Sunday, June 8, 2008

Micromotives and macrobehavior of congestion

(With apologies to Thomas Schelling)
Today's LA Times looks at the lives of all those people sitting in traffic on the 110 near downtown Los Angeles. They tracked down people through their license plates and profiled a few drivers. While the story is mildly interesting, it becomes clear that everyone they featured knew what trade offs they were making that led to their commute. Hence the reference to Schelling's work. One guy didn't want to leave his rent controlled apartment (though his wife only had a five minute commute, which means that the household had a reasonable average commute). Mostly people were hesitant to leave jobs, or once they bought a house were hesitant to move. These reactions are understandable. It was also clear that non-work activities played a big part in people's decisions about where to live, such as wanting to live by the beach. No one, however, considered the external costs of their travel when making locational choices.
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