Tagged: economics

Improving Transit Will Not End Traffic Congestion (And That’s Okay)

It is unarguable that transit is vastly more effective at moving large numbers of people per unit area than personal motor vehicles. As such, it might be reasonably assumed that increasing the transit capacity of a city would decrease motor vehicle congestion as users of the latter shifted towards the former, thus freeing scarce road space. Yet, to understand why this is so rarely the case, we must dig deeper into the root causes of transportation demand.


By prioritizing spatially efficient modes like transit, walking, and biking, the Tilikum Crossing is able to increase transportation capacity, and therefore potential economic activity, far more than an equivalently sized bridge built for private vehicle traffic, and without the negative impacts on the surrounding environment as well.

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Think Adding Roads Reduces Congestion? Math Says No.

People like being stuck in traffic the way they like hearing nails against a chalk board; with the exception of a few masochistic individuals, it is universally loathed. If only the <Feds, State, County, City> would add another road no one would have to sit in this parking lot. Now of course one could imagine a number of logistical reasons to refute this fallacious line of reasoning: bottlenecking, merging delays, turning delays, signal delays, start-up delays and even further demand induced by the new connection, to name a few. While those are all certainly valid criticisms, what I intend to discuss here has nothing to do with with these more intuitive problems; there is a more fundamental problem rooted simply in mathematics and basic economic theory.

Conventional economic philosophy dictates that individuals rationally acting in their own self-interest would ultimately also benefit society as a whole– a sentiment well-captured by this panel from yesterday’s SMBC comic.

Don't hate the player hate the game

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal #2891. 2013-Feb-18.

That is, it was conventional until famed economist, mathematician, paranoid schizophrenic, Nobel laureate, and protagonist of the book and film, A Beautiful MindJohn Forbes Nash, forever changed the field with his concept of equilibrium in non-cooperative games. His concept became known as Nash equilibrium and went on to become a cornerstone of contemporary game theory. Continue reading

The Elasticity Between Work and Success

Much has been said about work and success over the past several months of campaigning, and I believe it is the relation between the two that lies at the root of disagreements between the economic right and left. In my view, the theoretical poles of this spectrum can defined as libertarianism on the right and socialism on the left. To take the extreme positions for a moment, the pure libertarian would consider the relation between one’s work, and success to be perfectly inelastic. That is to say that every unit of work generates a unit of success, or more simply, they are perfectly correlated. At the other end of the spectrum lies the socialist, for whom work and success are perfectly elastic. Success is simply a function of birth, or some other immutable attributes. There is no correlation between work and success. I am fortunate enough to have never met anyone who subscribes to either one of those extremes, however anyone who has an opinion on the matter either implicitly or explicitly falls somewhere along this continuum. As a general principal of political thought, I believe it is essential to acknowledge that all political ideologies are inherently continuous, rather than discrete. Continue reading