There is no better place to study traffic congestion than Southern California. In our famously gridlocked region, traffic directly ties to development patterns and growth. The ITS traffic congestion research program, a joint effort with the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, examines the connections between traffic and urban development, economic activity, and transportation planning. We pay particular attention to public finance tools — including the controversial tool of congestion pricing — as a way to inform policymakers in the quest to “solve” gridlock.

Lead Scholars

Michael Manville
Michael ManvilleAssociate Professor of Urban Planning
Brian Taylor
Brian TaylorProfessor of Urban Planning & ITS Director
Taner Osman
Taner OsmanLecturer of Urban Planning

Selected Research Publications

Is Traffic Congestion Overrated? Examining the Highly Variable Effects of Congestion on Travel and Accessibility
Andrew Mondschein, Brian D. Taylor — 2017
Congestion is universally unpopular, but is it always a problem? Some places more “congestion-adapted” than others — places where people make many trips and engage in many activities despite lots of congestion, which tend to be more central, built-up areas that host many short trips. Could planners be justified in creating more such places in order to increase accessibility, even if doing so makes absolute levels of congestion worse?

Would Congestion Pricing Harm the Poor? Do Free Roads Help the Poor?
Michael Manville, Emily Goldman — 2017
Congestion pricing could reduce urban congestion, but might disproportionately benefit the affluent and burden the poor. But free urban highways already mostly subsidize richer people, and the resulting congestion creates pollution that disproportionately impacts poorer people. Free roads also generate no revenue to compensate the people they harm, but could the revenue generated by pricing compensate poor drivers? 

The Boy Who Cried Wolf? Media Messaging and Traveler Responses to “Carmageddon” in Los Angeles
Brian D. Taylor, Anne E. Brown, Martin Wachs — 2016
When one of the most heavily traveled freeways in the United States closed for construction over two weekends in successive years, public officials and media members publicized the closures in different ways, through appeals to civic pride or threats of nightmarish delays. How did the histrionics affect travel behavior over time?

Just Pricing: The Distributional Effects of Congestion Pricing and Sales Taxes
Lisa Schweitzer, Brian D. Taylor — 2008
Those who oppose tolls and other forms of road pricing argue that low-income, urban residents will suffer if they must pay to use congested freeways. But how much do low-income residents already pay for transportation in taxes and fees, and how much would residents pay for highway infrastructure under an alternative revenue-generating scheme such as a sales tax?

Other Research