Building Easy Streets: The Economics Behind Traffic Congestion

Jul 13, 2007


Dr. Kenneth Button
Professor of Public Policy and Director
Center for Transportation Policy Operations,
and Logistics
George Mason University

Click here to view Dr. Button's power point presentation.

Click Here to view PDF file.

Tyler D. Duvall
Assistant Secretary for
Transportation Policy,
Department of Transportation 

Dr. Jack Wells
Chief Economic
Department of Transportation 

In most major cities, rush hour last considerably longer than sixty minutes.  One report estimates the average driver spends more than 60 hours per year waiting in traffic jams.  Local, state, and federal policy makers are under intense pressure to ease the burden of traffic congestion.  As suggestions are debated, it becomes essential to understand what drives congestion and how it can be effectively addressed.   The Department of Transportation has the unique opportunity to encourage and foster creative and sustainable solutions.  The proposed Urban Partnership Program is one such opportunity, but to ensure its success, DOT officials must get to the root of the congestion problem.   

To contribute to the on-going discussion of the economics behind traffic congestion, the Mercatus Center at George Mason will host an exclusive seminar for Department of Transportation officials.  Leading the discussion will be a world-renown expert on transportation policy, Dr. Kenneth Button.   Dr. Button has written over 80 books on the topic of transport economics and transport planning.  This session will enable DOT officials to engage Dr. Button on the economics associated with traffic congestion as well as various future funding options. 

Participants will develop an economic framework in which to analyze policy options as they relate to congestion.  Dr. Button will seek to answer the following questions:

  • What can economics teach us about traffic congestion?   What are the incentives that motivate commuters? 
  • What have other countries done to alleviate traffic congestion?  What can we learn from these examples?
  • How does road pricing address the congestion issue?  Which of the future funding options makes the most economic sense?