Category Archives: Transportation

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

Source: Robert S. Kirk, William J. Mallett, Congressional Research Service, R44674, CRS Report, January 11, 2018

Almost every conversation about surface transportation finance begins with a two-part question: What are the “needs” of the national transportation system, and how does the nation pay for them? This report is aimed almost entirely at discussing the “how to pay for them” question. Since 1956, federal surface transportation programs have been funded largely by taxes on motor fuels that flow into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). A steady increase in the revenues flowing into the HTF due to increased motor vehicle use and occasional increases in fuel tax rates accommodated growth in surface transportation spending over several decades. In 2001, though, trust fund revenues stopped growing faster than spending. In 2008 Congress began providing Treasury general fund transfers to keep the HTF solvent….

What Does Telecommuting’s Rise Mean for Traffic and Transit?

Source: Mike Maciag, Governing, October 30, 2017

…. Americans primarily working from home recorded its largest ever year-over-year increase in 2016, climbing to 5 percent of the workforce. Using the Census estimates, we compared each metro area’s average share of workers telecommuting in 2015 and 2016 with averages for 2006 and 2007. In 186 of the 252 areas with comparable data, the share increased. If this trend continues, Americans working from home will soon overtake the share of people who use public transportation, as it already has in many regions. The slow but steady shift carries numerous potential implications for transportation systems…..

The Direct and Indirect (Spillover) Effects of Productive Government Spending on State Economic Growth

Source: Andrew Ojede, Bebonchu Atems, Steven Yamarik, Growth and Change, Early View, September 25, 2017
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From the abstract:
Using data on 48 contiguous U.S. states and a spatial econometric approach, this paper examines short- and long-run effects of productive higher education and highway infrastructure spending financed by different revenue sources on state economic growth. Following the Lagrange Multiplier, Wald, and Likelihood Ratio tests, the data are found to be characterized by both spatial lag and spatial error processes, leading to the estimation of a dynamic spatial Durbin model. By decomposing results of the dynamic spatial Durbin model into short- and long-run direct as well as indirect (spillover) effects, we show that accounting for spillover effects provides a more comprehensive approach to uncovering the effects of productive government spending on growth. We find that, regardless of the financing source, productive higher education and highway spending have statistically significant short- and long-run direct as well as spillover effects on state income growth.

Work organization, health, and obesity in urban transit operators: A qualitative study

Source: Marnie Dobson, BongKyoo Choi and Peter L. Schnall, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, First published: 18 August 2017
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From the abstract:
Urban transit operators have high rates of obesity, hypertension, and other cardiovascular risk-factors compared to other occupations. There have been few qualitative studies exploring the interrelationships between the organization of transit work, stress, and health including obesity, from the perspective of operators.

Five focus groups were conducted at five Divisions in a transit authority in Southern California and included 65 bus and rail operators.

Operators reported a great deal of stress related to their work, including 1) time pressures and lack of recovery time; 2) long work shifts and overtime; 3) feeling unsafe when dealing with the public; 4) lack of respect from supervisors and management. Operators believed stressful working conditions negatively impacted their health and weight.

This qualitative study yielded new as well as confirmatory data about stress and transit work organization, health, and weight in operators. This study will add to future survey research and interventions in this population.

Spotlight: Building America

Source: Capitol Ideas, Vol. 60 no. 3, May/June 2017

Articles include:
Bridging Partnerships: How Four States Found Funds to Build
By Sean Slone

In February 2016, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed into law a plan to spend $4.8 billion on state infrastructure over the next 10 years. RhodeWorks, as the plan is known, received significant attention for including a new funding mechanism—tolls on heavy commercial trucks—and a focus on bringing the state’s aging bridges up to snuff.

Fueling Transportation Revenues
By Sean Slone

If the recent pattern holds, 2017 could end up being a big year for state transportation funding efforts. In 2013, six states approved major transportation packages. In 2015, eight states followed suit. The intervening even-numbered years saw less activity, perhaps owing to shorter legislative sessions in some states and re-election concerns. But transportation policy analysts are confident this year won’t buck the odd-number year trend for a simple reason: It’s time.

Help Wanted: Prioritizing Deferred Maintenance
By Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene

President Donald Trump’s promise to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure has raised the nation’s awareness about infrastructure needs in all 50 states. Above and beyond the desire or need for infrastructure additions, it’s clear that the crumbling and aging bridges, roads, water pipes and buildings currently in place need attention. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently graded the nation’s infrastructure at a D+; the same as it was the previous year.

