How much is your time worth? Twice as much as you think

People tend to bristle at road pricing when they think of it in the abstract, but they’re friendlier to it when they experience it firsthand. Why? Part of the reason is because we value our time more than we say we do:

[UC Irvine economist David] Brownstone looked at the preferences of travelers on a stretch of the Escondido (I-15) Freeway in San Diego County, where express toll lanes are available. He found a wide gap between what people say in surveys about the value of their time and what they actually do when given the chance to save time by paying a toll. The behavior of commuters on the I-15 indicates they value their time about twice as much as they say they do in surveys, Brownstone found. His results affirm a tendency found in other studies, he said.

UCI’s Ken Small worked on putting a dollar figure on how much we value our time:

Small studied the choices of people who travel on the 91, whether they use the Express Lanes or not. By inputting data about lane choices, time savings and toll prices into a computer, he found that the value drivers placed on travel time varied widely, but averaged about $20 an hour.

More here. The gap between what people say and what they do is also very apparent when they consider public transit. But in this case, transit looks much better in theory than in practice. Folks who live in areas that don’t have extensive transit systems often dream about zipping past congestion in a sleek rail car and those who have big transit systems like them more than they use them.