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390 at 15A Looking EastThe Democrat and Chronicle and USA Today think we have a traffic problem and the solution is more roads and more lanes. In a piece called “America is stuck in traffic,” USA Today wrote, and the D&C adapted for its own paper:

If you struggled in Thanksgiving destination traffic, consider the following: American vehicles currently spend 6.9 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, according to American Society of Civil Engineers.


A good bit of that is needed just to fix facilities that have fallen into disrepair. And significant investments in new capacity are needed to keep the U.S. economy from falling behind. These would include expanding roads and constructing highways as well as mass-transit systems.

Here’s what’s wrong with this editorial:

  1. The American Society of Civil Engineers is a special interest group. Engineers only make money if we’re building more roads. Of course, they want us to keep adding highways and lanes.
  2. Choosing the busiest travel weekend of the year to say we need more roads is like choosing Black Friday to say we need more parking at the mall.
  3. No one argues with fixing broken infrastructure. But adding capacity doesn’t reduce congestion. The theory of induced demand says it does the opposite. Drivers who took alternate routes fill in the extra lanes. People who were not driving at all are incentivized to start.
  4. Many Americans are driving less, so there’s no need for more capacity. (Though there are signs driving is again on the upswing.) In Monroe County, the number of licensed drivers dropped by 1 percent between 2007 and 2014, according to the DMV.
  5. Monroe County does not have a traffic problem. Our commutes average 20 minutes, according to the 2015 American Community Survey. The survey also found the percentage of commuters who drive alone in a vehicle dropped from 86 percent in 2005 to 81 percent in 2015. More people are carpooling, walking and biking.
  6. Any transportation plan should make more than a passing reference to mass transit. Calling for more capacity for cars hurts the environment and the poor.
  7. Adding lanes is detrimental to safety. That’s why many roads in Rochester have gone on a “diet.” Two lanes roads are far safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
  8. For many people — not all — being stuck in traffic is a lifestyle choice. I’m not saying people shouldn’t live in car-dependent suburbs. But if they do, they should expect to spend more time in their vehicles. I have been a city dweller my whole life. Even when I worked in Henrietta, I put only 6,000 miles a year on my car.

In summary, building more roads and lanes is the wrong solution to a nonexistent problem. It’s disturbing to see a newspaper that harps on poverty and social justice so entrenched in a car-first mentality. The conclusion is not only wrong, it’s harmful to taxpayers, the climate and the poor.

Update: Original post said D&C wrote editorial. It was adapted from USA Today and republished in D&C.

Links of the Day:

Broad, Casted Update:

Thank you to everyone who has read Broad, Casted! It’s getting some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.


27 Responses to Wrong on Roads

  1. People who were not driving at all are incentivized to start.

    What’s the matter with driving? It incentivizes freedom of independent travel. Living in an outer ring suburb because it’s a nice place to live, I’ve given public transportation, namely RGRTA, a try and it’s either non-existent or undependable in getting one to work before 8am and home when one gets off of work at 5pm.

    Another thing, even when the #95 was still running in the Westside, it would take me an hour each way to get to work and back as one had to go Downtown and transfer. Driving takes 20-25 minutes each way. Taking the bus took 2 hours total to go back and forth to work, and driving takes 40-50 minutes total, so driving gives me an hour and 10 minutes at minimum of time to spend with my family.

    • November 29, 2016 at 9:09 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Then we need to improve transit system.

      • November 29, 2016 at 3:57 pm Some Guy responds:

        The funny thing about excise taxes on fuel is that if they only supported those who actually pay them (motorists who use public roads), then roads actually used as thoroughfares would once again pay for themselves (as they should). Subdivisions should pay 100% of their costs. Same with mass transit. Mass transit is a means to provide political gravy to corruptocrats like Maggie Brooks and the most crooked of her cabal that she brought with her to the RGRTA to continue their parasitic existence on the fuel, sales, property, and income tax-paying public.

