Cover image for Alternate route : toward efficient urban transportation
Alternate route : toward efficient urban transportation
Winston, Clifford, 1952-
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Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Brookings Institution Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
ix, 126 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction and overview -- The urban transit operating and institutional environment -- Travelers' preferences for urban transportation -- The economic effects of net-benefit maximization -- Sources of inefficiencies -- An alternative route : privatization -- Conclusion.
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HE308 .W56 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Winston and Shirley present an economic modeling study of US urban transportation, which concludes that a determined policy of efficient pricing and service levels for all the major modes (auto, car pool, bus, rail, taxi) would yield significant net benefits. Very large taxpayer savings in government operated services would more than offset large consumer losses from dramatic price increases on all modes, and from severe service cuts on transit to maintain efficient load factors. Further savings could be obtained by privatizing all modes and "freeing" them from political influence and inefficient policies. The authors base their findings on innovative and nicely described economic demand and supply models, which are, however, used to forecast the effects of often draconian changes in input variables far beyond the range of data used to estimate the models. In dealing with all modes, and even their ownership, this unusual book goes far beyond other works, including the principle author's previous excellent book on road pricing (Road Work: A New Highway Pricing and Investment Policy, with Kenneth A. Small and Carol A. Evans, CH, Mar'90). The references, footnotes, and index are extensive and excellent. Graduate and research collections. D. Brand formerly, Harvard University