More lanes are wasted money, going toward environmental goals, and may not be needed post corona
This problem is existing all over the world. When there is a congestion, we build more lanes. Although we have known for decades that this does not work. And right now in the times of corona, it is even more crazy to do so. Here is an example from my hometown Lund, in the south of Sweden.
Right now the Swedish government has given the go-ahead for the motorway E22 through the city of Lund to be converted into six lanes. Plus, a new connection to Ideon Science Park. The Swedish Transport Administration’s road plan was appealed by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and several neighbors to the motorway but has now been given the go-ahead.
It is sad to see that the government is making such a wrong decision, which is moving in the direction of both laws and goals. And with the changes in travel that covid-19 is expected to bring, the decision becomes even more strange.
For over 30 years, research has shown that increased road capacity increases traffic, so-called induced traffic. It takes between 1.5 to 5 years, and then you are back to the same level of congestion again. This means that emissions are increasing, but congestion persists.
In Sweden we have a climate law, with a target of zero emissions by 2045. And emissions from domestic transport should be reduced by at least 70% by 2030 compared to 2010. If this is to succeed, all measures within the transport system must go in this direction. And that, as the government says in its decision that “this does not mean, however, that every single measure taken in the transport system must contribute to the achievement of the climate goal”, makes it impossible to achieve the goals it has set.
This problem, that not every measure is moving in the direction of the objectives, is what has prevented us from reaching our environmental goals for decades, and that continuing to use this approach means that we will never reach the 2030 target.
But if it’s congestion, we have to increase capacity? We can’t just leave it alone, can we? No, but the Swedish Transport Administration shall work according to the so-called four-step principle. It means that before discussing capacity expansion, steps 1 and 2, which deal with measures that can affect the need for transport, and make them more efficient, should first be tested.
In these steps, there are many measures that have an effect on congestion on the E22. According to research, lowering the speed in general, and more in congestion, increases accessibility. Overtaking bans on lorries is another way to increase capacity. But also, investments in public transport have an impact, as well as finally building a cycle path between the cities Malmö — Lund. Today’s electric bikes mean that more and more people choose to cycle this distance (20 km). Different types of campaigns that sell in other modes of travel also have an effect. And changes on existing exits can also bring improvements.
Finally, there are three other reasons that it makes it even more wrong to invest in an expansion now. The first is about the major investment made on the tramway from Lunds Central Station to new science village Brunnshög. This high-quality public transport brings significant changes in how to choose to travel to Brunnshög.
The second reason is how the travel will change post corona. There is much to suggest that we will change our view of travel. A very large proportion now work from home, and some of this effect will remain. And many also discover other ways to travel.
And the third reason is the goal set by Lund for the Brunnshög area, that one third of the traffic should go by bike, one third by public transport and a third by car. And new exit and more lanes for cars counter this goal.
So if we want to take the targets seriously, there are plenty of reasons not to build more lanes. And with the resources that the road costs, there are lots of other steps to solve the problem, which, moreover, may not exist post corona.