THE FUTURE OF URBAN TRANSPORTATION: AN ECONOMIST'S PERSPECTIVE

The focus of this paper is primarily of how incomes and prices affect travel behavior and closely related process of urban development. This assessment reveals that rapid increases in car ownership and use, coincident declines in transit use, and changes in urban development patterns are principally the result of the four-fold increase in per capita incomes since 1900, with sympathetic changes in the relative prices of private and public transportation perhaps having a small facilitating role. The evaluation provides almost no support for the widely held belief that oil reserves are almost no support for the widely held belief that oil reserves are almost depleted and that skyrocketing gasoline prices will force major changes in American lifestyles. Although analysts are unable to predict precise crude oil prices in ten to twenty years, the consensus of their estimates suggests much smaller price increases than those of public debate. Thus, with federally mandated standards regarding fuel efficiency of private automobiles, per mile automobile operating costs could actually be reduced, thereby moderately encouraging greater automobile use. More importantly, the growth in per capita income is likely to continue, albeit at a somewhat reduced rate. Thus, it follows that past trends of urban transportation will continue, though at a diminished rate. The final section of this paper briefly considers the distortions and inefficiencies caused by the underpricing of streets and roads in dense, congested areas. Results from a Boston case study indicate that significant benefits would accrue from either parking surcharges or area licenses for the use of downtown streets during peak periods, but that local governments are unlikely to adopt such measures without strong incentives and leadership by federal officials. That example is but one instance where the proper pricing of publicly supplied resources would result in both equity and efficiency gains.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Prepared for the Aspen Conference on Future Urban Transportation, Aspen, Colorado, June 3-7, 1979.
  • Corporate Authors:

    International Business Services, Incorporated

    Department of City and Regional Planning
    Cambridge, MA  USA  02138
  • Authors:
    • Kain, J F
  • Publication Date: 1979-5

Media Info

  • Features: Figures; Tables;
  • Pagination: 38 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00322899
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: D79-12
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jan 19 1981 12:00AM