METRANS

11-20 The Impact of the Economic Recession on Truck Traffic in Los Angeles

Project Number

11-20

Project Summary

The Impact of the Economic Recession on Truck Traffic in Los Angeles

Project Status

Complete

Project Report

Year

2011

Topic Area

Goods Movement & International Trade

P.I. Name & Address

Associate Professor, Department of Economics; College of Liberal Arts
California State University Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90840-4607
United States
chen.ng@csulb.edu

Project Objective:
Traffic congestion and its implications are a major concern for modern metropolitan areas. Los Angeles has been consistently ranked the most congested metropolitan area in the country since the early 1980s. Researchers have well documented the many negative effects of traffic congestion, such as lost productivity from work due to more time spent driving, and increased fuel costs and emissions from idling. One of the factors contributing to traffic congestion in the Los Angeles area is the high truck traffic generated from freight movement; Los Angeles is tied with Chicago for the greatest volume of intercity truck freight in the country. Trucks that burn diesel are also a major source of air pollution, which may have negative health risks to local residents. As such, this project will address an important research question, what factors affect truck traffic in Southern California?

The high volume of truck traffic in this area is partly a result of goods movement from the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, which, combined, is the fifth largest port in the world. When the economy slid into recession in late 2007, it had a deep impact on both ports. Around the same time, fuel prices climbed to an all-time high, increasing the costs of truck transportation. Therefore, it is hypothesized that truck traffic declined significantly during this period. If fewer trucks are on the road, we should also observe less traffic congestion and possibly improved air quality as a result.

An empirical model will be used in this research project to show whether fluctuations in the economy and the price of diesel have an impact on truck flow and the ratio of truck traffic. Traffic data will be collected from the Caltrans Performance Measurement System (PeMS), which provides a rich data set on traffic patterns for California's major freeways. This project will focus on truck traffic patterns near the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach (especially on the Long Beach Freeway, I-710), since decreased demand for goods during the economic recession should dramatically decrease the movement of cargo from this area. It is hypothesized that truck flows are negatively impacted by declines in local economic indicators and by diesel prices.

Task Descriptions:
(1) Data Compilation and Analysis of Traffic Volumes
(2) Empirical Analysis
(3) General Project Tasks
(4) Deliverables

Milestones, Dates:
(1) August 2010 – October 2010
(2) November 2010 – February 2011
(3) March 2011 – April 2011
(4) May 2011 – June 2011

Total Budget:
$40,000

Student Involvement:
One Graduate Student, 12 months

Relationship to Other Research Projects:
Related to AR 05-01, AR 06-01, 08-11, 10-26; part of port monitoring and goods movement focus areas

Technology Transfer Activities:
Project report will be posted soon

Potential Benefits of the Project:
First, this research will provide insight into how truck traffic may change due to fluctuations in future economic conditions, which may be useful for future infrastructure changes and improvements. Second, if fuel prices do have a significant effect on truck volume, policy makers wishing to reduce congestion could perhaps do so by altering the price of diesel with a policy instrument such as a tax.

TRB Keywords:
Economics, Environment, Freight Transportation, Highways, Operations and Traffic Management, Policy

Primary Subject:
1p.3 To show whether fluctuations in the economy and the price of diesel have an impact on truck flow and the ratio of truck traffic.