This paper provides a framework for evaluating various proposals for reducing the costs of queueing for gasoline during energy shortages. Two types of proposals have been offered to address the problem: queue-management techniques, such as minimum or maximum purchase requirements, and demand-management techniques, such as improved transit service or bans on weekend sales of gasoline. The paper starts with the presumption that three bodies of literature are relevant to the problem: (a) literature on wartime hoarding and speculative demand, (b) literature on congestion pricing, and (c) literature on inventory management and transport cost trade-offs. Which of these bodies of literature is the dominant determinant of public behavior during gasoline shortages to a large degree determines the success of any proposed policy recommendation. For example, if the congestion cost imposed by waiting in line is necessary to equilibrate the total supply and demand for gasoline, queue-management techniques will be self-defeating, because reduced congestion costs only encourage more demand and reestablishment of the equilibrium. If speculative demand is a large factor in explaining shortages, controls on purchase size could reduce total demand, free up inventories in tanks for consumption, and reduce the length of queues. If the inventory cost-transport cost model prevails, lengthy queues will discourage speculative demand and lead to recommendations for demand management such as carpooling incentives and improved transit service. Without an adequate time-series data base to monitor the public's behavior during a crisis, a definitive policy recommendation is not possible and the debate will not be resolved. Based on the present state of knowledge, a combination of minimum purchase requirement and demand suppression (especially of the "carrot" variety through improved transit service and carpooling) is recommended. Even-odd plans do not have a sufficiently plausible conceptual rationale to make it likely that they will improve queueing costs materially. (Author)

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: References;
  • Pagination: pp 49-53
  • Monograph Title: Transportation Energy: Data, Forecasting, Policy, and Models
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00331030
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 0309031079
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Jun 12 1996 12:00AM