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SERC/Urban and Spatial Programme Discussion Paper
The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities
Gilles Duranton and Matthew A. Turner
October 2009
Paper No' SERCDP0030:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: L91; R41

Tags: highways; vehicle-kilometres traveled; public transport; congestion

We investigate the relationship between interstate highways and highway vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) in US cities. We find that VKT increases proportionately to highways and identify three important sources for this extra VKT: an increase in driving by current residents; an increase in transportation intensive production activity; and an inflow of new residents. The provision of public transportation has no impact on VKT. We also estimate the aggregate city level demand for VKT and find it to be very elastic. We conclude that an increased provision of roads or public transit is unlikely to relieve congestion and that the current provision of roads exceeds the optimum given the absence of congestion pricing.