Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Bicycling

How Much Would Most People Pay For a Shorter Commute?

4:39 PM EDT on September 9, 2009

chart.gif(Data: IBM's CPI)

As Washington conventional wisdom has it, raising gas taxes or creating a vehicle miles traveled tax to pay for transportation is impossible during the current recession. After all, who would want to squeeze cash-strapped commuters during tough economic times?

As it turns out, the public is very willing to pay for the shorter commuting times that result from less traffic -- and they're willing to pay top dollar, as IBM's new Commuter Pain Index (CPI) shows.

When asked what value they would place on every 15 minutes sliced from their daily commute, 36.5 percent of CPI respondents said between $10 and $20. That's about five times the recent trading price of a ton of carbon emissions on the nation's climate-change exchanges.

And the price of a shorter commute was higher in more congested cities. In Los Angeles, 22 percent of residents said every 15 minutes not spent en route to work would be worth between $31 and $40 -- or more than $100 per hour.

What does the data mean? For one thing, those who fear that voters would revolt if asked to pay more for a more efficient, less congested transport network shouldn't let that stop policy-making. As every successful politician knows (and the president is re-learning on health care), messaging is the key to winning over the public.

In other words, Democrats who feign unwillingness to subject voters to higher gas taxes are ignoring their ability to control the message. When a greater contribution to transportation is pitched as a way to shorten commutes and give workers more free time, the prospect becomes more desirable.

And it's not that lawmakers don't know how to decrease congestion, particularly in the urban areas that were polled to produce the CPI. Reducing the number of car trips and lowering demand during peak travel times are proven to be a cheaper and more effective method of battling congestion than expanding highway capacity.

Is it time to nickname the White House's Sustainable Communities Initiative the "Shorter Commutes Initiative"?

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Friday’s Headlines Are So Fresh and So Clean

The only thing Americans love more than a car is a clean car.

February 23, 2024

CalBike: Tell the Legislature Hands Off Active Transportation Funding

Calbike has an action alert that allows its members to write directly to legislators with their feelings on whether or not the ATP funding should be restored before the legislature votes on the budget in June.

February 22, 2024

Oakland Rips Out Protected Bike Lane on Embarcadero

The city and the councilmember who represents District 2 complain about lack of resources for safety projects, but somehow they have the resources to rip out protected bike lanes.

February 22, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: The Annual Yonah Freemark Show, Part II

This week, let's talk about transit funding in general and the Roosevelt Boulevard subway in Philadelphia, specifically.

February 22, 2024

State DOTs Spend Even More Money on Highway Expansions Than We Thought

Advocates knew states would go on a highway widening binge when the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed — but they didn't know it would be quite this bad.

February 22, 2024
See all posts