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Illusion of Motion: Variation of Subjective Value of Travel Time on Freeways and Ramp Meters

  • Design
  • Engineering


This paper explores drivers' subjective value of time under moving and stopped freeway travel conditions using a stated preference survey. Unlike previous studies that assume a constant value of time, this research relates perceived satisfaction of a freeway trip to its quality indicators. Sixty-nine subjects in the Twin Cities are asked in the survey to rank sixteen driving scenarios in four condition sets with different durations of ramp wait and freeway travel. Several utility functions are specified where the weight of ramp delay is a function of the length of the delay itself and subject specific variables, and the resulting choice models estimated using rank-ordered logit and binary logit techniques. Results suggest that drivers perceive ramp wait as more onerous than freeway travel. Drivers also weight each minute of ramp wait more heavily as the length of the delay gets longer. Although the subjects show some tolerance to the first several minutes of ramp delay (less than 5 minutes), they perceive long delays as much as twelve times more onerous than time in motion. The derived weighting function for ramp wait can improve the design of freeway traffic control strategies that trade-off freeway delay with ramp wait. The findings also enable a more utility-based approach for freeway operations than the current method which has the engineering efficiency objective of minimizing total system delay or maximizing throughput. Minimizing total perceived travel time is probably more appropriate than minimizing total absolute travel time which does not take into account driver acceptance. The weighting function can also be easily transformed into a value of time function for project evaluation purposes.

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