing" away if he were around
today. Traffic congestion is a way
of life. Is this despite new high-
ways, wider roads and inter-
changes? Or is it maybe because
More roads cause more traffic.
It seems against common sense
that more roads cause more con-
gestion but this is exactly what a
study, The Fundamental Law of
Road Congestion: Evidence from
US Cities, suggests. So the solu-
tion must be more public trans-
port, right? The same study says
that adding more pubic transport
does noting to reduce road con-
gestion. I can hear Mana stamp-
ing down his foot: "Foot!"
The study says that adding
roads results in an equal increase
in traffic. Adding one per cent
more roads equals one per cent
more traffic. There is such a huge
demand for road space that
whenever you make more roads
available new users soon occupy
the created road space. Building
new roads to relieve congestion is
an exercise in futility. It is like
bringing tar to the Pitch Lake.
The traditional answer from
environmentalists and the anti-
road lobby to road congestion is
mass transit or public transport.
It turns out that public transport
doesn t reduce road congestion
either. Adding one per cent pub-
lic transport has a zero per cent
effect on road traffic. "Foot!
Public transport is more of a
social service rather than a traffic
management solution. This does-
n t mean that public transport is
wasted money. Quite the oppo-
site. Public transport makes more
efficient use of traffic infrastruc-
Traffic infrastructure is expen-
sive but traffic congestion also
comes at a cost.
I have been unable to find any
data on the cost of traffic con-
gestion in T&T. I am no econo-
mist but a back-of-a-napkin cal-
culation shows that the cost of
traffic congestion to the nation is
more than $17 billion in lost per-
son hours per year! "Foot!"
If we take T&T s GDP (2013) of
about $357,000 per household
per year (3.24 people) and we
assume that each household
spends three hours a day in traf-
fic then the cost of traffic could
be $ 43,983.57 per household per
Multiply the time lost in traffic
by any reasonable amount and
we will see that T&T allots a lot
of resources to passenger vehicle
We have established these
things: public transport is a more
efficient use of resources; more
roads do not reduce traffic. To
reduce traffic you must reduce
passenger vehicles on the roads.
This requires a negative incen-
tive to passenger vehicle road
use. Consumers are most likely to
react to their pockets so increase
the cost of passenger vehicle use.
Remove the gas and diesel sub-
sidy. That subsidy is counter to
the Government s efforts to
relieve congestion and it transfers
wealth from the poor to the
Increase road taxes and intro-
duce a congestion tax for down-
town Port-of-Spain, San Fernan-
do, Arima, Chaguanas and other
traffic-jammed areas. This has
been remarkably successful in
cities like London and Singapore.
A First World public transport
system must be put in place to
deal with the excess demand for
Smart growth means looking at
how we can reduce the distance
between work, school and play. It
requires intelligent land planning
and decentralisation. The Internet
can be useful here as well. Many
office jobs can be easily done
from home removing the need
for home-work travel.
Another smart solution, albeit
very counter-intuitive, came from
a Dutch engineer, Nico Kersting.
Kersting told me how in the
Netherlands some roads are actu-
ally narrowed to improve traffic
flow. The rationale is that cars
cannot park on a narrow road
unless they want to deal with the
road-raged drivers behind them.
Apparently it works.
There are many ways to reduce
traffic congestion. Building more
roads, highways and causeways
without a cause are not a solu-
tion and they are costly invest-
ments. They are like feeding
drugs to a never-satisfied addict.
Tax passenger vehicles, remove
gasoline subsidies, implement
First World public transport and
focus on smart growth.
Monday, May 18, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Bids are invited on the vehicles listed above
Interested parties can call 790-1330
to arrange viewing
Bids Close promptly at 3:00 pm
Wednesday 27th May, 2015
Vehicles will be sold "As is where is"
The mortgagee is not obliged to accept
the highest or any other bid.
Only bids submitted on the approved
form will be accepted.
'MORE ROADS CAUSE MORE TRAFFIC'
MARC DE VERTEUIL
The study says that adding roads results in an
equal increase in traffic. Adding one per cent more
roads equals one per cent more traffic. There is
such a huge demand for road space that whenever
you make more roads available new users soon
occupy the created road space. Building new roads
to relieve congestion is an exercise in futility. It is
like bringing tar to the Pitch Lake.
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