Airport Congestion Management: Prices or Quantities?

Jan Brueckner

Air travel delays have hit new highs in the US since 2000, although passenger traffic and airport congestion have temporarily fallen during the current recession. Similar delays continue to plague European airlines. Although weather is a major source of delays, US Department of Transportation data show that the volume of traffic is also a major cause. What can be done about this airport congestion and the resulting delays?

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Moving Los Angeles

Paul Sorensen

People often complain about traffic in Los Angeles, and with good reason. The Texas Transportation Institute publishes annual traffic statistics for metropolitan areas across the United States, and the greater Los Angeles region routinely tops the list for such measures as total congestion delays and congestion delays per peak-period traveler. Against this backdrop, RAND was recently asked to evaluate and recommend near-term strategies that could meaningfully reduce LA’s traffic within a period of five years or less. Note that this timeframe precludes land use policies, which take longer to bear fruit, and major infrastructure investments. In addressing this question, we found it helpful (a) to review general insights from the transportation literature on the causes and potential cures for traffic congestion, and (b) to diagnose the specific local conditions that contribute to the notoriously severe congestion in Los Angeles.

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Paved with Good Intentions: Fiscal Politics, Freeways and the 20th Century American City

Jeffrey R. Brown, Eric A. Morris, and Brian D. Taylor

Stuck in traffic in Washington, DC in 1959, President Eisenhower was shocked to learn that the delay was being caused by Interstate Highway construction. Surely the Interstates were being built between cities, not in them. The President demanded to know who was responsible for this state of affairs, only to be told that he was; it was the result of legislation he had signed three years earlier. Aghast, Eisenhower attempted to get the federal government out of the urban freeway business. But it was too late: the program had built up momentum that not even he could halt.

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The Challenge of Urban Transportation in California

Elizabeth Deakin and Robert Cervero

As California grows, increased travel from more households, business activity, and goods movement will surely increase greenhouse gas emissions, lead to more congestion and air pollution, and damage ecosystems and neighborhoods—unless we change the basics of travel in California. We need to take action now to deliver a sustainable transportation system that provides the mobility and accessibility necessary for a prosperous economy, and to find ways of doing so that also assure a healthy environment, social equity, and a high quality of life. Here are some ideas for managing, improving, and reworking our urban transport systems that are proven best practices and, with legislative leadership, could be more widely utilized.

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For Whom The Road Tolls: The Politics Of Congestion Pricing

David King, Michael Manville, and Donald Shoup

It is almost universally acknowledged among transportation planners that congestion pricing is the best way, and perhaps the only way, to significantly reduce urban traffic congestion. Politically, however, congestion pricing has always been a tough sell. Most drivers don’t want to pay for roads that are currently free, and most elected officials—aware that drivers are voters—don’t support congestion pricing.

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Smarter Parking at Transit Stations

Susan Shaheen and Charlene Kemmerer

Transit stations, such as many of the outlying stations along the BART system in the San Francisco Bay Area, provide parking so riders can easily get to and from the station. At first parking spots at BART stations were free to whoever showed up earliest to park. Then in 2002, BART began offering monthly reservations on some parking spots for a fee, so that riders who couldn’t rush out of the house to arrive at the station before anyone else also had the opportunity to park. Commuters without the monthly permits are faced with a dilemma if they want to take BART and can’t get to the station early. Do they risk deviating from their driving commute route to try to find a spot at the station? If they don’t find one, they will have wasted time and gas, and they’d then have to find their way back to their driving route, now a bit later, and reinsert themselves into the stream of traffic.

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THE ACCESS ALMANAC: The Incredible Shrinking Energy R&D Budget

Daniel Kammen and Gregory F. Nemet

The federal government and private industry are both reducing their investments in energy research and development (R&D) at a time when geo- politics, environmental concerns, and economic competitiveness call instead for a major expansion in US capacity to innovate in this sector. The 2005 federal budget reduced energy R&D by eleven percent from 2004. The American Association for the Advancement of Science projects a decline in federal energy R&D of eighteen percent by 2009. Meanwhile, investments in energy R&D by US companies fell by fifty percent between 1991 and 2003.

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Dispatch from London

John Landis

Upon arriving in London (or any other major English city), the first thing an American notices is how few SUVs, pickup trucks, and full-sized minivans are on the roads. This is partly because of gasoline’s high price, currently about $5.80 per US gallon, and partly because English roads and parking spaces are so narrow. However, things do seem to be changing. Sales of SUVs are rising, particularly among suburbanites with children, as are sales of seven-passenger multi-purpose vehicles, which are slightly smaller versions of American minivans.

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Paying for Roads: New Technology for an Old Dilemma

Paul Sorensen and Brian D. Taylor

Who should pay for roads? How should they pay? These frequently debated questions echoed through the first two decades of the last century as motor vehicle use accelerated. It seemed only fair to ask users to pay for roads, but collecting road– side tolls was costly, slowed traffic, and was feasible on only the most heavily traveled highways. Paying for roads with general tax revenues was far simpler, but was seen as unfair to the many people without cars or trucks who would be forced to pay for roads that they would seldom use. The eventual solution—the motor-fuel tax—was a brilliant one: the tax was cheap and easy to collect, and it charged travelers in rough proportion to their use of roads.

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