Surface Transportation News #170

Surface Transportation Innovations Newsletter

Surface Transportation News #170

In this issue:

What Future for Electric Cars?

For many years, I’ve been skeptical of a vehicle future dominated by all-electric vehicles. Not that zero-emission cars wouldn’t be great (assuming a low- or zero-emission electricity supply). It’s just that most of the media and consulting firm hype seemed so over the top, ignoring real problems such as low range, slow charging, absence of supporting infrastructure (such as EV charging stations), very low market penetration, and other factors. On the other hand, there was Tesla, producing elegant, advanced-technology EVs that can actually go 300 or more miles on a full charge, but whose prospects of scaling up to mass-market volume and pricing are still in question.

This array of challenges has led governments—in China, much of Europe, and the United States—to try to force the market to develop. Policies include significant subsidies to those who purchase EVs (usually tax rebates), subsidized charging stations, and proposed bans on producing and selling vehicles with conventional petroleum engines (but allowing hybrids) after some future year such as 2040. This year the California Assembly passed a bill that would have quadrupled the state EV rebate, from $2,500 to $10,000, at an annual taxpayer cost of $3 billion per year—but it died in the Senate.

Despite all these subsidies and regulations, EVs in the USA constitute only 1% of the personal vehicle fleet, and annual sales are 0.2% of total sales. Worldwide, EVs are also only about 1% of the fleet, despite an all-out effort in China (where 75% of EVs are bought not by individuals but by government agencies and state-owned enterprises). General Motors sells fewer than 50,000 EVs per year worldwide.

Recently there have been some policy changes in the opposite direction. The House tax reform bill would eliminate federal tax rebates for EVs, and seven states have rescinded their state rebates. Nineteen states have enacted annual highway-use fees for EVs that use no motor fuel and hence pay nothing for road use. They average $75-150/year, which compares to an average of about $220 per year paid by petroleum-fueled cars (federal + state fuel tax at 2.2 cents/mile times about 10,000 miles/year). And a sobering new study from Morgan Stanley estimates that it would cost $2.7 trillion worldwide to provide the infrastructure necessary to support 526 million EVs worldwide by 2040.

On the other hand, if EVs can be perfected as affordable, mass-produced vehicles, they would have a number of advantages. If you’ve driven or ridden in a Tesla, as I did earlier this year, you can’t help but be impressed by its performance—amazing acceleration, very high torque, quiet, and far fewer parts and hence likely much lower maintenance costs. And that’s in addition to the zero emission benefits, especially valuable in urban areas (and to the planet, assuming the electricity is not from coal). So I’d like to become a believer in an EV future. Are there signs that this is becoming less of a pipedream?

First, there is a mountain of money going into battery research and development, and I’ve seen a number of graphs showing ongoing decreases in battery unit cost ($/kwh) and a corresponding uptrend in battery energy density (watt-hrs/liter) from sources such as the U.S. Department of Energy. Second, just about every global car company keeps announcing plans for new EV models. Third, as a possible EV alternative, Honda and Toyota are putting a lot of investment into EVs that get their electricity from hydrogen fuel cells rather than batteries. Those cars could be refueled in minutes, just like current cars, rather than requiring half-hour (or much longer) recharging periods. Of course, the fuel-cell route will require a nationwide hydrogen infrastructure, with its own massive investment need.

A more cautious study on an EV future was released last month by Boston Consulting Group. It projects EVs as unlikely to gain much traction until 2025 or later, and will account for only 14% of annual vehicle production by 2030 (and a much smaller portion of the total personal vehicle fleet by that date). That strikes me as far more realistic than what you can read in some rah-rah articles even in respectable publications such as The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

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Express Toll Lanes Expanding Rapidly, Even in Texas

Despite populist opposition in Charlotte, NC and parts of Texas, 2017 has been a banner year for express toll lanes (ETLs). At least eight new facilities opened to traffic this year, another dozen are under construction (or about to be), and at least another dozen new projects have been announced in eight states.

The largest project financed in 2017 was the $3.5 billion I-66 project in northern Virginia, whose ground-breaking was held in November. And by far the largest announcement was Maryland’s $7.6 billion plan to add express toll lanes to its portion of the Capital Beltway (I-495) and I-270. Two other potential new ETL states are Oregon and South Carolina. In Portland, Oregon DOT is planning some kind of value pricing for congested I-5 and I-205—either ETLs or some form of all-lanes-priced. And in Charleston, SC, the state DOT is considering congestion-relief improvements to I-526, and ETLs appear to be a lot more feasible than HOV lanes.

