{Evolution of Road Infrastructures in Large Urban Areas

10 Pages Posted: 26 May 2022

See all articles by Erwan Taillanter

Erwan Taillanter

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne - Institute of Theoretical Physics

Marc Barthelemy

Centre d’Analyse et de Mathématique Sociales (CAMS, CNRS-EHESS)

Abstract

Most cities in the US and in the world were organized around car traffic. In particular, large structures such as urban freeways or ring roads were built for reducing car traffic congestion. With the evolution of public transportation, working conditions, the future of these structures and  the organization of large urban areas is uncertain. Here, we analyze empirical data for US cities and show that they display two transitions at different thresholds. For the first threshold of order T c FW ~10 4 commuters, we observe the emergence of a urban freeway. The second  threshold is larger and of the order  T c R R  ~105 commuters above which a ring road emerges. In order to understand these empirical results, we propose a simple model based on a cost-benefit analysis which relies on the balance between construction and maintenance costs of infrastructures and the trip duration decrease (including the effect of congestion). This model predicts indeed such transitions and allows us to compute explicitly the commuter's thresholds in terms of critical parameters such as the average value of time, average capacity of roads, typical construction cost, etc. Furthermore, this analysis allows us to discuss possible scenarios for the future evolution of these structures. In particular, we show that in many cases it is beneficial to remove urban freeways due to their large social cost (that  includes pollution, health cost, etc). This type of information is particularly useful at a time when many cities must confront with the dilemma of renovating these aging structures or converting them into another use.

Keywords: Road infrastructure, Transitions, Cost-benefit analysis

Suggested Citation

Taillanter, Erwan and Barthelemy, Marc, {Evolution of Road Infrastructures in Large Urban Areas. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4120063 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4120063

Erwan Taillanter

École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne - Institute of Theoretical Physics ( email )

Lausanne, 1015
Switzerland

Marc Barthelemy (Contact Author)

Centre d’Analyse et de Mathématique Sociales (CAMS, CNRS-EHESS) ( email )

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