Friday, December 29, 2006

Drivers respond to incentives

An ec 10 student emails an article with evidence that higher gas prices induce more people to carpool:

It would seem intuitive: If gasoline prices become painful enough, people will find ways to cope, such as car-pooling or using mass transit. Now there are statistics to buttress that assumption in at least one respect.

They come in a state Department of Transportation report completed only last month and based upon monitoring of the high-occupancy vehicle lanes on interstates 91, 84 and 384. Those 38 miles of HOV lanes are restricted to vehicles carrying two or more people, and the DOT surveys their usage every year in mid-September.

In 2005, with gas prices at $3.16 a gallon, daily use of the HOV lanes hit an all-time high, about 10,180 people during the morning rush hours.

For anyone who thought those high gasoline prices might lead people to change their commuting habits for the long term, however, the new numbers are disappointing. This September, a year later, with gas prices at $2.77 a gallon, daily usage plummeted to 2004 levels, 8,523 people during the morning rush. On I-91 southbound, 1,324 vehicles carried 3,854 people during the commute to work, representing decreases of 28 percent and 16 percent from the previous year.

"HOV usage does follow pretty closely with the gasoline per-gallon pricing," said Jim Andrini, a transportation supervising planner at the agency.

A nice case study for the Pigou Club files.