What is Transportation Design?

Transportation design refers to the planning and designing of transportation infrastructure, such as roads, highways, bridges, and public transit systems. Transportation design aims to create efficient, safe, and sustainable transportation systems that can accommodate the needs of people and businesses. Transportation design involves many considerations, such as traffic flow, safety, accessibility, environmental impact, and economic viability. Transportation designers use a variety of tools, such as traffic modelling, computer simulations, and data analysis, to inform their design decisions. Transportation design is a complex and multidisciplinary field that involves input from engineers, architects, urban planners, and policymakers. The goal is to create transportation systems that are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing and socially responsible.

Do highways make the traffic worse? - Sheet1
Multimodal and public space design_©https://www.citiesthatwork.com/

How are Highways Built Based on Transportation Design?

Highways are a critical component of transportation infrastructure in many countries. They are designed to provide fast, efficient, and reliable transportation for people and goods. However, the construction of highways can significantly impact traffic flow and congestion.

When designing highways, transportation designers consider various factors, such as traffic volume, speed limits, road capacity, and safety features. They use mathematical models and computer simulations to determine the optimal design for a given location.

Do highways make the traffic worse? - Sheet2
Freeway congestion leads to building more freeways, which stimulates demand, which leads to more congestion_©OZmoving

One of the key principles of transportation design is the concept of “complete streets.” Roads should be designed to accommodate all transportation modes, including pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit users. Complete streets also prioritise safety features like sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes. Another important consideration in transportation design is the impact of highways on the environment. Highways can significantly impact air and water quality, noise pollution, and wildlife habitats. Transportation designers work to minimise these impacts by incorporating sustainable features such as green infrastructure and noise barriers into their designs.

Do Highways Make Traffic Worse?

Whether highways make traffic worse is a complex and controversial issue. On the one hand, highways can provide fast and efficient transportation for people and goods. They can also promote economic growth and development by connecting cities and regions.

On the other hand, highways can also contribute to traffic congestion, air pollution, and environmental degradation. They can also have negative social impacts, such as dividing communities and displacing people from their homes.

The solution lies in the function of roads to facilitate movement. Humans have an innate desire to travel, and increasing their ability results in living further away from their workplace and relying on driving to commute. Additionally, easier driving leads to more frequent trips by car. The presence of businesses that require roads also brings in trucking and shipments, further adding to the traffic levels. Unfortunately, this results in a reduction in the extra capacity of the street network. As long as driving remains convenient and affordable, people will continue to use it without limitations.

Expanding the roads doesn’t mean there would be less traffic_©VOX

Expanding highways may seem like a logical solution to ease traffic congestion, but it is a flawed approach. Studies have shown that building more road space leads more people to drive, ultimately resulting in the same sluggish traffic. This counterproductive effect, “induced demand,” has been repeatedly observed and documented. Research has found that such expansion does not alleviate traffic woes as it brings more cars on the road and increases the total distance travelled.

Research on the impact of highways on traffic is mixed. Some studies suggest that building more highways can lead to more traffic congestion, as it encourages people to drive more. This phenomenon is known as “induced demand”. Other studies suggest that highways can reduce traffic congestion by providing an alternative route for drivers. This is known as the “substitution effect.” However, this effect is limited, as highways can quickly become congested.

How Can Traffic be Reduced?

Several strategies can be used to reduce traffic on highways. These include:

  1. Implementing congestion pricing: Charging drivers a fee to use the highway during peak hours. The aim is to encourage drivers to use alternative modes of transportation or travel at off-peak times.
  2. Investing in public transit: Providing affordable and efficient options can encourage people to leave their cars at home.
  3. Encouraging active transportation: Promoting walking and cycling can help reduce the number of cars on the road.
  4. Promoting carpooling: Encouraging people to share rides can help reduce the number of cars on the road.
  5. Investing in smart technology: Smart technology, such as intelligent transportation systems (ITS) can help improve traffic flow by providing real-time information on traffic conditions, optimising traffic signal timing, and reducing the likelihood of accidents.
  1. Implementing land use policies: Land use policies that promote mixed-use development and encourage density can help reduce the need for car travel.
  2. Promoting telecommuting: Encouraging people to work from home can reduce the number of cars on the road.


In conclusion, transportation design is a critical aspect of modern urban planning, and highways are essential to transportation infrastructure. While highways provide fast and efficient transportation, they can also contribute to traffic congestion and environmental degradation. Transportation designers must consider many factors when designing highways, including traffic flow, safety, accessibility, environmental impact, and economic viability. To reduce traffic on highways, strategies such as congestion pricing, investing in public transit, promoting active transportation, implementing smart technology, implementing land use policies, and promoting telecommuting can be used. By taking a holistic approach to transportation design and implementing sustainable and socially responsible transportation solutions, we can create transportation systems that meet the needs of people and businesses while minimising negative impacts on the environment and society.


  1. Vox (2021). How highways make traffic worse. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z7o3sRxA5g 
  2. ‌Buchanan, S. (2020). Why building more highways won’t make your commute any better. [online] Environmental Defence. Available at: https://environmentaldefence.ca/2020/09/15/why-building-more-highways-wont-make-your-commute-any-better/ 
  3. ‌Kotagal, P. (2022). Architects and their impact on Transportation Design. [online] RTF | Rethinking The Future. Available at: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/2022/04/24/a6735-architects-and-their-impact-on-transportation-design/ 
  4. Mann, A. (2014). What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse. [online] WIRED. Available at: https://www.wired.com/2014/06/wuwt-traffic-induced-demand/ 
  5. Weingart, E. and Schukar, A. (2023). Widening Highways Doesn’t Fix Traffic. So Why Do We Keep Doing It? The New York Times. [online] 6 Jan. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/06/us/widen-highways-traffic.html 
  6. Gizmodo. (n.d.). Why Expanding Highways Makes Traffic Worse. [online] Available at: https://gizmodo.com/why-expanding-highways-makes-traffic-worse-1842220595 

Khushi is an interior designer who believes the key to understanding is communication, and what could be a better medium than words? She finds joy in little things as they matter a lot. She enjoys rom-com literature and poetry, always keen on learning something new.