Time pollution

Eric Britton (facebook link) rcently posted a message about a paper written in 1993 by John Whitelegg, and which was published in “The Ecologist“. Mr. Whitelegg is referenced in Wikipedia (here). The paper, called “Time pollution” is available online, for example (here), and still makes for interesting reading.

Mr. Whitelegg argues against the present understanding of the value of time (or time savings) in the cost/benefit analysis of road schemes- The article makes an interesting read. For example the author says:

“Although time-savings provide the principal economic justification for new road schemes, the expansion of the road network and the increase in traffic does not seem to have given people more free time. This is because pedestrian time is not evaluated, because cars are deceptively time-consuming, and because people tend to use what time savings they do gain to travel further”.


“The provision of high quality urban roads, large car parks and (soon) in-car navigation is dependent upon a high valuation of the time of the car occupant. Road schemes in Britain are justified by assigning a monetary value to the time they will save for motorists”.


“Current methods of (time) valuation provide an economic rationale for more travel and more pollution and justify the poor conditions for cyclists and pedestrians”.


Inter-disciplinary policies seem a bit wobbly. Looking at the UK for example, how can the value of one hour of someone sitting in a car be UK £27 (travel time cost policy) and the value of someone actually working be only £ 6.50 (UK national minimum wage policy, rate for people over 21, from here).


1974 – UK, John Whitelegg, “Time pollution“, The Ecologist, 1993


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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