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Optimizing Road Capacity and Type

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Author Info

  • Kenneth Small

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of California-Irvine)

  • Chen Feng Ng

    ()
    (Department of Economics, California State University at Long Beach)

Abstract

We extend the traditional road investment model, with its focus on capacity and congestion as measures of capital and its utilization, to include free-flow speed as another dimension of capital. This has practical importance because one can view free-flow speed as a continuous proxy for road type (e.g. freeway, arterial, urban street). We derive conditions for optimal investment in capacity and free-flow speed, and analyze the optimal balance between the two. We then estimate cost functions for capital and user costs and apply the resulting model using parameters representing large US urban areas. We show that providing high free-flow speed may be quite expensive, and there is sometimes a tradeoff between it and capacity. We find suggestive evidence that representative freeways in most large urban areas provide too high a free-flow speed relative to capacity, thus making the case for reexamination of typical design practice.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 121309.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:irv:wpaper:121309

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Postal: Irvine, CA 92697-3125
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Related research

Keywords: Capacity; Free-flow speed; Highway design; Optimal highway investment; Congestion;

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References

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  1. Keeler, Theodore E & Small, Kenneth A, 1977. "Optimal Peak-Load Pricing, Investment, and Service Levels on Urban Expressways," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 1-25, February.
  2. Kraus, Marvin, 1981. "Scale economies analysis for urban highway networks," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 1-22, January.
  3. Chen Feng Ng & Kenneth Small, 2008. "Tradeoffs among Free-flow Speed, Capacity, Cost, and Environmental Footprint in Highway Design," Working Papers 080904, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  4. Richard Arnott & Andre de Palma & Robin Lindsey, 1985. "Economics of a Bottleneck," Working Papers 636, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
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