Georgia DOT is back in the public-private partnership (P3) business, with that form of procurement planned for major projects to add ETLs to the Georgia 400 and the northern portion of the Perimeter (I-285) in Atlanta. The Maryland and Virginia projects noted above are also P3s, given their very large costs and the ability of toll financing to cover large portions of their costs.

As I’ve previously reported, Texas is now suffering from a moratorium on new highway P3 projects and restrictions on developing more ETLs. Yet as the nation’s fastest-growing state, it will need toll-financed P3s for such projects as a massive $7 billion reconstruction of I-45 in Houston and the $8.1 billion reconstruction of I-35 through downtown Austin, plus the $1.8 billion LBJ East project in Dallas. Fortunately, new congestion relief will be provided by previously approved projects including the recently opened $1.4 billion I-35E project in Dallas and the new MOPAC ETLs in Austin, plus the $1.1 billion P3 project that is constructing ETLs on SH 288 in Houston.

A growing number of ETL projects are under way in Florida, including the $2.6 billion I-4 reconstruction in Orlando, ETL additions to I-75 in Broward County and SR 826 in Miami-Dade County, extensions of the I-95 ETLs through Broward County and into Palm Beach County, Jacksonville’s first ETLs on I-295, and Tampa’s first project announced as ETLs on the replacement Howard Frankland Bridge. Under construction in California are new ETLs on I-15 in Riverside County and I-405 in Orange County. Georgia has ETLs under way on I-85 (extending existing ETLs) and I-75/I-575 in northwestern Atlanta. And the I-77 project’s construction continues north of Charlotte (despite continuing populist opposition), where officials have recently recommended a second ETL project on I-77 south of downtown.

If past experience is any guide, opposition to ETLs in metro areas where the first project is under way generally fades within the first year of that project opening, as people learn that (1) it is a new option, in addition to the choices they had before, (2) in certain circumstances, the value of paying the variable toll is far more than the cost of arriving late, and (3) that the lanes are not “Lexus Lanes” but are used by a broad cross-section of motorists.

Speaking of the value proposition, the I-495 express lanes in northern Virginia last month celebrated their fifth anniversary. Over those five years of operation, concessionaire Transurban estimates that its 3.5 million customers making 67 million trips have saved more than 5 million hours of travel time.

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Proposed Baltimore-Washington Maglev a Likely Boondoggle

With modest research support from the Federal Railroad Administration, a start-up company called Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail has proposed a 35-mile magnetic levitation train between the two downtowns. The project would make use of Japanese superconducting maglev technology and is estimated by the company to cost $10-15 billion. The project has had cooperation (but no funding thus far) from the Maryland DOT—and has generated a lot of skepticism from Maryland residents and local officials.

The maglev concept has been around for decades, with Transrapid’s test track running in Germany in the 1980s and 1990s, but that was eventually shut down when no customers were persuaded to adopt the very expensive technology. The first nominally commercial maglev project was the 19-mile route from a Shanghai suburb to the Shanghai International Airport, which opened in 2004. About a year after it opened, I talked with a technology staffer from the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, where we were both attending a conference. I asked him when China would follow up with an intercity maglev that would take better advantage of the high speed. He laughed and told me this was not really a commercial project; it was built for prestige and as a tourist attraction, he said.

But the Japanese government, widely known for pumping taxpayers’ money into uneconomical transport projects to stimulate the economy, in 2014 embarked on a new-technology maglev approach, using superconducting magnets. It is to be a 178-mile maglev route between Tokyo and Osaka, with a planned travel time of 67 minutes. The staggering cost is estimated at $81 billion, which works out to $455 million per mile. That high cost is due in part to 86% of the route being in tunnels. The Japanese government plans to finance the project with low-cost loans, most of which will never be paid back if either (a) the cost escalates well above $81 billion, as tends to happen with rail transit mega-projects, and/or (b) ridership and hence fare levels fall well below projections.

This is the same technology proposed for the Baltimore-Washington maglev—which plans to build 70% of the 35-mile route in tunnels. At the estimated $15 billion cost, that works out to be $429 million per mile, in the same ballpark as the Japanese project. As to projected ridership and fares, the company has not disclosed its estimates, but it’s hard to imagine them covering the capital and operating costs of this $15 billion undertaking. The company says the funding would come from low-interest loans from the federal government and Japan.

