Paying people to stay in the path of the storm.


By now you have seen pictures of the long lines of cars leaving Texas.  Some reports suggest average speeds of one mile per hour.  It is unlikely that such a result is optimal.

Randall Parker suggested closing or limiting some of the on-ramps to freeways to limit clogging.  Or perhaps we should have given priority to cars with more passengers, in part to encourage "car pooling."  I’ve also heard rumors that the police closed off too many secondary roads.  We went from paying too little attention to evacuation (Katrina) to pushing evacuation very hard (Rita), but unaware of its full difficulties (not to mention the exploding bus full of old people).

The economist recoils at the idea of quantity restrictions on cars.  Might there be a way to use the price system?  Having police collect tolls at the major highways is one option, but the very process would slow down traffic.  And it doesn’t sound exactly fair to the poor.  So how about a more devious, Swiftian idea?  Pay people who stay behind.  By the day, of course.  And only if they own cars.


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