        Sprawl only ever occurred because it got subsidized. Remove the subsidy, and the free market takes over and all of a sudden, sustainable urban business, industrial, and residential districts will once again thrive without the corrosive and anti-market influences exemptions like those created by COMIDA (and its head, the totally unqualified pension-padding Jeff Adair), and so will villages. Stopping these giveaways that everyone has become addicted to will cause some short-term pain, but the intermediate and long-term benefits are undeniable.

        People have a right to life, liberty, and property (not obtained via force, fraud, or coercion). Everything else would more accurately be described as privileges. Motorists paying fuel taxes to subsidize $4.50 in operational costs above a $1.00 RGRTA bus fare while the roads and bridges they pay for fall further into disrepair is not a judicious public policy and it is certainly not an equitable one either.

        Also, I believe the military and governments are exempt from fuel taxes, which are really just a hyper-efficient way of saying “user fees” if the system did not become yet another government-run wealth redistribution scam. They use the roads; their outlandish vehicles cause far more wear and tear on the roads (even those mostly empty RTS buses still weigh many times the average “gaz-guzzler” SUV).

        The longer government continues to be a giant scheme where a majority of the population seeks to live at the expense of everyone else, fewer and fewer people are going to see most government functions as remotely legitimate. Publicly-constructed roads have been around 30 times longer than government education, there’s a reason for that.

        Hart’s Market, Aldi’s, Price-Rite on University, or Wegmans on East Ave don’t get their inventory delivered from Unicorns the last time I checked. Societies have thrived absent government education, the payback on responsible and self-sustaining transportation infrastructure (sorry airports and subsidized train stations) is so obvious that only somethings as diabolically evil as the Prussian education model could ever dissociate people from possessing common sense on the scale we see in FSA (Free “Stuff” Army) America. Societies fall when free markets are undermined. And count me firmly in the camp that says American society has clearly been failing for probably 50 years at a minimum. More central economic planning is not going to fix the disasters that central economic planning caused in the first place.

        The poor would benefit the most by having an economy that actually functioned rationally again (one where the middle class pay taxes and everyone actually gets legitimate government functions in response…just not mass welfare of poor and rich alike paid for by the blood and sweat of a shrinking productive class). Not by giving hordes of jobless people even less incentive (even more subsidized bus passes and routes) to take honest work available to them to prepare them for their next step up.

        I actually enjoy biking, but I’m also such a realist that I find it suicidal to do so on any public road because of inattentive female drivers. It’s also wholly impractical for most people fortunate enough to actually live where weather is actually conducive to it…which we clearly lack.

        More people work from home than take mass transit to work. I know you’re big on building fiber out. That is a more legitimate public function than giving subsidized transportation to crappy call center jobs that often have less of a future and a far less career skill development than even the lowest level retail or fast food can offer (not knocking retail or food service, they’re vital for people to master before they can ever be qualified to do anything else that might eventually pay them a higher wage AND they provide a very visible conduit for people to see that their work should have actual value from a paying customer).

        And don’t even get me started on the evils of day care. Kids in day care for even seemingly modest number of hours a week show the same emotional problems of children totally abandoned by their parents. It’s terrible enough government has rendered black, Hispanic, and increasingly white males financially irrelevant in the rearing of children; day care is an intrinsic evil designed to deprive children of their mothers as well. And anyone of conscience should resent being taxed or used to perpetuate this corrupt system. And no one should ever be duped that destroying the foundation of society — the family — is somehow liberating to women.

        • November 29, 2016 at 4:09 pm Andy Zibuck responds:

          Exactly. I don’t know why the D&C doesn’t have a counter. A counter. At the top of its website for the number of bicycle fatalities caused by female drivers. Female drivers, am I right folks? It’s a very very big problem. Very big. When is the Feminine Media going to report on this?!? Sad.