It’s far from clear why such a project should be built—or who would pay to ride it. But if politicians are convinced that a super-high-speed line between Baltimore and Washington is needed, Elon Musk has proposed an alternative. His Boring Company has received “conditional approval” from Maryland DOT to dig miles of tunnels under state highways such as the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, as the potential start of a Hyperloop system between the two cities. Musk has (thus far) not asked for any state or federal funds. If he’s willing to line up private investors, let them risk their own money, not money from of all of us who pay federal taxes.

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Puncturing Millennial Myths
By Baruch Feigenbaum

Earlier this year when Travis Kalanick was still CEO of Uber, he argued at the World Government Summit in Dubai that, “Millennials aren’t buying cars anymore. They don’t want to drive. They don’t want to own these cars. They don’t want the inconvenience.” Kalanick was wrong about a lot of things. We now know that he created a toxic corporate workplace culture for woman. We know that he knew about Uber’s data breach that exposed the data of 57 million users, which the company paid $100,000 to hackers to cover up. And while not criminal, we also have the facts to show that millennials are in fact buying homes, buying cars, and settling in the suburbs, despite his claims.

Exhibit one is a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Millennial Home Buyers Send a Chill Through Rental Markets,” that found amid the hot jobs market that the homeownership rate is rising because millennials are forming families and buying houses. This is a reversal from the recent period of economic expansion in which declining home ownership allowed rental prices to rise faster than inflation. Demand for rentals increased because younger people did not have the money, credit, or desire to pursue home ownership.

In the third quarter of 2017, the national home ownership rate increased to 63.9%. The rate was up from 63.5% a year ago, a noticeable increase for a rate that has traditionally hovered in the mid-sixties, but has been lagging since the Great Recession. In fact, the recent trend is worrying investors, who have pumped millions of dollars into building apartment complexes and acquiring homes for rent. One such company, Americans Home for Rent, reported disappointing third-quarter revenue growth. Rental rates in many cities are starting to plateau, and even to decline in some areas, such as Boston.

Similar findings were reported recently by National Public Radio, in a piece headlined “As Millennials Get Older, Many Are Buying SUVs to Drive to Their Suburban Homes.” It reported on the 2017 National Realtors Survey, which found that millennials are the largest group of homebuyers for the fourth consecutive year. And while millennials are buying homes a few years later in life, those they buy are bigger and pricier than traditional starter homes.

Millennials are also buying cars. Autotrader found that in 2011 millennials were 20% of the new-car market. This year, they are 30% percent of the market, and by 2020 they are forecast to be 40%. And millennials seem to have a preference for large SUVs to accommodate children who will soon be preteens or teenagers. Ford expects SUV sales to increase from 40% to 45% of the total U.S. vehicle market in the next 5-7 years, due largely to demand from millennials, even as gas prices increase.

In asking millennials where they are buying houses, the surveys found that millennials are not digging the urbanist lifestyle. Almost half (47%) of millennials live in suburbs and 20% in a rural area; only 33% in an urban setting. Fewer people age 18-34 live in an urban area today than 20 years ago.

So why do many people’s perceptions of millennials not match reality? For years, millennials were foregoing housing and car purchases. But it was not because of a lifestyle choice; it was because they were unemployed or under-employed and living in mom and dad’s basement. The Great Recession acted as a pause button for a generation. But millennials are making similar decisions as their parents did, just slightly later in life. Instead of having children in their late 20s, many millennials are having them in their early or even mid-30s. Instead of buying a home at 25, they are buying it at 30. So much for the myth of the new-urbanist millennial generation.

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“Road Diets” Spark Opposition from Motorists and Businesses

My nomination for the year’s silliest transportation headline goes to Money.com for a September 18th story headlined, “Lyft’s Redesigned Street Concept Could Fix LA Traffic.” The centerpiece of the story was a proposal to put LA’s premier east-west arterial—Wilshire Boulevard—on a “road diet.” The revamp would convert the existing 10-lane arterial into a new form with only three(!) general-purpose lanes, two bus-only lanes, and all the rest devoted to protected bike lanes, trees, and wide sidewalks. And by making heroic assumptions about how many people would walk, bike, use buses, or ride-share, consultant Nelson/Nygaard claims the revamped Wilshire would handle77,000 people per hour, compared with only 29,600 today.

