Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transit on Traffic Congestion

48 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2013 Last revised: 3 Apr 2022

See all articles by Michael L. Anderson

Michael L. Anderson

U.C. Berkeley - Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Date Written: February 2013

Abstract

Public transit accounts for only 1% of U.S. passenger miles traveled but nevertheless attracts strong public support. Using a simple choice model, we predict that transit riders are likely to be individuals who commute along routes with the most severe roadway delays. These individuals' choices thus have very high marginal impacts on congestion. We test this prediction with data from a sudden strike in 2003 by Los Angeles transit workers. Estimating a regression discontinuity design, we find that average highway delay increases 47% when transit service ceases. This effect is consistent with our model's predictions and many times larger than earlier estimates, which have generally concluded that public transit provides minimal congestion relief. We find that the net benefits of transit systems appear to be much larger than previously believed.

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Michael L., Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transit on Traffic Congestion (February 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18757, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2210776

Michael L. Anderson (Contact Author)

U.C. Berkeley - Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics ( email )

207 Giannini Hall, MC 3310
Berkeley, CA 94720-3310
United States

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