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Comment Re:Hamburger Analogy (Score 1) 431

They've spent billions on mass transit, they've spend tens of millions on bike paths... The net result has been the same amount of traffic...

That's not surprising. Increasing transportation capacity does not reduce traffic congestion in the long term.

All of that planning, and they still need to build a $3B bridge to deal with the 5+ hours of traffic jam going over the Columbia River to Vancouver, WA.

If they think the only way to eliminate the shortage of road space for all the motorists who want to use it is to add capacity by building a new bridge, they don't understand the Hamburger Analogy.

Comment Re:Hamburger Analogy (Score 2) 431

If you don't build a freeway and people still need to get to that place, they will do it via surface arterials or neighborhood streets causing the neighborhoods to become much less safe due to through traffic that should be on a freeway.

Or they'll carpool or take mass transit and let someone else drive. Or they'll ride a bike and pass all that traffic. Or they'll move closer to where they need to be. Or they'll work a different shift when traffic is lower.

You bring up a good argument for eliminating minimum parking requirements that cities force upon developers and business owners. If there were less parking available at your destination, you might try to avoid the busier periods so you can find a parking space (if parking is unpriced) or cheaper parking, or you would find a different way to get there.

I don't know of any case where variable tolls set at market equilibrium have increased traffic congestion on surface streets.

Comment Re:Hamburger Analogy (Score 1) 431

A incorrect solution would be taxing this food beyond reason...

Instead of taxing food, allowing the market to determine the price would make bringing in food from outside more profitable, encouraging suppliers to do so, provided there isn't a monopoly/oligopoly on food.

If travel demand was a liquid as you thought that congestion would be a self fixing problem. You would pay this extra tax in time and frustration and before long demand for the road would go down to reasonable limits.

And that's exactly what's happening. The amount of traffic congestion may be more than what you consider to be reasonable, but obviously not more than what others tolerate or they wouldn't be sitting in traffic and contributing to it. For them, sitting in traffic is better than their feasible alternatives.

Comment Re:Hamburger Analogy (Score 1) 431

Preventing people from travelling/taxing it beyond reason is only something you would want to do if you wanted to stifle the economy.

If setting the price of something at market equilibrium is "taxing it beyond reason," then you must think eBay's prices are unreasonably high.

Increasing traffic throughput improves the economy, but diminishing returns says that at some point, it's no longer worth the cost. Before you choose to widen a road, you should determine whether the benefits are actually worth the cost.

Comment Re:Hamburger Analogy (Score 1) 431

Adding tolls to roads does not fix congestion, it just makes it more expensive to sit in congestion.

False. Perfect price inelasticity of demand only exists in theory. If people are still sitting in congestion, then the toll is still too low for that particular time of day and day of the week. The solution is to remove the price ceiling.

Comment Re:Japan Hamburger fail (Score 2) 431

if the roads are sufficient then you don't have congestion.

That's correct, and when the price of using them is set at the market equilibrium price, the roads will be sufficient in that supply and demand will be in equilibrium. Setting the price below the market equilibrium rate is never a good long-term strategy.

The optimal amount of road lane-miles is not the amount where there's never any congestion when the price is zero, but the amount where the cost of traffic congestion equals the price of the tolls or the cost of adding more road.

Variable pricing does not fix capacity, it rewards incompetence.

And that's why restaurant managers who set different lunch and dinner prices do so because they are incompetent.

No, incompetence is setting the price below the market equilibrium rate as a long-term strategy.

Comment Re:Hamburger Analogy (Score 3, Insightful) 431

Air is a public good because it is "both non-excludable and non-rivalrous in that individuals cannot be effectively excluded from use and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to others." Freeways are not public goods because a vehicle taking up space on the road reduces availability of the road to others.

Comment Hamburger Analogy (Score 2, Interesting) 431

Widening the 405 is an expensive and only temporary band-aid to the problem of traffic congestion. The hamburger analogy explains why:

Let's give everyone free McDonald's hamburgers. Let's put 10,000 hamburgers a day on a table in front of the Capitol (or wherever).

What would happen? People would take and eat the hamburgers, and once word got out, all 10,000 hamburgers would be taken very quickly every day. We may thus infer that because people need food and they really seemed to like those burgers, McDonald's hamburgers are an important public good.

A city planner might notice a problem: those 10,000 hamburgers just aren't enough. They get taken very early in the morning, so not everybody has a chance to get a hamburger. The obvious solution--because burgers are a highly-valued public good--is to provide more free burgers. So the city planner starts to provide 20,000 hamburgers a day.

You can see where this is going. People start going out of their way to get the free hamburgers, and planning their day around that trip. The city has to keep providing more and more free burgers--eventually millions a day--to keep satisfying the demand for free hamburgers.

Free hamburgers are like unpriced freeway lanes. Eventually they will all get taken up. Any city planner (and Elon Musk) should know that a shortage happens when the price of an item is set below the going rate determined by supply and demand. It's much, much easier and cheaper to fix the problem of traffic congestion once and for all with a variable price set at the market equilibrium rate than by trying to build your way out of traffic congestion. Even Randal O'Toole agrees.

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