This is the same Los Angeles where a huge backlash has broken out against the first road diets implemented on much smaller arterials. They stem from the City Council’s 2015 adoption of Mobility Plan 2035, which called for road diets across the city to reduce speeds in the interest of reducing traffic deaths eventually to zero per year. The first ones to be implemented have all stirred up opposition:

  • Rowena Avenue in Silver Lake, cut from four lanes to two; the protest movement has not succeeded in reversing it.
  • A proposed road diet in Westwood, which a local Council member killed before it was implemented;
  • Another in North Hollywood, also pre-emptively killed by its local Council member.

The biggest backlash has occurred in Playa del Rey, where Council member Mike Bonin championed the following changes, implemented this summer:

  • Pershing Drive, cut from two lanes each way to one;
  • Stretches of Culver and Jefferson Blvds., also cut from two lanes each way to one; and,
  • A 2.1-mile stretch of Vista Del Mar, also cut from two lanes to one.

Traffic congestion impacts were immediate, especially on Vista Del Mar. (See the recent video on this at http://reason.com/archives/2017/11/20/los-angeles-war-on-commuters-road-diet.) In response to a recall campaign, Councilman Bonin reversed course, which led to the LADOT restoring the lanes on Vista Del Mar and the eastbound lane on Culver Blvd. Meanwhile, two lawsuits against the road diet plan are moving forward, arguing that the City violated state environmental laws by implementing the road diets without either holding public hearings or conducting an environmental review of their impacts.

There has even been a backlash to a road diet in Portland, OR, home of “smart growth” land-use and transportation planning. Last year the city government imposed a road diet on SW Naito Parkway, reducing it from four lanes to two so as to provide more space for bikes and pedestrians. Business owners, shoppers, and commuters protested the ensuing congestion, and the Portland Businesses Alliance has circulated a petition to the City Council advocating reversal of the road diet—but to no avail. The government is now planning a road diet that will eliminate two of the four lanes on a larger arterial, SE Foster Road.

There have been very few careful studies of the impacts of road diets on mobility. Researchers at the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose point out that most road diet studies have focused only on safety outcomes, not traffic impacts. (That’s a bit like the old saying, “We had to destroy the village to save it.”) Their research team did a study of a road diet implemented in 2015 on a one-mile stretch of Lincoln Avenue in a small San Jose business district. As with the road diets in Los Angeles, this one also reduced through-traffic lanes from four to two. The team had access to “before” data to compare with “after” data, and the results were mixed: some parallel neighborhood streets had more than a 10% increase in traffic, and some traffic diverted to parallel arterials, but others were unaffected. Speeds were reduced on the one-mile stretch of Lincoln but increased on the streets used as alternatives. The researchers also noted the lack of a control group—how did traffic on comparable streets without road diets fare during the same time period?

Overall, I see road diets as a flawed approach to the very real problem of urban traffic fatalities. Where speeding is a causal factor, lower speed limits and traffic calming can reduce speeds without hugely reducing traffic throughput. And where specific accident/fatality hot-spots can be identified, measures targeted at those locations could address the problem without large negative mobility impacts.

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Upcoming Transportation Conferences

Note: We don’t have the time or space to list all transportation events that might be of interest to readers of this newsletter. Listed here are events at which a Reason Foundation transportation researcher is speaking or moderating.

NCSL Capitol Forum, Hotel Del Coronado, Dec. 9-13, 2017, San Diego, CA (Adrian Moore and Robert Poole speaking). Details at: http://www.ncsl.org

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News Notes

Four Teams Submit Qualifications for Alabama P3. Alabama DOT received four responses to its RFQ for a toll concession project to build a new six-lane bridge on I-10 across the Mobile River and widen existing I-10 bridges across Mobile Bay. The 50-year concession would enable the winning team to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the tolled bridges.

Indiana RFP for Additional Interstate Tolling Study. Following up on the HDR study on toll revenue feasibility for modernizing its Interstate highways, Indiana DOT is seeking a consultant to create a strategic plan for toll-financed reconstruction and widening of I-94, I-65, and I-70. The winning firm will also determine what environmental studies would be needed for these projects to comply with the National Environmental Quality Act.

Melbourne CityLink Widening Completed. Concessionnaire Transurban announced that its $988 million ($U.S.) project to add a lane each way to 30 km of Melbourne’s all-electronic toll road was completed in October, three months early. The project adds 30% to CityLink’s capacity and travel time savings of up to 17 minutes during peak periods. The toll road currently handles 210,000 vehicles per day.

