Road pricing simulations : traffic, welfare, home value and land use impacts for Austin, Texas

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Gupta, Surabhi

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This thesis explores the traffic, land use and welfare impacts of road pricing in the Austin region, setting up of marginal cost pricing (MCP) on main roads, applying tolls to existing bridges, instituting a tolled cordon around the downtown, and introducing planned toll roads. Different toll scenarios are examined, including fixed versus variable tolling, and tolls based on time-of-day, traffic, and travel distance. Austin-calibrated DRAM-EMPAL models are used to predict the future residential and work location distribution. Land use model outputs are used in a four-step travel demand model (TDM), and the resulting travel times are fed back into the TDM as needed, in order to obtain converged results. Joint mode and time-of-day choice models and multinomial destination choice models are used. The results include traffic redistribution over time and space, location choice changes in the long term, home value changes and traveler welfare implications. In summary, the newly proposed toll roads in Austin are revenue generating and travelers' welfare improving. But, toll roads are predicted to be overall welfare losing because their costs are predicted to exceed the estimated benefits. MCP on main roads reduces the total predicted travel time on these roads, and is estimated to improve welfare for the average Austin resident anywhere in the region, once revenues are redistributed. Bridge tolls would be successful in redistributing traffic, while the downtown area appears highly sensitive to cordon tolls.