Why Traffic Is Actually A Real Estate Problem

July 8, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

With yet another post on the economics of traffic it would appear that many economists should instead have studied urban planning. Alain Bertaud explained why traffic is mostly a result of mis-allocated real estate:

  • A car on the street can consume anywhere between 14 and 65 square meters of street depending on the speed it is travelling at.
  • In cities these cars are occupying valuable real estate…yet they don’t really pay for the land they occupy.
  • This is, in part, the reason for traffic. If motorists had to pay the market price for the real estate they occupy while they’re driving, there wouldn’t be any congestion.
  • In parts of Manhattan, for example, roads take up 36% of the available land – since motorists don’t pay the market price for it, this valuable land is inefficiently distributed.

Read more over here.

Source: Urbanization Project

Via: Marginal Revolution

Ambulance Taxis

March 26, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

Tom Parfitt writes that the rich in Russia have found a new way to avoid traffic: ride in an ambulance.

  • For $200 an hour individuals can choose to get to their destination in an ambulance taxi.
  • They use their sirens to clear out traffic jams and get executives to their meetings on time.
  • These aren’t your standard ambulances – they are fitted with plush interiors not too different from those of a limousine.
  • The police intend to stop ambulances for random checks to crack down on the practice.

Read more about one ambulance that was caught, and what the President and Prime Minister intend to do in response over here.

Source: National Post

The Future Of Tracking Traffic

December 7, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

Andrew Liszewski reported on an interesting idea being implemented by Canadian authorities:

  • The City of Calgary has installed a traffic tracking system that works by detecting Bluetooth signals and the hardware code associated with it.
  • The fifteen sensors analyze how long it takes for the devices to cross the highway. That data is then used to determine the amount and flow of traffic on the road.
  • Overall the system costs $400,000.
  • Algorithms ensure that pedestrians and other anomalies aren’t counted as a part of the data.
  • Protections are also put into place to ensure the drivers’ privacy.

Read more about the system and how it works over here.

Source: Gizmodo

300 Kilometer Traffic Jams

September 26, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

Paulo Cabral reported from Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, about the traffic problem:

  • On Friday evenings traffic jams can stretch as far as 300 kilometers (with an average of 180km).
  • Cars move so slowly for so long that at least one couple got married after spying each other as their cars inched along in the jam.
  • There is a radio station that runs 24/7 that does nothing but report on the traffic – and creative routes to escape it.
  • Helicopters have become an increasingly popular way to commute.

Read more about how this affects Brazil’s economy, and why building more roads isn’t really the solution over here.

Source: BBC

Escaping Indonesian Traffic

August 7, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

Sandy Hausman reports on a creative way that Indonesians have found to get around new traffic control rules:

  • Projections suggest that by 2014 traffic will become so bad in Jakarta that there will be a total girdlock.
  • To deal with this lawmakers set up special lanes which only cars with three or more people can drive on during rush hour.
  • This has led to groups of people raising their index finger at the entry to these zones, offering to sit in the car to make up the numbers.
  • Such passengers can make anywhere between $1 and $2.35 per trip.
  • Not only do they earn money, but the people who can afford to pay have nice cars in which they can enjoy the air conditioning and the radio. It’s also an opportunity to explore the city.
  • The practice is illegal although it has become so successful that lawmakers are considering creating a toll road with the proceeds being used to finance a public transit system.

To read more including details about the future of traffic congestion in Jakarta, what happens to those who get caught, why mothers have an advantage, the safety of the practice, how long some commutes can be without the lane, the stalled mass transit system, and what providers and users of the service have to say, click here.

Source: The World

Via: Marginal Revolution

Speed Limits And Traffic Fatalities

July 14, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Katy Waldman looked at the relationship between speed limits and traffic fatalities. Highlights include:

  • Raising speed limits does not lead to an increase in traffic accidents.
  • This is likely because each driver has a ‘comfort speed zone’ that they drive at, regardless of what the posted limit is.
  • In fact, raising speed limits can lower the rate of accidents because drivers are much more cautious with higher posted limits around.
  • However while the number of accidents stays the same or declines, the number of fatalities increase because each accident is more likely to result in death at higher speeds.

