Linklist: February 8, 2012

| 1 Comment

KurzweilAI: OpenStax College plans free textbooks for popular college courses [The article doesn't even mention wikibooks like Fundamentals of Transportation. Free is there if you want it.]


John Whitehead @ Environmental Economics: It is hard to stifle my outrage when the government asks those who benefit to pay [See also: A New Transportation Federalism

David King @ Getting from here to there: An Allegory for Justifying Transportation Investments: A Brand New Bathroom!

"What about the future benefits? There are potentially many from a new bathroom such as lower water flow and nicer fixtures. Yet these could also be achieved through remodeling the existing bathrooms, which will need maintenance and upkeep anyway. Maybe everyone would be better off with a new hot water heater instead so there is always adequate warm water for the existing showers. A new bathroom may allow the family to put off fixing up their old bathrooms, but not forever, and money spent on a new bathroom cannot be spent on an existing bathroom. "


Randal O'Toole @ The Antiplanner:

The Seductive Appeal of Value-Capture Finance: "Today, the Antiplanner is in North Carolina, where transit agencies seem to be competing to plan the wackiest, most-expensive rail transit lines that few people will ever use. Right now, the leading contender must be Raleigh, which (according to a paper by UNC-Charlotte transport professor David Hartgen and transit accountant Tom Rubin) is planning a light-rail line that will cost $33 per trip and a commuter-rail line that will cost $92 per trip.

The Antiplanner, however, is in Charlotte looking at a proposed commuter-rail line that is expected to cost more than $450 million to start up and is projected to carry only about 5,600 trips (meaning 2,800 round trips) a day in 2025. The Antiplanner calculates that, for about the same price as the rail line, taxpayers could give every one of the 2,800 riders a brand-new Toyota Prius every other year for the life of the rail project.
...
If the rail line were truly worthwhile, the users themselves would be glad to pay for it. It is only because it is so much more expensive (not to mention less convenient) than the alternatives that users won’t pay for it. Asking others to pay based on some mythical “value capture” is simply deceptive.
"

Tom Vanderbilt @ Wired: Mapping the Road Ahead for Autonomous Cars

Via JW: And in late-breaking news, Economists favor congestion pricing: Poll Results | IGM Forum

1 Comment

Regarding John Whitehead post, ”It is Hard to Stifle My Outrage When the Government Asks Those Who Benefit to Pay”[1]. I thought that maybe I had something to add that could cut to the heart of the matter. That come to the same conclusion as Dr. Whitehead.

Tolls and user fees are excellent instruments to create value, but this multi-billion dollar expenditure is unlikely to be such an occasion.

The Draft Environmental Assessment, Purpose and Need, Page 13, Table 1-5, Statewide Average[2] shows that fewer people will use I-95 if they have to pay the toll compared to no build alternative. If fewer people are using I-95, it would seem that toll plus expansion has increased the overall cost to users based on the laws of supply and demand.

This can be seen quite simply by looking at the need to provide $0.19 in benefit to the users to match the toll collected. If the expanded I-95 lets everyone drive at 70mph on the corridor, and in the year of opening people value their time on average at $20/hour, then driving at 70mph with 19 cent toll is equivalent to driving at 42mph without a toll. This is equivalent to Level of Service D that the planners are trying to avoid. I would add that low income users would feel even more disadvantaged with $10/hr value of time. It makes the toll chill equal to 30 mph.

While I have driven the corridor a decade ago and realize there are many large trucks the current traffic, according to Google Maps[3], is free flowing on Friday afternoon at 5:30pm typically the worst time for traffic. The proposed changes could mean very little if traffic volumes continue to hold steady as seen in the FHWA vehicle mile traveled (vmt) trends[4]. (I looked at the NC data but there was a 2 billion vmt discrepancy going from 2010 to 2011 that makes a good estimate of the recent NC trends hard to enumerate.)

I am a big supporter of no subsidies and user pays, but costumers still expect profits from their user fees that they pay. Users are smart enough to know there are intermediate solutions, phased solutions and new technology that can guide smarter investment in infrastructure.

[1] http://www.env-econ.net/2012/02/it-is-hard-to-stifle-my-outrage-when-the-government-asks-those-who-benefit-to-pay.html

[2] http://www.driving95.com/assets/pdfs/MeetingMaterials/EnvAssessment2012/001_Ch1_PurposeAndNeedForImprovements.pdf

[3] http://g.co/maps/qtjkc

[4] http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/travel_monitoring/11novtvt/figure1.cfm

David Levinson

Network Reliability in Practice

Evolving Transportation Networks

Place and Plexus

The Transportation Experience

Access to Destinations

Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Financing Transportation Networks

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on February 8, 2012 7:59 AM.

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