How to use induced demand to your advantage


In my last post I talked about induced demand, the counter-intuitive idea that when there is a greater supply of a resource, more of it is used.  I see this most often in discussion of transportation issues, where people assume that the solution to traffic-clogged roads is to widen the roads (or to build more of them).  And yet, looking out the window in your most-recent traffic jam, you can see that this hasn’t worked.

I made the connection between this and your personal life too.  People often assume that more money or more time will make it easier to achieve your goals.  But, like the traffic-choked highway, when you’ve got more of some resource, there’s a good chance that it too will become allocated, leaving you in the same place.  So what can we do?

Our goals are still there, whether we’re trying to drive to work, or quit your job, or run a marathon or get 1,000 views on your site each day.

It turns out that we can look to induced demand for the solution as well as the problem.  What do progressive planners do?

Acknowledge the problem

Once you’ve realized that More isn’t going to fix things, you can eliminate it as a solution.  This is probably the hardest for everyone to do, but it’s important.  You most likely don’t need more money or time or friends or any other metric you care to mention.

Devise a solution beyond the boundaries of the problem

The solution that many regional planners employ to fix road congestion is to build not more space for cars, but mass transit.  America, after fifty years of myopia, is finally starting to realize that well-designed mass transit solution can be a solution to traffic woes.  It seems that a solution to the road problem isn’t even on the road.

So perhaps the solution to your money problem isn’t with money, it’s with your behavior or your attitude or your belief.  And maybe the solution to your time problem is that you aren’t using it as effectively as you could.  Or that you shift your time around (getting up early instead of staying up late, or vice versa).  And if you’re wishing you had more feeling of being loved and understood, you may need to adjust your attitiude towards yourself, finding the ability to believe that you yourself are worthy of love before you can expect to be able to feel that from others.

Have less, not more

Hear me out.  Some planners, when faced with an intractable congestion situation, actually reduce the number of lanes, or put in traffic-calming measures such as roundabouts or wider sidewalks.  If you are scratching your heads at this, the idea is that making the road less conducive for fast, long-range travel will induce fewer people to use it in this way.  (This is also known as a road diet.)

If you gave yourself less time to accomplish your goals, how in the world would that help?  Well, perhaps it would light a fire under you.  If extra time can make you lax and prone to distraction, then having less time might make you that much more on-the-ball and ready to knock your goals out.

Don't forget that streets are actually for people, not just cars.
Don’t forget that streets are actually for people, not just cars.
(Photo courtesy of Complete Streets.)


Much like how the law of induced demand is not universally accepted by planners, it might seem counter-intuitive that these solutions could work for you too.  But keep this in mind the next time you’re stuck on the highway: we’ve been doing things a certain way for a long time; is it working?

But enough about me:  How have you tried to manage your goals with your limited resources?

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