Road Traffic Congestion and Public Information: An Experimental Investigation
This paper reports two laboratory studies designed to study the impact of public information about past departure rates on congestion levels and travel costs. Our experimental design is based on a discrete version of Arnott, de Palma, and Lindsey’s (1990) bottleneck model where subjects have to choose their departure time in order to reach a common destination. Experimental treatments in our first study differ in terms of the level of public information on past departure rates and the relative cost of delay. In all treatments, congestion occurs and the observed total travel costs match the predicted ones. In other words, subjects' capacity to coordinate is neither affected by the availability of public information on past departure rates nor by the relative cost of delay. This absence of treatment effects is confirmed by our finding that a parameter-free reinforcement learning model best characterizes individual behavior. The number of experimental subjects taking the role of drivers is four times larger in our second study than in our first study. We observe that subjects’ capacity to coordinate is not affected by the size of the population.
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