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I was doing laundry this week and regretting how empty my huge bottle of detergent had become.  I bought this 2 gallon carboy all too recently from Wegman’s and now it was much lighter than I recalled.  Had we really done that much laundry, or had we just taken the immensity of our soap as a cue to use more?

Also from Wegman’s, I had gotten two bottles of their tasty, sweet, “organic”, and devoid of vitamins lemonade.  Guess which bottle went faster, the first or the second one?  The first one went in jubilant slurps of bounty, the second in more cautious set of sips.

We consume more when we are offered plenty.

Like traffic.  Parking, of course, free and at the beginning and end of nearly every trip, invites us to drive wherever and whenever we like.   How much Pizza would you eat if it were free?*

What is more, engineers have been designing and building the roads to maximize throughput of cars, not affordability of infrastructure, service to communities, conservation of space, or safety.  Unsafe intersections or places where no one wants to go to or through are not nearly as much a concern as congestion.  The standard measure of road quality is its “level of service”, a measure of congestion.  Not safety, quality, ease of use, or quality of neighborhoods served and traversed.  Just congestion.

Traffic engineers get most worried about points of congestion.  No road is congested 24 hours of the day, but it is built for its most congested 15 minutes.  The rest of the day it is overbuilt.  The rest of the day it offers a wide open invitation for more driving.  So we have driven more.  From 1983 to 2001 , the vehicle miles traveled and trips taken almost doubled.

The nation didn’t get any bigger, it just got more spread out.  It got more spread out because we made long distance travel easier.  Trips over 50 mile account for 3% of the trips, but about a third of the miles we travel in the United States.  We consume things fast when they are offered to us in liberal helpings.

We are free to ask if we are getting the most for our money with this scheme, or how we might do even better.

Seems Safe

” Donald Shoup’s classic question about parking.