“terror” and “nuclear” options for transportation demand management (comment of the week)

On yesterday's post about the removal of Sydney's M2 bus lanes for construction, mysterious commenter "Quasimodal" laid out a useful theory of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) for such situations:

It's silly, and a missed opportunity, not to provide a bus priority lane through a construction area if you can, even if it takes away from general purpose capacity. What a great opportunity to perform well for an audience that would not usually take transit!

But there is a technique I call the transportation demand management [TDM] campaign of terror, which is fantastically effective at reducing construction impacts. If you blow a big enough horn about how gawd-awful the traffic will be during construction, that traffic will almost always not occur. People will rearrange their vacations and do whatever they need to do to avoid the problem area.

I don't know how long this [Sydney M2] construction is supposed to continue, and the TDM campaign of terror can't persist indefinitely, but if it's only a few weeks it's possible that the buses rerouted to local arterials will be a lot slower than those that brave the highway traffic if that traffic doesn't show up!

Note that the TDM campaign of terror is different from the TDM nuclear accident, in which one destroys one's economy, causing plummeting employment and related travel. That strategy has been very effectively applied over the past couple of years, reducing traffic volumes all over the world (with the unfortunate side effects of homelessness, despair and civil strife…) Fortunately, it seems governments around the world are establishing policies to continue this strategy for the foreseeable future, using anti-growth austerity programs. As a planner, I'm happy to be freed from the the endless cycle of growth, and to focus on a more environmentally sound steady state (though probably unemployed) future.

8 Responses to “terror” and “nuclear” options for transportation demand management (comment of the week)

  1. Herbie April 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    The TDM campaign of terror is a real phenomenon. Prior to the 2-year shutdown of 8 miles of I-64 in 2008, St. Louis had politicians and retired traffic engineers saying “…MoDOT is going to unleash the worst economic damage that this community could ever suffer, one of the worst public health crisis…” As it turned out, traffic for the first few months for many commuters was better than before the shutdown.

  2. Wad April 19, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

    The TDM campaign of terror also was demonstrated to great effect in Los Angeles in 1984 during the Olympic Games.
    L.A. was still in the middle of the all-bus period in 1984, so whatever mass transit solution to the traffic crisis the Olympics caused had to come in bus form.
    Bus patronage soared, and the traffic armageddon never materialized. Traffic actually flowed better during the Olympics.
    And the man tasked with carrying out the operations of Olympics bus service is back in L.A. as Metro’s CEO. (He had started his transit career as a bus driver).

  3. EngineerScotty April 19, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    Terror worked well in Portland, during a recent repair project on the Interstate (I-5) Bridge between Portland and Vancouver WA. The work required that one of the two three-lane bridges be closed, leaving three lanes to handle two directions of freeway traffic. ODOT and WSDOT went public with how horrible things might be, and configured the open carriageway as 2/1, with the center lane being reversed in rush hour.
    Traffic, of course, flowed smoothly during the project.
    This was a short-term project, not a multi-year shutdown, so some commuters found the construction a good excuse to go on vacation–but some people who normally drive made other arrangements–worked from home, worked different hours, used transit.
    Of course, nowadays the same departments of transportation want to build a 10-lane behemoth to replace the Interstate Bridge…

  4. Nicholas Barnard April 19, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    Terror has worked well in Seattle as well on a repair project on I-5. A couple of years ago AFAIK. It was a several week shut down, so it might’ve had some vacation time used etc..

  5. John April 20, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    The terror method has worked well in Chicago too, but only for two to three weeks before people catch on and return to previous levels of congestion.

  6. Jimmy April 20, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    I agree with Nicholas Barnard, it was shocking how little traffic there was after they shut down most of the lanes on I-5N south of downtown.

  7. Alex B. April 20, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    Another terror case was during the reconstruction of the I-95 interchange in Springfield, VA, just outside of DC. Known as the ‘Mixing Bowl,’ the terror campaign was so successful in reducing traffic that it knocked demand back to low enough levels that the project re-build wouldn’t have been needed (on the demand side, at least – there was still much needed structural work).

  8. Tom April 20, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    Exact same thing happened with the Vancouver Olympics last year. Transit use soared and people who were still driving reported less traffic and more parking availability downtown.