Economic Policies and Mobility Behaviour

Devi Karuna Brands

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD-Thesis - Research and graduation internal

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This thesis demonstrates and confirms that economic policies can, both intentionally as well as unintentionally, affect mobility behaviour to a substantial extent. With respect to intentionally affecting behaviour, it specifically focusses on tradable mobility permits, as an alternative to congestion charges that usually lack sufficient public support. Although attention in the literature for tradable permits, as a promising viable policy to reduce congestion, has been increasing, few empirical tests of the concept have been previously presented. This thesis presents initial evidence that tradable permits do not only function well in theory, but also do so in practice. It presents and empirically tests a complete design of a market for tradable permits, both in terms of the conceptual set-up of the market as well as its technical implementation. Survey responses, trading data and data on permit usage from the three conducted experiments indicate that most users understand how to use and trade the tradable permits. The empirical functioning of the market design has been demonstrated with a lab-in-the-field experiment, an experiment with real behaviour among students, and an 8-week experiment with tradable parking permits and real parking behaviour. As the number of participants in each of the experiments was relatively small, and the specific presented applications of tradable permits differ from applying permits to rush hour on the road, an important next step for future research is to conduct a large scale experiment with the latter application. Furthermore, a system of tradable permits could also be used for other purposes, as the presented results suggest that such a system is generally well understood by participants. In times of Covid-19, it could for example be used as a measure to ensure an efficient allocation of scarce space in public transport. With respect to unintentional effects of policy measures on mobility behaviour, this thesis shows that policies in seemingly unrelated domains can substantially affect such behaviour, and, in the case of reducing phone use fees, can result in a substantial increase in the number of vehicles involved in accidents. In conclusion, this thesis has empirically demonstrated that one specific economic policy, namely a tradable permit system, is sufficiently promising as a solution to transport externalities to warrant further, larger scale experiments and applications. It also has shown that new policies, in other domains than transportation, can have unintended and important consequences on mobility behaviour that need to be considered and addressed.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Verhoef, ET, Supervisor
  • Koster, PR, Co-supervisor
Award date25 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2021


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