March 5


Traffic Study Prices?

By Mike Spack

March 5, 2010

I'm fortunate enough to still be getting calls about traffic studies, although clients seem to be more price conscious than ever.  I don't blame them at all (I asked my accountant if there is any way we could save money on this year's tax prep and he's going to charge me about 25% less in exchange for filing an extension and doing my taxes this summer during their less busy time).

I've written in the past about the complicated procedure for developing the traffic study scope.  But how does a developer know if they are getting a fair price for that scope?  Based on my experience in the Midwest, I developed the matrix below so a developer can plug in the variables quoted in the traffic study proposal and see if they are getting a fair price.  There may be complicating factors that would drive up the cost of a traffic study, but I recommend getting a second proposal if the quoted price seems out of whack after you cost it out with the unit prices below.

Unit Prices for Costing a Traffic Study


Unit Price

Data Collection (peak hour count are per intersection)



AM Peak Hour Counts (w/ stop signs)



AM Peak Hour Counts (w/ signals)



PM Peak Hour Counts (w/ stop signs)



PM Peak Hour Counts (w/ signals)



Daily Traffic Counts (mechanically done)





Study Intersections in AM Peak Hour (assumes PM Peak Hour is being done as well)



Study Intersections in PM Peak Hour



Land Uses



Forecast Years



Other (as required by reviewing agency)


Document Preparation (produce one or the other)


Memorandum: Fee = 10% of data + analysis total cost


Full Report: Fee = 30% of data + analysis total cost









FEE = Sum of Each Line Item (Quantity x Unit Price)

  • Yes – under analysis the fee for the p.m. and a.m. line items should be multiplied by the number of intersections.

  • What are land uses and forecasts and how are they estimated?
    I am updating an existing traffic study and yours is the only site I have found that has actual cost info.

  • Land uses refers to the general categories you’ll be forecasting for – typically office, retail, and/or residential (i.e. it doesn’t matter how many office buildings you have on the site because all of their traffic will be distributed on the roadway network with the same distribution pattern).
    Forecast Years refers to the number of future year scenarios you’ll need to prepare traffic forecasts for (i.e. 2012 or 2012+2032).
    ITE’s Transportation Impact Analyses for Site Development is a good primer on traffic studies and will help define these better for you. Although it doesn’t give any information on pricing.

  • Mike,
    What does the item “Study Intersection in AM Peak Hour” entail? Looking at the traffic study I am working with, I am assuming it is developing a Level of Service (LOS) for each intersection. Is this a good assumption?

  • What might be fair prices for spot speed studies, sight-distance studies, crash analyses, or school zone program studies? Just wondering what kind of ballpark figures are involved.

  • I understand that these estimates are fairly old, but I think your estimates are a little out of whack and should be updated. While they could be in the ballpark for studies in small Midwest towns and counties, in large metropolitan areas on the west coast these figures are extremely low. For one, you cannot get certified traffic counts for $200 because all of the agencies out here require 24-hour counts. Even if the agency will allow you to get away with peak-hour data, the surveyors must be certified and will charge $400+ because you will need at least two hours of data (unless somehow you happen to already know the peak-hour). 24-hour counts cost in the neighborhood of $1000 per intersection and $600-$800 per segment.

    $500 per intersection for AM and PM peak hour analyses? I don’t know how many scenarios they require in your area, but out here in the People’s Republic of California, agencies are requiring as many as EIGHT different scenarios (you can double that if your development generates more than 30% truck traffic).

    Sadly your estimates cannot apply to areas where wages, taxes, and development fees are ridiculously high. So you can pretty much multiply these numbers by a factor of 3 if your project is somewhere like Los Angeles, San Francisco, (and I presume) New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., Miami, and outlying areas.

    You also haven’t included any costs for on-site circulation, proposing impact mitigations, or mitigation fair-share cost calculations. Nor have you considered other local project traffic data that must be added to your project’s traffic. Any other local projects that have not had traffic studies prepared yet will require time and additional exhibits to work up distributions and trip generations for these projects.

    In short, your numbers are EXTREMELY low, at least for where I live and work. Any developers who use this as their guide for what a traffic study is likely to cost will be very disappointed or feel ripped off if their project is in a populated area. The numbers on this website should be considered as the absolute most rock-bottom fees and NOT the general rule when it comes to traffic studies.

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    Mike Spack

    My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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