Study links gridlock to slow job growth

January 26, 2009
Kent Hymel. Photo by Daniel A. Anderson

(PhysOrg.com) -- Commuters well versed in the physical and psychological tolls of traffic congestion can now add an economic effect to the list. A new UC Irvine study found that places with sluggish commutes - usually an indication of economic prosperity - tend to have slower subsequent job growth. The findings suggest that more efficient public infrastructure projects, while costly, can spur local economic growth.

Kent Hymel, a UCI doctoral candidate in economics, published his research online in the Journal of Urban Economics. He studied data on traffic delays in major metropolitan areas in the U.S. between 1982 and 2003. He observed that increases in vehicle use far outpaced expansions in highway capacity, resulting in high levels of congestion. While studying the causes of traffic congestion, Hymel became increasingly interested in measuring its broad economic costs.

“In our current economic climate, policymakers are concerned with creating jobs and taking steps to sustain long-run employment growth,” Hymel said. “My study shows that reducing congestion - itself a desirable outcome - can help achieve that goal and revitalize urban economies.”

Hymel analyzed the amount of extra time drivers spent on freeways each year due to congested conditions estimated the potential benefits of various transportation policies. He found that if freeway capacity in the Los Angeles metropolitan area (including Long Beach and Orange County) had increased by 10 percent in 1990, an additional 50,000 jobs would have been created in the region by 2003.

Public infrastructure spending is expected to boom in a Barack Obama administration, as the president looks at massive public works programs to resuscitate the nation’s ailing economy.

Hymel encountered some difficulty measuring the impact of traffic congestion on job growth since the two tend to go hand in hand.

“Workers cause traffic jams just by driving to work every day, but at the same time, congestion discourages job growth by raising the cost of doing business,” Hymel said. “Individuals will demand higher wages to compensate for longer commutes. Also, slow traffic harms businesses by increasing the cost of shipping goods.”

Hymel’s research should inspire policymakers to think more creatively about reducing congestion, including the possibility of increasing toll roads, congestion tolls and other options that require people to pay for the true cost of driving.

“There are no simple solutions to the problem of traffic congestion,” he said. “New roads are very expensive and are not likely to reduce congestion levels.”

To view Hymel’s study, visit: webfiles.uci.edu/khymel/www/files/ hymel_job_market.pdf .

Provided by University of California, Irvine

Explore further: NYC strikes Uber deal: No cap on company during study

Related Stories

Battle between NY mayor, Uber heats up on eve of vote

July 22, 2015

On the eve of a City Council vote that could limit the number of Uber vehicles on New York City streets, parties on both sides of the debate sharpened their attacks to sway public opinion, if not actual votes.

Uber vs. de Blasio in fight over access to NYC streets

July 17, 2015

A dispute is simmering between the ride-booking service Uber and Mayor Bill de Blaiso's City Hall, an increasingly pitched disagreement playing out on smartphones, over the airwaves and in the press over a fundamental question: ...

Fear of longer commutes puts pressure on US cities to act

June 26, 2015

At 4:35 a.m. each weekday, Stan Paul drives out of his Southern California suburb with 10 passengers in a van, headed to his job as an undergraduate counselor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Some 80 miles and ...

UC research explores national trends in commuting patterns

June 17, 2015

An investigation of excess commuting in 25 U.S. metropolitan areas over the past two decades finds that nearly all workers experienced a longer drive, but at different rates. In Ohio, however, workers driving to the City ...

Recommended for you

Earliest evidence of reproduction in a complex organism

August 3, 2015

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have found the earliest example of reproduction in a complex organism. Their new study has found that some organisms known as rangeomorphs, which lived 565 million years ago, ...

Model shows how surge in wealth inequality may be reversed

July 30, 2015

(Phys.org)—For many Americans, the single biggest problem facing the country is the growing wealth inequality. Based on income tax data, wealth inequality in the US has steadily increased since the mid-1980s, with the top ...

French teen finds 560,000 year-old tooth (Update)

July 28, 2015

A 16-year-old French volunteer archaeologist has found an adult tooth dating back around 560,000 years in southwestern France, in what researchers hailed as a "major discovery" Tuesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.