Much ado about nothing? – A meta-analysis of the relationship between infrastructure and economic growth

Source: Johan Holmgren, Axel Merkel, Research in Transportation Economics, In Press – Corrected Proof, Available online 10 May 2017
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From the abstract:
Investing in infrastructure is often seen as an important part of economic policy, at the regional, national as well as international level. Investing in infrastructure is often presented as a solution to a number of problems such as unemployment, depopulation of rural areas and low economic activity. A number of studies have tried to estimate the effects on production from investing in infrastructure. The aim of this study is therefore to provide a systematic analysis of previous studies of this relationship. For that purpose, a meta-analysis of 776 estimates of elasticity of production with respect to infrastructure, was performed. The estimated effect (elasticity of production) of investing in infrastructure varies from −0.06 to 0.52. The effects appear to vary depending on the type of infrastructure in with the investment is made as well as between industries. It is also found that the estimated effects exhibiting high precision, are clustered around zero. This is to say that the higher the reliability of the estimate, the closer it is to zero.

An integrated model for road capacity choice and cordon toll pricing

Source: Qianwen Guo, Yanshuo Sun, Zhi-Chun Li, Zhongfei Li, Research in Transportation Economics, In Press – Corrected Proof, Available online 2 May 2017
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From the abstract:
In this paper, an analytical model is proposed to address road capacity choice and cordon toll pricing issues for an urban transportation corridor. In the proposed model, the road capacity, toll location and level are considered as decision variables, and the effects of self-financing and subsidy constraints on these variables are explored. It has been shown in the numerical studies that the self-financing requirement can lead to a decreased social welfare, and subsidies in certain ranges are welfare-improving. Results also show that subsidy increments yield disproportionately smaller welfare improvements, which is a sign of low efficiency.
From internal efficiency to societal benefits – Multi modal transport safety agency’s socio-economic impact analysis
Source: Petri Mononen, Pekka Leviäkangas, Harri Haapasalo, Research in Transportation Economics, In Press – Corrected Proof, Available online 9 May 2017
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From the abstract:
Pressures to cut public expenditure and to reach high value for money of projects that use scarce public money are evident across the globe. At the same time there seems to be a lack of decision support tools for pin-pointing whether public services are yielding net benefits. Accountability is called for but the ‘accounting systems’ that validate the right choices in service delivery are not yet thoroughly established. As a response, an impact evaluation via a real-world case study of a multi-modal transport safety agency is presented. The main contribution of this article is methodological, including a summary of study cordoning; description of methods to map impact mechanisms; quantification of socio-economic impacts of services; the benefit to cost (B/C) appraisal of services and service bundles, and evaluation of an agency’s overall B/C ratio by applying the findings to systems level. The described analytical process is repeatable elsewhere with modifications or as it stands.

Regional differences in the determinants of Oregon VMT

Source: Yue Ke, B. Starr McMullen, Research in Transportation Economics, In Press – Corrected Proof, Available online 22 March 2017
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From the abstract:
Road user charges (RUCs) in the form of per mile charges have been suggested as an alternative to fuel taxes to help keep up with the costs of maintaining and expanding public road systems. The success of a RUC in providing for the long term stability of highway finance depends partly on how drivers respond to changes in the tax structure and also other determinants of driving behavior. Region specific characteristics, such as public transit accessibility and biking infrastructure, may also affect vehicle miles traveled (VMT) demand. This paper uses econometric techniques to examine the determinants of VMT using data from the Oregon Household Activities Survey (OHAS). We use standard OLS regression to examine the impact of urban density, household income, fuel cost, transit mileage, household location, and additional household characteristics on VMT. Preliminary results show that statewide Oregon demand for VMT is positively and significantly impacted by household income. Statewide, fuel price, transit use and population density are all found to be statistically significant and negatively related to household VMT. However, at the regional level some of these variables lose significance. Holding all factors constant, household VMT is found to differ by region as well as by population density.

Cab Drivers Union Says Chicago Taxi Industry Is Nearing Collapse

Source: Jeff Schuhrke, In These Times, June 13, 2017

….But with the introduction of Uber and other rideshare companies to the city—which can operate without the expensive, city-issued medallions—Aikins has seen his clientele plummet over the past three years, making it increasingly hard to keep up with his medallion loan payments.

Across the city, the number of taxi rides dropped from 2.29 million in January 2014 to 1.1 million in January 2017, according to a report released recently by Cab Drivers United, AFSCME Local 2500 (CDU). As a result, the average monthly income per medallion has fallen by $2,000 during the same time…..

….In addition to repaying loans on their medallions, taxi operators also have to pay thousands of dollars each year in city expenses, like the ground transportation tax and medallion license renewal fee—expenses that rideshare drivers are not subject to.

CDU says the number of rideshare vehicles in Chicago now exceeds 227,000, while 42 percent of the city’s taxis didn’t pick up a single passenger this March. The union stresses that the decline of the taxi industry is a loss for the broader public. Unlike most rideshare vehicles, taxis serve people without bank accounts by accepting cash, and they also have more stringent requirements on providing access to people with disabilities…..