Liberal Housing Policies Killing Coastal Cities? That’s the contention of liberal blogger Shane Phillips in a thoughtful piece originally posted on MarketUrbanism.com back in January. Phillips contrasts liberal policies favoring immigration, equity, and the environment with anti-growth housing policies that make housing in liberal-governed coastal cities unaffordable to the majority of the population. Just google the title to read it: “The Disconnect Between Liberal Aspiration and Liberal Housing Policy Is Killing Coastal U.S. Cities.”

Washington State Posting Tax Rates on Gas Pumps. Stickers have started appearing on fuel pumps in Washington, listing the state and federal tax rates in cents/gallon for gasoline and diesel fuel. This is a welcome first step in enabling highway users to see what they are paying to cover the costs of building, maintaining, and modernizing this critically important infrastructure. Other states should follow suit.

First Managed Arterial Moving Forward in Fort Lauderdale. The Florida DOT and the Broward County Metropolitan Planning Organization are moving ahead with plans to convert a signalized arterial—SW 10th Street—into what amounts to a Managed Arterial. The 2.5-mile stretch is seriously congested at 45,000 vehicles/day, a combination of commuters going between I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike and residents going to and from their homes. This arterial was originally supposed to be the last 2.5 miles of the Sawgrass Expressway, but that plan was blocked by NIMBY opposition decades ago. The likely solution now is to add express toll lanes in the middle, bypassing the traffic lights, while preserving local access to adjacent neighborhoods on reconfigured arterial lanes.

Are Trains Better than Bus Rapid Transit? At Thecityfix.com, Dario Hidalgo reviews an international study comparing the performance of 86 rail transit and BRT systems, conducted by researchers at the Technical University of Denmark. Despite limitations in the data, “the researchers conclude that BRT can improve travel times, modal share, and urban development at rates similar to those reported for light rail and metro. The evidence contradicts conventional wisdom.” Google “Are trains better than bus rapid transit systems? A look at the evidence.”

New Study Estimates Effects of AVs on Freeway Operations. Vehicles with driver-assist features such as Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) could have a positive effect on congested freeways, according to simulation results published by Fehr & Peers in November. The higher the percentage of such vehicles on a freeway, the more delay-reduction effect there will be, up to the point where ACC vehicles reach 50 to 60% of the total. Breakdown of flow into oversaturated conditions would not occur until flow reaches 3,200 veh./lane/hour, compared with 2,300 v/l/hr. with all conventional vehicles. But speeds during oversaturation would be only 5 to 10% higher than today.

JEC Democrats Oppose Ban on Private Activity Bonds. Democratic members of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee have issued a critique of the House tax reform bill’s provision that would eliminate tax-exempt private activity bonds (PABs) as putting infrastructure jobs at risk. The Senate tax bill does not contain a comparable provision.

Insurance Companies Invest in Toll Road Debt. The two largest insurance companies in South Korea—Samsung Life and Kyobo Life—have invested in a $100 million loan secured by toll revenues from the Indiana Toll Road concession company. The loan is part of a refinanced $300 million borrowed by pension fund investment manager IFM Investors when is acquired the ITR Concession Company in 2015 for $5.7 billion.

Is “Uberizing” Transit Good for Cities? Three urban planning experts at the University of Texas in Austin published a thoughtful piece on this subject in the Houston Chronicle on November 3rd—and their answer is yes. Junfeng Jiao, Juan Miro, and Nicole McGrath contrasted typically dense, compact European cities with low-density “landscape” U.S. metro areas, which are very difficult to serve effectively and efficiently via conventional fixed-route transit. They cite examples such as five central Florida cities operating a pilot project under which Uber offers discounted intercity trips, on-demand bus services such as Ford’s Chariot operating in several major cities, and ride-sharing vanpool services offered by Via in New York, Chicago, and Washington.

Colorado DOT Looking to More Tolls and P3s. Colorado’s High Performance Transportation Enterprise is beginning work on a statewide master plan, and recent news stories suggest that express toll lanes, P3 procurement, and increased use of toll financing will all be considered. CDOT last month reached commercial close on the $1.3 billion I-70 East P3 that will reconstruct a 10-mile stretch of I-70 between downtown Denver and Denver International Airport, adding express toll lanes in the median.

