Congestion-Clearing Payments to Passengers

Peak period traffic congestion in California urban areas and across North America is ubiquitous. We are examining the hypothesis that enough commuters can be paid on a real-time basis to reduce peak traffic congestion substantially.  To do this, the researcher will:

  • Place the concept of congestion-clearing payments to passengers within a robust theoretical behavioral economics framework, and provide examples, observations, and practical methods for implementation, including gamification.
  • Develop a generalizable method (the Method) that enables analysis and interpretation of the flows of traffic in an urban highway corridor, travelers’ origins and destinations, their trip purpose and content, and the potential and propensity for people to travel as passengers at peak travel times (instead of as drivers), in return for different levels of payment;
  • Apply the Method on paper to an agreed urban highway corridor to guide methodology development.
  • Define a pilot project, to present to decision-makers in the agreed corridor that enables consideration of congestion-clearing payments to passengers as an alternative to other congestion management methodologies or facility expansion, to validate the Method for use in other locations.

Identify follow-up research and implementation approaches, including integration of the Method with existing and emerging carpooling and transit smartphone apps.


Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
San José State University

Principal Investigator: 

Paul Minett

PI Contact Information: 

Mineta Transportation Institute
San José State University
210 N. 4th St., 4th Floor
San Jose, CA 95112

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology – $73,627

Total Project Cost: 


Agency ID or Contract Number: 



September 2018 to July 2020

Project Number: