Are 4 minutes and $2 priceless to you?

January 12, 2011 4:48:41 PM PST
How much are four minutes worth to you? Fifty cents? A dollar? How about $2? It is a pertinent question if you commute the Bay Bridge during rush hour because on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission announced preliminary results from a study that links congestion with toll increases.

You may recall that last July, the MTC raised prices from four to $6 between the peak periods of 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. As a consequence, the MTC says it has reduced the delay from 27 to 23 minutes for commuters traveling on Interstate 80, entering San Francisco.

Four minutes become 20 over a five-day week, an hour over three weeks, 16 hours in a year, and all for an additional $416 in tolls. The MTC sees potential savings in fuel consumption and better air quality. Revenues, however, remain fairly flat.

But, it does go to show that even small economic incentives or disincentives can add up in the material world, even when measured four minutes at a time.