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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Measuring Traffic Congestion


We develop a traffic congestion index using data for California highways from 1976 through 1994. The technique yields a congestion measure which has several advantages. The index developed here can be applied to counties, urbanized areas, highway segments, or other portions of geographic areas or highway networks. The index allows cross-sectional and time series comparisons which have only rarely been possible. Most importantly, the congestion index developed here is based on data which are readily available. We compare our index to others based on Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) data, and illustrate similarities and differences. We also discuss important issues for future research and data collection efforts which can contribute to more refined congestion measurement.

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