Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Jeff Speck on Induced Traffic

An aspect of urbanism that I love is how the land-use pieces fit together in complex but comprehensive patterns.  It’s the antithesis of drivable suburban development where houses can go in one block, retail a half-mile down the street, and an office park a couple of miles away.

In urbanism, the pieces of life can’t be as easily separated, but must live in symbiotic relationships, whether walkable distances apart or easily connected by transit.  Cars can’t be used as band aids for ill-conceived land-use patterns.

Because of the essential connectivity of urbanism, urbanism experts can’t stay in silos.  Unlike drivable suburbia where there can be shopping center architects, residential architects, traffic engineers, and other diverse specialties working in near isolation, urbanism experts must cross boundaries all the time.  Urbanism is more like puzzle-solving, which is way more fun than complying with lists of rules.

Today’s example of a multi-faceted urbanist is Jeff Speck.  I’ve written often about Speck and his book “Walkable City”.  Through the book, he justifiably became nationally known on walkability issues.

But walkability isn’t his only strength.  Indeed, it can’t be.  Like every other urbanism expert, he must have an understanding of the other areas of urbanism that touch upon his primary area.  Other areas such as transit and traffic capacity.

As a result, Speck recently spoke before a large conference in Mexico City on the subject of induced traffic.  As always, his presentation was comfortable, but also profound.

However, you needn’t take my word for it.  You can watch for yourself.  Allow about fifteen minutes.  It may be the most insightful fifteen minutes of your day.  Especially if you pay particular attention to his comments on congestion and how traffic reacts to it.  The fact that traffic adjusts to maintain the same level of congestion is the heart of induced traffic and why we can’t build our way out of congestion.

Don’t be deterred by the Spanish text on the webpage.  Speck speaks in English, although with Spanish subtitles.

Enjoy.  And be educated.

As always, your questions or comments will be appreciated.  Please comment below or email me.  And thanks for reading. - Dave Alden (

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