Doral, an industrial city in the western part of Miami-Dade County, Florida, is well-known for its attention hunger. Just a month ago, the City Council demanded from Congress an amnesty to all illegal Venezuelan immigrants while back in February, the mayor tried twice to make Spanish the city’s official language.
On Wednesday morning, Mayor Luigi Boria called a press conference to announce an “innovative” traffic relief plan. Gathered at the Government Center with the City Manager, the Chief of Police, the Public Works Department, the Planning and Zoning Department, and the Traffic Relief Advisory Board, Boria and his administration presented a three-phase project to be complete by the end of the year.
The public works will begin with the addition of a left-turn late and a right-turn lane on the northbound side of NW 114th Avenue at 41st Street, which will be done by the end of June.
In September will be done the second phase, which involves adding left-turn lanes on both the east- and westbound sides of NW 33rd Street at 87th Avenue.
Meanwhile, and to be going on until an unspecified date in 2013, the city will place a traffic signal at NW 41st Street and 115th Avenue.
The bulk of the funding for these projects will come, however, from city and county taxpayers. And City Manager Joe Carollo can call traffic problems “the worst kept secret in Doral”, it does not change the fact that the best kept secret will remain the scandalous way to finance traffic relief.
Roads are not somehow exempt from the natural law of supply and demand. As any other limited resource, roads experience shortages and surpluses. Congestion is a market message signaling too much demand (drivers) for a very limited supply (space on the road).
Cities, like any other governments, fail to read such important messages and often turn to easy escapes, such as adding five or six turning lanes and a new traffic signal somewhere in town. Doral will be doing just the same mistake and even if the Traffic Relief Advisory Board has issued a few advices for the City Manager to consider, none of the advices address the heart of the problem, which is the government failure to manage demand and supply at the same time.
The market, however, rarely fails at reading signals when the environment is left unregulated. Private roads are no different and many entrepreneurs have found effective ways to deal with traffic congestion. Some, like the Florida Turnpike, give financial incentives for car poolers. Others adjust toll rates according to the time and date, just like airfare companies do (higher tolls during rush hour, low tolls during the rest of the day). Still some private highways have built different levels for drivers and a French company successfully advertises that “what used to take 45 minutes has now become a 10 minute ride” in such tunnels.
There are dozens of techniques that can be used to alleviate traffic even in cities. But only private developers will have a real incentive. And since such enterprises are private, taxpayers would be saved from seeing their money going down the drain to pay for roads most never even use.
Instead, the funding would come directly from those interested in having less traffic congestion. Among them are local property owners, who would benefit from better roads with higher property values. Also local business wishing to make traffic flow more appealing to visitors could fund the constructions voluntarily. Large avenues in Doral could even be owned and maintained by private companies entirely.
Whichever the case is, we should understand that traffic congestion is a government failure. When cities try to solve the problem by doing small public works, nothing is actually achieved on the long-term and Mayor Boria’s plan is doomed to fail the same way. Only private solutions can be used effectively and no taxpayer dollar should be used to subsidize failing projects.