  2. November 29, 2016 at 8:39 am Andy Zibuck responds:

    This commentary is pretty … unfair? The D&C Editorial focused on the nation, and you responded with a local angle. The concerns of commuters in Washington DC/Northern Virginia are quite unlike those here. Population and (necessary) sprawl there in the last 20 years has put a strain on roads built for 40 years ago. And as much as the Metro has been denigrated there, the trains are packed.

    Also, not all infrastructure improvements mean more roads. I drive past the new MCC/UR exits near CityGate every day. It’s an incredible improvement in traffic flow and safety.

    • November 29, 2016 at 8:45 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Links indicate driving is down nationwide. And again, adding capacity won’t fix the problems in the most congested metros because of induced demand. More cars and car infrastructure is not the answer.

      • November 29, 2016 at 9:03 am Andy Zibuck responds:

        Driving may be down but population in some areas is up, out of proportion to what the roads in a given area were built for. I’d bet there are still areas of the country where the roads were designed for 1970’s volumes, but now have 2016 population. Your links discuss nationwide trends, which might be pretty useless when considering a specific area.

        I only know of the DC area (and here). Yes, short of adding 8 more lanes to I-66 and the entire beltway, more roads isn’t the answer to “congestion” in DC. There’s more to congestion than waiting though. There is a safety component. Every community is different. More roads in some areas may help. Others not. There is rarely “the” (one) answer to any problem.

        • November 29, 2016 at 9:09 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

          Safety comes down to this: more cars equals more crashes and more deaths. Austin, Texas, which is growing, knows it can’t build their way out of congestion. The only solution is better planning and transit.

          • I’m guessing that local hospitals/clinics/doctor’s offices see more bicycle injuries than auto accident injuries in a week. I don’t have statistics, it’s just a hunch.

        • November 29, 2016 at 3:59 pm Some Guy responds:

          Downsizing, or even just dispersing, the federal government and its private contractor appendages in the D.C. / Maryland / NoVa megaopolis would resolve much of the issue. As would a first world fiber infrastructure.


  3. In the link above, “In Defense of Bicyclists” (http://therochesterian.com/2013/12/08/in-defense-of-bike-lanes/ ) your entire first paragraph talks about how males are anti bike.
    You follow it up with, “many people, particularly women, want to ride bikes but won’t because they don’t think it’s safe.”

    I would call that being sexist.

    You proclaim how sexism hurt you, yet your writing seems to create a division.

    You could have written that article without mentioning genders and gotten the same point across.

  4. November 29, 2016 at 10:36 am Josh j porte responds:

    While I could write a book in response, let me focus in on your mention of the poor. How roads affect the poor is beyond me. But let’s say there is a poor issue associated with your transportation issue. How do we address that poverty,….the poor? Pretty simple really,…a friggen education. Education is the antidote to poverty. Have you looked at our educational outcome? Apparently not. The RCSD does the same thing over and over expecting different results. That’s a duh. Why don’t you come up with a solution for graduation, forget about the road issue, which has zero affect on the poor. I have been addressing the education/poverty issue for 6 years but the “experts” know better.

    I dare you to address the education crisis! The roads in Monroe County and western NYS are fine. Mass transportation? That,…could use some major improvement.

  5. November 29, 2016 at 10:41 am Alexei Tetenov responds:

    I’m for more bike lanes. My car died last November 1st and I’ve been bicycling 8 miles, each way, to work and back, almost exclusively. My 20 minute commute went to a 45 minute commute.

    I feel more energized when I get to work. I have the luxury of a shower in the next building and an desk drawer to keep my shower stuff in.

    I’m hopeful that as electric bikes get more and more affordable, more people will use an electric bike to get to work, without getting sweaty and needing a shower.

    There’s a Swedish guy working on a Kickstarter campaign to mass produce an enclosed bicycle that you can use, year round. Check out his video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lKq1fGtXFM
    This type of bike would be great for the bad weather days that Rochester gets, which seems to be happening less frequently. 🙂

  6. November 29, 2016 at 4:29 pm sarah Johnstone responds:

    “Building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity.”

