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Archive for July 3rd, 2009

Tolls Go Cashless

Is this the end for people fumbling for dropped change on the floor of the car?

Reports the WSJ:

This weekend may mark the beginning of the end for toll-booth operators and plastic coin baskets, two institutions long associated with holiday traffic and highway congestion.

On Saturday, an authority that runs the E-470 toll road near Denver is ditching its coin handlers and going entirely cashless.

One curious thing about electronic tolls; they’re more expensive.

It is unclear whether cashless toll roads will have higher toll rates than ones offering a pay-with-cash option, but some theorists say higher rates are likely. Amy Finkelstein, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has analyzed 50 years of data for 123 toll roads. In a paper to be published in the August edition of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Prof. Finkelstein suggests electronic tolling results in rates that are 20% to 40% higher than they otherwise would be.

One reason, she speculates, is that “when tolls become less visible, it’s easier to raise the tolls.” (but is it also that electronic tolls tend to be built on new, more expensive facilities, or ones more prone to congestion?)

Do economists have a word for this phenomenon? Something about transparency? Price elasticity? But it seems a strange anti-thesis to the anchoring effect, with no frames or anchors at all.

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Posted on Friday, July 3rd, 2009 at 6:27 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
7 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.

Crunching the Numbers

In a paper you co-authored on evaluating methods for identifying hot spots, you point out the “alarming” practice by safety agencies of using accident rates to rank hot spots. Intuitively, that would seem to be an acceptable method, but it performs very poorly in identifying them. Could you explain?

There is an ongoing misperception that one can use accident rates to level the playing field with respect to exposure when identifying high risk locations. This is marginally true at high levels of aggregation but increasingly less true as one begins to examine particular types of sites. The problem with using crash rates is that they typically decrease once exposure reaches a certain threshold. In other words, as traffic volumes increase over time with growth of VMT, accident rates generally tend to improve. So, comparing two otherwise similar sites with differing VMT often does not serve as a meaningful metric to gauge their relative safety.

Another critical aspect of the relationship between safety and exposure is the changing crash severity distribution as VMT increases—this is true on road segments and at intersections. Clearly a fatal crash is more harmful to society than an injury crash which in turn is more harmful than a property damage only [PDO] crash. A research interest of mine is to improve and standardize how we incorporate crash severity into high-risk site identification.

From an interview with Simon Washington, the new head of Berkeley’s TSC. Well worth a read in its entirety.

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Posted on Friday, July 3rd, 2009 at 4:21 am by: Tom Vanderbilt
2 Comments. Click here to leave a comment.
Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
Kim Thornton at the Random House Speakers Bureau: rhspeakers@randomhouse.com.

Order Traffic from:

Amazon | B&N | Borders
Random House | Powell’s

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U.S. Paperback UK Paperback
Traffic UK
Drive-on-the-left types can order the book from Amazon.co.uk.

For UK publicity enquiries please contact Rosie Glaisher at Penguin.

Upcoming Talks

April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
Bloomington, MN

June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands

July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas

September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Portland, Oregon

October 8
Honda R&D Americas
Raymond, Ohio

October 10-11
INFORMS Roundtable
San Diego, CA

October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA

November 5
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Uncasville, Connecticut

January 6
Texas Transportation Forum
Austin, TX

January 19
Yale University
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)

Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

April 5-7
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
McMurrin Lectureship

April 19
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Austin, Texas

Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Edmonton, Canada

Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario

Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California

Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
Brisbane, Australia

April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
Sydney, Australia

April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering
Edmonton, Canada

March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

 

 

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