Monday, November 26, 2007

A Traffic Externality

The act of one individual driving imposes costs on the rest of society. Among them, there is pollution in the air, wear & tear on the road, increasing probability of an accident on that road, and slowing other people down. Since drivers do not take these external costs into account when deciding when/how much to drive, there is an aggregate effect of too much driving.

When I just drove for my Thanksgiving trip home, I left Tuesday night around 8:30 to get home and Saturday night around 10:30 to get back to Tallahassee. I wasn't trying to stay out of other people's way, rather I was trying to not have them get in my way. If you think about it, you don't really slow down each other car very much. However, when you add up the amount of time that every car is slowed down by you, it gets to be substantial on a non-open road. The effect is more compounded with a higher density of cars...you slow somebody down who then slows the cars behind him even more...

I'm not suggesting that you take other people's time into account when deciding how to plan your driving trips. In fact, I don't do it. I plan for myself. Try to avoid busy streets to save yourself time, gas, and frustration. Don't go somewhere at rush hour. Drive smarter for yourself and you help everyone out.
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