Michigan Soybean Farmers Partner for Bridge Load Testing. In a unique public-private partnership, the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee and the Soy Transportation Coalition have embarked on a pilot project with Midland County, MI. Under the project, load testing devices are being installed on rural bridges to assess their ability to handle legal heavy truck traffic. Initial tests have proved to be more accurate than traditional visual inspection, conserving scarce highway resources for bridges that genuinely need repair or replacement.

Clarification on Connecticut Tolling. In last month’s article on states looking into toll-financed Interstate reconstruction, I wrote (based on news reports quoting various politicians) that discussions in Connecticut seemed to focus on using tolling as a cash cow for transportation. My friend and colleague, Emil Frankel, who recently served on the Governor’s Transportation Finance Panel, responded immediately by email. He explained that the panel had recommended re-introducing tolls in the state “in connection with the rebuild/replacement of major highway facilities on I-84 and as a funding tool for capital investment in I-95 (particularly in southwest CT).” He added that given the very high cost of these projects, “it is highly unlikely that tolls on these Interstates would be ‘cash cows’ or even, alone, provide sufficient investment capital to pay fully for these massive highway projects.” I am heartened by this response, and can only hope that state legislators take it seriously.

Two TRB Publications of Interest. Two recent issues of the Transportation Research Board’s journal, Transportation Research Record, include papers of potential interest to readers of this newsletter. TRR 2597 deals with revenue, finance, pricing, and economics, with both U.S. and overseas research findings. And TRR 2616 deals with freeway operations, including managed lanes. A complete listing of contents is available online: http://trrjournalonline.trb.org.

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Quotable Quotes

“[M]any people fear that [road] pricing would unduly burden low-income households by pushing them off the roads so that the rich can travel at high speeds. Burdens on the poor are an important consideration, which is why we have programs that assist low-income households by subsidizing the cost of food, housing, and utilities. However, we don’t provide food, housing, and utilities to both low- and high-income households for free. Yet that is what we’ve done with our roads. Furthermore, transportation systems are currently financed by a combination of property, gas, and sales taxes, the latter of which have raised virtually no objections on equity grounds. Sales taxes are the most popular new way to increase revenues for transportation, but they disproportionately burden the poor who tend to pay a higher share of their incomes on purchases subject to sales taxes. Research suggests that the poorest travelers would be better off with road pricing than with the current trend toward increasing reliance on transportation sales taxes.”
—Brian D. Taylor, UCLA, “Traffic Congestion is Counter-Intuitive, and Fixable,” Access Magazine, Spring 2017

“[U]nder current [federal] policies, there is no viable way to pay for future transportation infrastructure needs—even at flat cost projections. . . .  We are thus left with only one viable solution: to enact policies to ensure that infrastructure needs are paid for by those who use it the most, rather than continuing to leave the burden on general taxpayers to subsidize the Highway Trust Fund. . . . Meeting our nation’s future road infrastructure costs without raiding taxpayers’ wallets will require the federal government to prioritize spending by eliminating wasteful and non-essential projects—the bike paths, nature trails, and streetcars—that have very little demand. . . . As Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute articulates, revenues generated through more-direct user fees such as [mileage-based user fees] are fair and equitable, provide valuable feedback to infrastructure providers and users, inform consumers which infrastructure best meets their demands, and help create dedicated funding.”
—Christopher D. Coursen, “Charge Drivers by the Mile, Not the Gallon, to Rebuild Roads,” The Hill, October 26, 2017

“The goal of all robocars is to make car travel more pleasant and convenient, and eventually cheaper. You can’t make something better and cheaper without increasing demand for it, and that means more traffic. This is particularly true for the early-generation pre-robocar vehicles in the plans of many major automakers. One of the first products these companies have released is sometimes called the ‘traffic jam assist.’ This is a self-driving system that only works at low speed in a traffic jam. . . . These products will be widely available soon, and they will make traffic jams much more pleasant. Which means there might be more of them. . . . After the traffic jam assist systems come the highway systems which will allow you to take your eyes off the road for an extended time. They arrive pretty soon, too. These will encourage slightly longer commutes. That means more traffic, and also changes to real estate values.”
—Brad Templeton, “Robocars Will Make Traffic Worse Before It Gets Better,” Brad Ideas, October 23, 2017 (http://ideas.4brad.com/node/1563)

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Robert Poole is director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation.