Transportation Research Board Conference RECAP

Posted On March 2, 2014
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The Transportation Research Board Conference held in mid January 2014, proved to be an invaluable learning experience and an opportunity to present the Dean’s Behavioral Economics Lab’s latest findings from the Federal Highway Administration Research Project on Traffic Congestion. As such,  a team of 6 DBEL employees attended multiple breakout sessions while assisting Dr. Rutstrom in demonstrating the benefits of the experimental economics approach and discuss theory driven implications on transportation policy. One goal of the conference was to exemplify an actual portion of the experiment DBEL ran in the field, but was tailored to the TRB audience. This played out in the form of a game attendees of the conference participated in and the players consisted of roughly 50 Policy Makers, Data Scientists, Economists, Engineers, and Graduate Students “living” in 2 hypothetical cities. DBEL Researchers assigned random roles/occupations to these participants (educator, engineer, and food service) which each had different incentives and cost of travel on the routes in their cities. They then did some demonstrations of the average congestion (die rolls with fixed probabilities of congestion) to show players what their individual cost of that congestion was. Next a couple of referendums were proposed to each of the 2 cities, with City A choosing between the status quo or expanding lane capacity and City B choosing between two different methods of financing the new expansion of lanes. The purpose of this game was to demonstrate the difference in referendum outcomes when voters perceive that if they vote against tolls then there is a possibility of passing on some of the cost to others. Finally, the vote across city A and city B were compared and results shared with the players. Though imprecise, and while the data from the demonstration was merely for illustrative purposes it was  a way to show how behavioral insights can assist Policy Makers in identifying the demand of the public correctly and implementing policy successfully.

TRB Information: http://www.trb.org/AnnualMeeting2014/AnnualMeeting2014.aspxTRB 2