One of the major problems that students attending classes in Hamilton face is that they see unusually high traffic on stairways during the few minutes before and after class. This creates a bottleneck situation due to a large number of students competing for a tiny space (two narrow stairways) during specific time periods. Naturally, one solution would be to divert some of the students away from the two stairways by offering them alternative ways of transportation. The only alternative route would be the Hamilton elevator, which is equally congested and incredibly slow and inefficient. Some might argue that the school should increase capacity – building a new stairway. However, the extra capacity will not cause additional students to use the stairs because the total number of students taking classes in Hamilton is fixed. Moreover, this tactic can be rather difficult to implement, as the school is likely unwilling to spend extra money to renovate the building and build an entire new stairway. If we cannot tackle the congestion spatially, we should focus on solving the problem temporally.
The first way to alleviate the congestion problem on stairs would simply be to do nothing. All students think logically and make rational decisions; if they know that the stairs will be crammed during particular times of the day, they will choose to go to classes early or leave classrooms late to avoid being stuck on the stairs. This come-as-you-please system, however, comes with two costs for the students – the waiting cost and the schedule delay cost. When students wait on the stairs, they waste time waiting — known as the waiting cost. However, when they decide to get up early to use the stairs without congestion, they waste the time they could have spent sleeping or reading a few extra pages of book in Butler. Since these two costs are substitutes (people who want to avoid waiting time on the stairs have to get up early), the total cost figure for every student will be the same. Every student’s total cost depends on the total length of time for all students to get in class using the stairs. On the other hand, the benefit of such a tactic of do-nothing will be that the administration does not have to design or implement any specific type of solution, thereby minimizing the administration’s effort overall.
Yet another alternative would be to implement a reservation system for using the stairs. For instance, people can book when exactly they want to use the stairs and receive a pass to use the stairs at a particular time. This will eliminate waiting costs, but there would still be schedule delay costs. Another problem is that people who can book the time to use the stairs at precisely the few minutes before or after each class can benefit a lot more from this system than people who get the earliest reservation time since they have to experience the highest schedule delay cost. Nonetheless, this policy will reduce the overall cost substantially. To the administration, unfortunately, this will require the implementation of an entirely new online reservation system and even install passes at Hamilton, similar to those in Lerner Hall. Many would say that it is a little too far-fetched.
Finally, a more sophisticated solution would be congestion pricing, in which people will bear the cost that they impose on others through a Pigouvian tax. Everyone will face exactly the same cost, choosing to pay more to avoid schedule delay cost or vice versa. Students do not have to reserve time online because they can simply enter the stairs and they will be charged according to the time that they start to use the stairs. For instance, when they enter the stairs at 10:00 for the 10:10 class, they will be charged the price for that 10:00 moment for using the stairs. Even though the total cost for student is the same as that of come-as-you-please system, the administration is collecting a numeric fee from students that they can rebate to student at the end. Certainly, the Dean cannot actually charge student dollar amounts for using the stairs but they can use credits as a substitute for actual money. The students will then benefit from this system.