To read more including the details of the study, the second highest speed limit in the world, what the National Motorists Association suggests, the key to road safety, the 85th percentile speed, and links to various studies, click here.

Source: Slate

Owning A Car In Singapore

June 28, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Wes Goodman took a look at Singapore’s fascinating car-ownership structure. Some highlights include:

  • Being a tiny island Singapore needs to control the number of cars on the streets to prevent traffic congestion and pollution.
  • To do so the government auctions off “certificates of entitlement” to give one the right to own a car.
  • Singapore has the highest proportion of millionaire households (17%) in the world. This has driven up the price of a COE from S$8,501 three years ago to S$86,889 in May.
  • Despite the soaring prices, the government is actually working to limit the growth in permits. This is because the number of cars has climbed to over 600,000 – significantly more than 400,000 a decade ago.
  • This has led to the odd situation where cars – which are generally thought to be a fast-depreciating asset – might actually appreciate overtime as the permit comes to be worth more.

You can read the entire report including how this relates to Singapore’s ruling party, angst in the population, how this relates to issues of immigration, what the government is trying to do, how this compares to housing prices in the United States, and the problem of inflation, over here.

Source: Bloomberg

Via: Marginal Revolution

The Economics of Traffic

April 22, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

Paul A. Eisenstein went through a study released by the US treasury department about American road infrastructure. Highlights include:

  • Americans waste 1.9 billion gallons of fuel a year waiting in traffic. This is 5% of total gas used and represents a loss of $7 billion.
  • If you take into account the productivity cost of idling in traffic, then the true cost of traffic is $100 billion a year.
  • Poor quality roads cost motorists up to $756 a year in vehicle maintenance and other such expenses.
  • The US invests 2% of GDP on roads. In Europe it’s 5%.

To read more details from the report, including how the recession actually made things better from a traffic perspective, how the US compares to China, and the government bill that might begin to solve the problem, click here.

Source: MSNBC

The Economics of Traffic

January 31, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

Traffic is viewed by many economists as a market failure. There is too little supply and too much demand. The New York Times looked at some of the issues involved:

  • Commuter delays are estimated to cost the United States $100 billion – $750 for every commuter in the country.
  • Attempts to solve the problem could actually make it worse:
    • Policymakers might attempt to construct new roads to more evenly distribute the traffic, but road construction leads to a proportional increase in road utilization meaning that traffic levels remain unchanged.
    • Officials might also try to increase the number of taxis available in the hopes of encouraging commuters to use those instead of their personal cars. However one expert has found that adding one taxi is the equivalent of adding 40 private cars because cabs spend so much more time on the road.
  • New York City’s plan to increase taxi traffic by 15% could cause travel speeds across Manhattan to fall by up to 12%

To read about a potential solution that has worked in other cities as well as more details about the problem, click here.

Source: The New York Times

Tornadoes Take Weekends Off?

January 15, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

Researchers have found a fascinating pattern. During the summer in the Eastern US storms occur 20% above average in the middle of the week and 20% below average over the weekend. What’s causing tornadoes to take weekends off? And if they suffer from weekday fatigue are they also affected by the Monday blues? While the researchers have failed to respond to our request for comment on the latter question they did have some theories for the former:

  • Air pollution peaks in the middle of the week due to commuter traffic. Moisture gathers around the specks of pollution which leads to more cloud droplets.
  • This relationship does not hold true in the west because the air is too dry and the clouds are too high
  • The researchers conclude that their study: “provides yet another good reason for reducing air pollution”

To read more about the science behind the phenomena click here.

Source: National Geographic

Via: Freakonomics