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

  • Michael L. Anderson

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18757.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
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Publication status: published as Michael L. Anderson, 2014. "Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transit on Traffic Congestion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(9), pages 2763-96, September.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18757
Note: EEE PE
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