Friday, October 11, 2013

Relieve Congestion by Paying People NOT to Commute by Car at Rush Hour

Traffic slows to a crawl on the Monash Freeway...
Traffic slows to a crawl on the Monash Freeway in Melbourne, Australia through peak hour traffic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
They Pay Farmers Not to Grow Crops, Don’t They?(Richard Mudge, Eno Center for Transportation, Sep. 2013)

Today we review an innovative way of reducing congestion by offering financial rewards of 1 to 8 (US) dollars per trip to drivers who stop driving their car during peak periods. This seems to have worked in Rotterdam, Holland and in Washington DC by reducing peak hour travel by 7% - a cost that is much less than the price of accepting the economic impact of congestion and likely more acceptable by the public and their political leaders than applying a number of other tools such as charging more to commute at rush hour, HOT lanes etc. 

Key Quotes: 

Traffic congestion is listed as one of the nation’s most serious transportation problems… the cost of extra travel time and fuel.. $121 billion in 2011, with corresponding large costs due to environmental emissions” 

“not all trips are equally important. A higher price during peak periods will encourage some travelers to shift travel to off peak periods, shift to another mode (transit, bike, walk, or carpool), or not travel at all (telecommute). While economists like this idea, most travelers do not appreciate being forced to pay something for a previously free service” 

“rather than making everyone pay more, we simply pay a small number of people not to travel during peak periods. This would still encourage efficiency by shifting marginal users to other times of day or telecommuting or to other modes. The folks who get paid would be happy. The regular commuters would gain from reduced traffic congestion. The costs should be modest since one only needs to divert a small fraction of drivers in order to have a tangible impact. “ 

“several transportation programs exist that do pay people not to travel at peak periods or not to use a single occupancy car:
  • Rotterdam.. travelers along the A15 roadway near the harbor were offered financial incentives to avoid the road during the 6:00 to 9:00 AM peak and 4:00 to 7:00 PM peak while construction was underway…6.5 Euros for avoiding both peak periods and as much as 5 Euros for the AM peak alone…reduced peak hour travel by 7 percent or about 800 morning trips
  • Washington DOT Trip Reduction Performance Program - Grants are based on the number of peak-hour single occupancy trips that each agency will reduce and the requested payment per trip. Trips can be diverted to transit, carpools, or vanpools.. the program has exceeded its targets. The annual public subsidy paid per trip reduced range from $235 in 2005 to $375 for 2009 – less than $1 per trip
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