What Was That About the Cost of Congestion?

Via @pauldreher and @humantransit

Professor Eric Dumbaugh of Florida Atlantic University has found a POSITIVE correlation between levels of travel delay and per capita GPD in major metros.

That’s right, it would appear that cities with more congestion have greater economic output per person. Go figure…

6 responses to “What Was That About the Cost of Congestion?”

  1. Disjointed 4am thoughts, compliments of insomnia:
    1. I smell a self-selection bias. People willing to sit in traffic are highly motivated and will be more productive, on average.

    2. Or, if a city doesn’t spend money on roadways, it has more money to spend on things that create a greater positive economic benefit.

    3. Just because some people spend a lot of time in traffic doesn’t mean that everyone in that city does. Some will find other ways to deal with it, like use transit, bicycle work from home, or live closer to the workplace. When the commuting gets tough, the smart quit commuting

    On a snarkier note, have you ever seen the congestion in that part of Florida?!

  2. More obviously: Economic activity produces traffic, and roadway infrastructure simply doesn’t scale. Once a metro hits a population of 500k-1 million, the tipping point is reached and road traffic volumes will start to overwhelm our ability to build our way out of it.

    And big cities, in general, are more productive (per capita!) than smaller ones–greater concentrations of human capital are capable of many great things.

  3. Doesn’t the “cost” of congestion still exist? If the per capita GDP is higher, then if people were sitting in traffic less wouldn’t they be producing *even more*?

    The issue is more – does the “cost” of congestion overwhelm the output – and that answer is clearly – No.

    However, it does not mean that simply because NYC is more productive than Clovis, NM – that fuel, pollution, and time become free. No matter what your metro area or what your job is – time spent burning fuel while getting nowhere *is* expensive.

  4. Some cities give less thought to transit planning than Portland. Seattle would be a great example, but people will put up with some traffic jams if it is a choice of employment or not.

  5. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that congestion is not equal around the Portland metro? There are lots of cars in and near Downtown, but traffic still moves and rather quickly. I can’t speak for the freeways since I don’t use them. On the other hand, I have noticed that in places like Beaverton, the traffic is much worse and more prone to be stop-and-go. Maybe the perspective of congestion is from a narrow point of view, namely the freeways and suburban collectors and not so much from most of the urban arterials. Just some food for thought…

  6. Andrew, Portland benefits from a strong street grid that disperses congestion. This is lacking in many of our suburban neighbors, so there is no relief valve.

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