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The Broken Algorithm That Poisoned American Transportation

Vice: “…Although there are many reasons the Ohio River Bridges Project was a total urban planning debacle, one that has not gotten much attention is the role travel demand models played in putting lipstick on the $2.5 billion pig. One potential reason for that is because those who work in the field have come to expect nothing less. To be sure, not everyone who works in the field feels this way. Civil engineers in particular are more likely to defend the models as a useful tool that gets misapplied from time to time. University of Kentucky civil engineering professor Greg Erhardt, who has spent the better part of two decades working on these models, said at their best they are “a check on wishful thinking.” But other experts I spoke to, especially urban planners, tend to view the models as aiding and abetting the wishful thinking that more highways and wider roads will reduce traffic. Either way, nearly everyone agreed the biggest question is not whether the models can yield better results, but why we rely on them so much in the first place. At the heart of the matter is not a debate about Travel Demand Modeling / TDMs or modeling in general, but the process for how we decide what our cities should look like…”


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