Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Congestion charges, anyone?

Posted by Daniel Hall on September 18, 2007

The average American commute takes 20% more time than it did in 2000. Is this the current equilibrium because modern amenities — cell phones, iPods — improve the commuting experience? Because current patterns of development favor sprawl? If it is patterns of development, are residents voting (with their feet) for bigger houses with bigger yards that they’ll enjoy on the weekend? Or are planning commissions failing to properly consider the costs of dispersed development?

The article notes that cities are trying to use technology to help ease their congestion:

[Atlanta is] adding $16 million worth of “ramp meters” that spread out rush hour by controlling on-ramp flow.

Using tolls or other road charges to encourage car-pooling and alternative transport would help too.

In the meantime, drivers can work on being smarter commuters:

If you have to cut someone off, make sure to target a person driving a Mercedes S-class, who will cede the road.

2 Responses to “Congestion charges, anyone?”

  1. Daniel Hall said

    I beat Tim Haab to the punch!

    He does a much more thorough job of explaining the economics, however. You should read it.

  2. greg claxton said

    One other possibility is that people base their sense of what an “acceptable commuting time” is by looking at their peers, which allows it to change over time–this could be a factor for increasing commute times or decreasing them. As we continue to subsidize sprawl, and before center cities and inner-ring suburbs spring back, I think you’d expect that kind of positive feedback to increase commute times.

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