Friday, February 23, 2007

Traffic Congestion Costs over $70 Billion a Year

Following up on my previous post Improving Traffic Lights Could Save 17 Billion Gallons of Fuel a Year, Winning the Oil Endgame throws down some additional fat traffic knowledge.

Traffic congestion in 2001 wasted 3.6 billion hours and 5.7 billion gallons, worth $70 billion, in 75 U.S. urban areas.
Those are some big numbers, and that is for just 75 urban areas.

So what can we do about it?
Full adoption of incident management, signal coordination, ramp meters, and electronic toll plazas on all major roads in 75 U.S. metropolitan areas’ would have saved 0.95 billion gallons of the 5.7 billion gallons of fuel wasted by congestion in 2001. Adding a modest amount of advanced routing technologies, and a small part of the potential offered by a diverse additional technical portfolio described in Technical Annex, Ch. 8, would have saved another 0.5 billion gal/y in 2001. This 1.45-billion- gallon saving potential in 2001 matches ITS America’s 2002–2012 goal, scales to 1.68 billion gal/y (0.9% of total oil consumption) for all highway vehicles in 2025, and is our Conventional Wisdom case.
A plan to take back 1.7 billion gal/year. I like it.

Any way to get even more?
We also considered six other major technologies that could save between 17-plus and 45-plus percent of the fuel otherwise wasted by congestion. These include signal priority modeling for bus rapid transit and trucks, intelligent cruise control, very close vehicle spacing, vehicle classifiers, routing algorithms, and agent-based computing infrastructure, all described and referenced in the final section of Technical Annex, Ch. 8. Some of these measures are relatively costly, so we assume only the cheapest one-fourth of the whole portfolio, whose composition will vary with local circumstances. When deployed along with the Conventional Wisdom technology suite, those least-cost additional technologies round out our State of the Art IHS portfolio. Estimating its fuel savings and costs is particularly difficult, so rather than simply adding up the savings from every option, we conservatively estimate the impact of any subset to be twice the total of the Conventional Wisdom portfolio; the actual savings could be far greater.
3.4 billion gallons a year, even better. If that isn't enough for you, there are even more ideas over at Intelligent Transportation Society of America.

Ok, this is sounding good. How much is it going to cost?
The costs of both IHS portfolios assumed here are unknown but probably modest, and are at least an order of magnitude smaller than the societal value of driver time saved. (Recall from p. 38 that 2001 congestion cost ~$70 billion per year.) The net cost of our partial IHS portfolio is therefore at worst zero and is probably strongly negative. However, the lack of reliable cost figures doesn’t matter because we’ve already credited IHS with helping to offset rebound (p. 41), so it’s not in our oil-efficiency supply curves. If it were, it would probably reduce the average cost per saved barrel.
Less than $700 million to fix this up and give us back part of our $70 billion in wasted time? Lets get started.

I should also mention that Winning the Oil Endgame book is available as a free .pdf download. Makes it easy to copy a segment of the book for blogging purposes. It also gives me a chance to say that it a great book and if you don't feel like reading the whole thing on your computer, you can go buy a copy.

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