    This noted phrase is (probably) based on a 1955 article by the great urban planning specialist Lewis Mumford. Here are a few bits Mumford wrote for The New Yorker in spring of that year:

    A supposed solution of the traffic problem consists of building more roads … so that more motorists may travel more quickly to more remote destinations … from which more roads will be built so that more motorists may escape from these newly soiled and clotted environments…

    The fact is that motor transportation is the sacred cow of the American religion of technology, and in the service of this curious religion no sacrifice in daily living, no extravagance of public expenditure, appears too great…

    People, it seems, find it hard to believe that the cure for congestion is not more facilities for congestion.

    • So you condone less roads?

      I believe you totally missed the point. Congestion is caused by the number of vehicles going the same way on the same thoroughfare.

      The bikers say that bikes are the way to go, but what about a family of five where one child has a music recital when the other has a soccer game and the other needs to attend a best friend’s birthday? Or when the grandparent who uses a walker needs to go to three doctor appointments in a day?

      Bikes are great for younger, healthy people who don’t need to attend family events.

      The next time you see something in a store, think of how it got there.

      Ever since Ford created the assembly line, the American people fell in love with cars. Our heritage is one of exploring, from Plymouth Rock to Nome, Alaska.

      Our ancestors came across the ocean and explored the New World and all over the continent settled in villages, towns, and cities.. Different areas supports the population; corn fields, fishing ports, mining towns, lumber mills, etc.

      Families spread out to find new lives, just as people from other continents traveled here.

      To now say that we must be content to stay within our own few square miles and insist that everything we need be within walking or biking distance is extremely selfish and egotistical. Why is your way best?

      For people who label themselves as progressive, to denigrate the others who want to travel, or have more than one home, or have a home that is away from work, or a large yard for their family or a piece of land they can farm or fish or hunt on and need to travel is wrong. You accept all points of view as long as they agree with yours.

      Accept the fact that America is a mobile society. Some are content with living in their own neighborhood forever, others want to experience other things in life. Accept this. We ARE all different and we all need different things. Since we are a mobile nation and always have been, then it is best to make the thoroughfares safe. If that means paving or expanding or improving then so be it.

      • T wrote: Accept the fact that America is a mobile society. Some are content with living in their own neighborhood forever, others want to experience other things in life. Accept this. We ARE all different and we all need different things. Since we are a mobile nation and always have been, then it is best to make the thoroughfares safe. If that means paving or expanding or improving then so be it.

        I lived out West for a period of time, 10 years in California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado and one really can appreciate the wide open spaces and being independently mobile with a good vehicle, 75 MPH speed limits and more and breath taking vistas. living out West! Personally, I love the car culture and the freedom it’s brought us! Think of it, in no other time in history here in the US, are we as free to travel independently and move about and it’s brought to us courtesy of the car culture!

        BTW, I’ve had the pleasure of owning and driving a couple of classic cars, a 1950 Pontiac Silver Streak and a 1969 Impala Convertible, had a lot of fun in those vehicles!

  7. Sometimes, in Rochester, I’ll play a game called “What did this look like before it was parking?”
    (occasionally intermingled with, “Before it was highway?”)

    There’s a window in the back of the Monroe Library that looks out over 490. It seemed like an odd place for a window until I realized: oh, wait, there was probably a view once upon a time.

    There’s an obelisk dedicated to the Fox sisters right along the edge of the expressway. There’s a post office, an absolutely beautiful building, on the corner of Cumberland and Joseph Ave, completely cut off from anything useful by the Inner Loop. And so on. There’s, well, just about everything north of the Sibley Building. Things weren’t always this way. There were more than just places to park if you came to the city – there were actually things, and reasons, to come to the city!

