Study links gridlock to slow job growth

Jan 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: Researchers study the behavior of trick-or-treating children

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Intelligent transport systems

May 20, 2014

Technology developed by the University of Leicester is to play a vital part in a new million-euro transport project of the European Commission's Competitiveness and Innovation programme of the European Mobile and Mobility ...

Explosion of wireless devices causing data traffic jam

Feb 15, 2010

With the exploding popularity of smartphones, wireless laptops and, if Steve Jobs has his way, tablet computers, it's fast becoming a wireless world. But the breakneck growth of all things wireless is threatening to cause ...

Recommended for you

UC Santa Barbara receives $65M from Munger

19 hours ago

A physics institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has received a $65 million donation—the largest single gift in the university's history.

Prophet's ancient seal provides insights from antiquity

Oct 30, 2014

When a personal artifact of a religious leader is discovered nearly 1,700 years after its use, the object provides invaluable historical insights. Zsuzsanna Gulacsi, professor of Comparative Cultural Studies, ...

Billionaires' $10m gift to Yale stirs debate in China

Oct 30, 2014

A Chinese billionaire couple's $10 million gift to Yale University sparked controversy among the country's Internet users Thursday, with some arguing that the money would be better spent on schools in China.

User comments : 0

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.