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Quantification of Congestion – Calculating Benefits


Managing congestion is the key objective for many road improvements. However, standard planning strategies that are used to assess improvements for road sections with recurring congestion tend to consider only levels of service or broad estimates of benefits. To date, these strategies generally have not accounted for congestion or its costs in the benefit-cost analysis. The inclusion of monetary criteria, while not the sole basis for decision-making, allows stakeholders to understand the full benefits and costs of alternative actions. To this end, unique methods to measure and quantify costs of congestion for Canadian cities were recently developed. Using existing volume and speed data, and drawing upon these quantification methods, changes in congestion that would be expected with various improvements can be assessed. These congestion changes are measured in terms of travel times [delay] and speeds, fuel consumption, air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions. Costs to these impacts in terms of values of time for autos and trucks, fuel prices and costs of pollutants and greenhouse gases are established to quantitatively assess the impacts of proposed road improvements on congestion. This method was recently applied in an operational study in York Region, just north of Toronto. The intersection of Highway 7 and Keele Street serves commuter traffic, but also is an important truck access to several industrial parks and a major intermodal terminal. The intersection routinely experiences congestion for substantial portions of the day. The study identified and evaluated over a dozen congestion mitigating strategies for the area. These strategies included changes to the roadway design, modifications to the signal operations and the application of new Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies. This paper presents the processes used to quantitatively assess these congestion mitigating strategies using a practical and realistic approach to measuring congestion. The merits of these processes are explained, including the improved ability to link planning, operational and design decisions. The findings and results for the various strategies are then documented in terms of the fiscal analysis and business cases.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Philp, C
Simas, L
Kriger, D
Transportation planning