    Driving a car can be fun, sometimes, but walking can also be fun. When I lived in Brooklyn a couple years ago, I could walk to my doctor’s, the fancy grocery store, the cheap grocery store, the dentist, to get donuts, two parks, two farmer’s markets, restaurants, the bus to my job, clothing, my optometrist, the library, the high school, the elementary school, all within fifteen minutes. It was great. It was cheap.

    You can’t do that in Rochester. Hart’s, the lovely but expensive grocery, is 15 minutes away from my place; Wegmans is 45. Much of the city’s been designed in such a way as to make walking actively unpleasant. Any intersection near the Inner Loop is a nightmare on foot. Crosswalks aren’t on every side of the intersections, and the walk times are fast-paced. When you walk along East Main St., you can feel – that road was made for car-drivers’ benefit, and pedestrians and bikers were only grudgingly acknowledged.

    Cars can be great – the Inner Loop destroyed a lot of important features (remember when R.I.T. was downtown? Wouldn’t it be nice to have an institution like that in the city still?) – but it sure was fun to drive on for awhile. And it’s great that I can get out to Powdermill Park on the weekends to feed the fish and watch deer in the fields. But room should exist for folks who walk, who bike, who bus, AND who drive, and right now, Rochester focuses on cars to the exclusion of all else.

  8. December 2, 2016 at 12:12 pm Monkeytoe responds:

    Well, at least now that you are no longer a “journalist”, you aren’t pretending any longer not to be a far-leftist who spouts talking points. Although, anyone who read your stuff while you were a “journalist” could see the rabid leftism on display despite your attempt to pretend to be objective.

    Everybody you disagree with is a special interest. “mass transit” is always good. People should be punished for living in suburbs. “I’m morally superior because I live in the “city” and drive less”.

    It’s all crap a sophomore in college spouts because they accept liberal nonsense without thinking. It’s too funny that you still see your own cliched responses as intelligent points.

    • December 2, 2016 at 1:00 pm Some Guy responds:

      Speaking as someone who has been described as to the right of Atilla the Hun who vehemently disagrees with her on roads, guns, etc., Rachel never mixed reporting and opinion on the air. To her credit, on her blog and on Twitter, she has been nothing but honest about where she stands. I’m leery of criticizing her for “not attacking RTS subsidies as a reporter” because that’s a slippery logical slope.

      But I wholeheartedly agree on the other point, the fundamental aspect of the ideology of leftism (and more than a few phony constitutionalists on the right) is the self-righteous belief in using government to do things that inherently limit the natural rights of others.

  9. December 2, 2016 at 12:19 pm Monkeytoe responds:

    “Links indicate driving is down nationwide. And again, adding capacity won’t fix the problems in the most congested metros because of induced demand. More cars and car infrastructure is not the answer.”

    We should pass a law making it illegal to drive cars and illegal to live in the suburbs. that way we can all be as morally enlightened as Rachel Barnhart.

    It’s the same argument from liberals – they want to remove people’s freedom and force them to live in Cities and force them to use buses or subways.

    But, they aren’t fascists. They just care about the people. Sometimes you have to tell people what to do because their own decisions are bad.

    • December 2, 2016 at 12:30 pm Andy Zibuck responds:

      >It’s the same argument from liberals – they want to remove people’s freedom and force them to live in Cities and force them to use buses or subways.

      I’m a Liberal. Can you point me to where Liberals have advocated for removing people’s freedom, forcing them to live anywhere, and force them what mode of transport to use? Those are not Liberal ideas so perhaps you’re mistaken about what group wants those things. And just to head this off — wanting gun “control” and “take ‘r guns” is not the same thing. I’m asking for actual proof, not something you conjured out of your own head.

      • December 2, 2016 at 1:18 pm Some Guy responds:

        Ever hear of Manzanar?

