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Routing Traffic Through a Population Nightmare

April 14, 2002

"Will More Freeways Bring More Traffic" (April 10)? Well, of course not. It's people who bring more traffic--7 million more in the next 20 years in Southern California alone. You can double-stack the freeways, bulldoze houses on both sides and add more lanes until the cows come clanging home, but if we don't start stemming population growth we'll never fix the problem for good.

And even if the goal of shoving more people through a given freeway funnel in a given period of time is achieved, we've done nothing to deal with depleted fisheries, clear-cut forests, species extinction, global warming and on and on.

The Times prints article after article describing massive problems directly or indirectly caused by our burgeoning population, yet always these articles focus myopically only on ways to accommodate the growth. Never does The Times address the need for successful national and global family planning. Never do reporters ask politicians and planners to address the root cause.

Paul Scott

Santa Monica

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David Hartgen, professor of transportation studies at the University of North Carolina, rejects out of hand the theory of induced traffic for why new freeway lanes fill up within a few years of being built. His alternative explanation is that the lanes are instead filling with drivers who previously used surface streets or alternate highway routes.

Even if he is correct I would quibble with his final point that thus, on a regional level, new lanes provide congestion relief. The late writer Theodore Sturgeon stated that one should always ask the next question. And in this case, that question should be, what happens to those surface streets and alternate highway routes when they become less congested? Answer: They quickly re-congest due to induced traffic. This shell game doesn't result in meaningful congestion relief, only higher traffic volumes under sardine-like conditions. For this we should spend billions?

Dana Gabbard

Executive Secretary, Southern

California Transit Advocates

Los Angeles

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