Managing aggregate demand (Part IV)
This is Part IV in this series. In Part I, I opened the with news that Disneyland Paris is getting rid of its Fastpasses in favor of a per-ride, per-person premium to skip the line, and explored the history of Disney themeparks and what they meant to Walt Disney. In Part II, I explored Disneyland’s changing business-model and the pressures that shifted it from selling ticket-books to selling all-you-can-eat passes, and the resulting queuing problems. In Part III, I described how every fix for long lines just made the problem worse, creating complexity that frustrated first-time visitors and turning annual passholders into entitled “passholes.”
Red Queen’s Race
I drove the I-5 corridor between Los Angeles and Anaheim for my first trip to Disneyland, in 1989. The traffic was terrible, an Hieronymus Bosch landscape with Honda Accords and Acura Integras, but the congestion wasn’t just a matter of the number of cars — it was also a function of a major road-widening project.
I was 18 when I took that first trip. I turned 50 last week. They’re still widening the 5. The traffic is still unbelievable.
Here’s the thing: no matter how many lanes they add to the interstate, traffic will still be terrible, for two reasons: first, because adding more capacity induces more people to use the roads, and second, because the wider the road gets, the more living and working space it occupies, and the further apart everything gets, and the more people need to drive to get to where they need to be.
Despite what geometrically illiterate billionaires would have you believe, reality has a well-known bias in favor of public transit. Putting more cars on the road makes cars worse. You can’t solve that with tunnels, nor with self-driving cars. You can’t even solve it by adding bike lanes (bikes substitute for transit journeys, not car trips). Multiply the number of people by the number of miles and divide it by the area of the city and you’ll quickly see that mass transit is literally the only way to clear congestion. Period.
And yet, they keep adding lanes to the 5. It’s as wide as a football field now, and the traffic is worse than ever. It will only get…