PRICING TRAFFIC JAMS. Joseph B. White had an article in the Wall Street Journal (February 2) on the costs of traffic congestion. He gives figures on an annual basis. It works out nationally to the average commuter being delayed 34 hours a year with an annual cost in fuel and lost time valued at $115 billion a year. I had never seen figures estimating the costs of traffic jams. Kids, you should not be surprised that when costs are ignored, bad decisions result. The costs of reducing congestion through better maintenance or overtime for workers are measured by payments; the benefits of their work in terms of savings in time for motorists are not measured. I have thought for some time that when traffic reports are given, a dollar figure should be estimated and announced for the costs to drivers. If the delay at the Lincoln Tunnel is 30 minutes and 1000 cars are affected and the time of the occupants affected is estimated at $10 an hour, that could be announced as a $5000 traffic jam. I think that the main effect of such announcements would be pressure to reduce short term obstructions such as by paying more overtime to reduce lane closures for maintenance (for example, repave as long a stretch of highway as possible overnight). But if people were more aware of the costs imposed on motorists by delays, there might be support for even greater changes.

This entry was posted in Economics. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Nick says:

    Every time I was stuck in traffic in Atlanta (Read: Every day) I would rant about this – whether or not someone was in the car. Once you pointed it out to me it seemed so obvious. Living above the Lincoln Tunnel I get very frequent reminders of this and am grateful that my commute is a 20 minute walk instead of a 3 mile drive which takes 40 minutes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.