        If government collects excise taxes on fuel to pay for roads (to the tune of more than $0.65 a gallon in NYS), but fails to spend the amount on roads judiciously (guess what, when prevailing wage means a guy holding a flag directing traffic is paid $75 an hour on government jobs only to collect max unemployment every winter, that’s a fraud on the taxpayers), that limits the availability of cost effective and self-sustaining road infrastructure. When government takes fuel taxes and spends it on massive subsidies for “mass” transit, that is both a fraud and limits the availability and cost-effectiveness of self-sustaining roads.

        When government tells people that able-bodied law abiding people are restricted from their right to keep and bear light arms in common military use for defense of home and community, that is textbook removal of freedom. If you were actually liberal, you’d be open-minded and inquisitive enough to know that the SAFE Act is an abomination to the Constitution. What’s the difference between an AR-15 and an M-1A1?

        When government prints money from thin air (or empowers a private banking cartel to do so) or makes anything other than gold or silver tender for the payment of debts, that infringes on the freedom of the people to be free from fraud under the false color of law. The value of the dollar has been 99% destroyed, and the people have been robbed of their birthright in the process. Every lefty whines about corporations and money, but fails to comprehend it was left-wing statists like Woodrow Wilson or faux-right statists like Lincoln who were the worst corporate shills this land has ever known, and created these monsters that simply did not exist before they created them.

        When one’s labor is onerously taxed to pay for the lifestyle choices of others, that intrinsically diminishes the freedom of the one who labors.

        Typical non-liberal progressive, doesn’t have a freaking clue on just how they just got owned thinking their creepy ideology isn’t intrinsically aggression on the rights of others.

        • December 2, 2016 at 2:21 pm Andy Zibuck responds:

          Nowhere in your rambling, incoherent statement did you answer my questions.

          You have never been freer in this country to own a firearm of any sort than right now. I didn’t realize you wanted to re-litigate Manzanar (which I’ve heard of but don’t get the connection here), the gold standard and Woodrow Wilson.

          My ideology (which… how would you know, other than I said Liberal, and you said I wasn’t so…) has never been described as “creepy”. That’s… something. You didn’t own anything, except maybe a tinfoil hat.

          • December 3, 2016 at 10:23 am Some Guy responds:

            Possession of the most common rifle in the nation is now a felony in NY. Doesn’t sound like you have the slightest freaking clue what you’re talking about.

            Do you deny that Manzanar, et al, were crimes against Americans, committed by progressives with the explicit blessing of their hero, FDR?

            U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section 10, clause 5. Completely obliterated by the first true progressive, the warmongering corporatist shill Woodrow Wilson.

            Even if predicated mainly on ignorance, your ideology is inherently aggression; the initiation of force, fraud or coercion against others. Government isn’t some hammer to wield to do what 51% of the voting public want, it exists to protect the natural rights of people, using the legitimate powers granted to it by the people. To a regressive, those powers are not limited, nor dependent on delegation from the rights of the people, because those powers cannot be derived from the people because people cannot legitimately do those things; and since they can’t it is impossible for them to grant such powers to a government.

            NY Post: “City officials have intentionally ground Midtown to a halt with the hidden purpose of making drivers so miserable that they leave their cars at home and turn to mass transit or bicycles, high-level sources told The Post.”


  10. December 14, 2016 at 11:20 am Kevin F. Yost responds:

    Ideally, I would like to ban all personal motorized vehicles and big-box suburban retail, have everything lined up in main business districts in the downtowns of cities, villages, and hamlets and all public transportation. I work as a cart-pusher in a big-box suburban chain store. However, I feel there need to be two more vehicular bridges over the Niagara River from Buffalo to Canada and maybe a second span of the Peace Bridge as well. Also, move I-90 to make a better interchange with I-290, Cleveland Drive and Route 33, connect U.S. 219, Route 400, and I-190, extend 400 to I-86 to make “I-186” and move I-190 inland from the Niagara River shore. Also, extend I-390 from its split with I-590 to South Avenue at I-490 via a tunnel under Highland Park and Swillburg.

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