Alternate Route: Toward Efficient Urban Transportation

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Brookings Institution Press, 2010 M12 1 - 136 pages

Urban transportation problems abound across America, including jammed highways during rush-hours, deteriorating bus service, and strong pressures to build new rail systems. Most solutions attempt either to increase transportation capacity (by building more roads and expanding mass transit) or to manage existing capacity (through HOV restrictions, exclusive bus lanes, and employer-based policies such as flexible work hours). This book develops an alternative solution to urban transportation problems based on economic analysis, but well aware of the political constraints on policymakers. The authors estimate that efficient pricing and service policies could save more than $10 billion in annual net benefits over current practices, but argue that powerful, entrenched political and institutional forces will continue to thwart efficient economic solutions to improve urban transportation. They believe, however, that some form of privatization would likely improve social welfare more than an efficient public sector system. Facing fewer operating restrictions, greater economic incentives, and stronger competitive pressures, private suppliers could substantially improve the efficiency of urban operations and offer services that are more responsive to the needs of all types of travelers. The authors conclude that policymakers have bestowed huge benefits on the public by allowing the private sector to play a leading and unencumbered role in the provision of intercity transportation. Public officials should take the next step and allow the private sector to play a leading role in the provision of urban transportation.


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The Urban Transit Operating and Institutional Environment
Travelers Preferences for Urban Transportation
The Economic Effects of NetBenefit Maximization
Sources of Inefficiencies
An Alternative Route Privatization
Average Automobile Speeds
Means for Modal Attributes by Commuting Distance
Parameter Estimates of Rail Attribute Equations
Sources of the Welfare Loss from Transit Based on Generalized Least Squares Estimation

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Page 3 - An electric railway with the capacity for a "heavy volume" of traffic and characterized by exclusive rights-of-way, multi-car trains, high speed and rapid acceleration, sophisticated signaling, and high platform loading.
Page 14 - Kenneth A. Small, Clifford Winston, and Carol A. Evans, Road Work: A New Highway Pricing and Investment Policy (Brookings, 1989).
Page 18 - ... Generalizing from this example, the trillion dollars spent over the next 20 years might result in expanded transportation capacity that eventually faces the same problems as before. This is an illustration of Downs's (1962) law: On urban commuter expressways, peak-hour traffic congestion rises to meet maximum capacity, because commuters shift from less preferred modes and times of day. This cycle can be broken only if infrastructure is priced and invested in more efficiently. If the pothole-laden...

About the author (2010)

Clifford Winston is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. Among his previous books is Deregulation of Network Industries: What's Next? coedited with Sam Peltzman (AEI-Brookings, 2000). Chad Shirley is a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley.

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