Economic Impacts Of Transportation: Normative Considerations
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Economic Impacts Of Transportation: Normative Considerations

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  • English

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    • Alternative Title:
      Transportation: The Employment and Land Use Implications
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    • Abstract:
      Ideally, transportation planning and operating policy is carried out by considering a number of alternatives, estimating what difference it made whether we chose one alternative or another, and then attempting to place values on the differences so as to select the most satisfactory alternative. In practice, we do a poor job of separating the second of these (esti­mating the impacts) from the third (evaluation). Because transportation has economic and development impacts, it is (implicitly) thought to be good; more transportation would be better, except by those who believe that more transportation is always bad. Laying out the consequences of alternatives is a descriptive task; how to evaluate those consequences is a normative task. These two topics can be differentiated as "economic impacts" (the positive questions) and "benefit-cost analysis" (the normative question).1 These terms are set forth as preliminary definitions of the dichotomy emphasized in this paper. If transportation were costless -- consumed no resources, such as concrete and clean air - - then more transportation would always be better than less. If there is a cost, this means that something else has to be given up in order to get more transportation. If something has to be given up, it is possible that the least valuable thing given up is still more valuable than the transportation services produced by giving it up. Therefore, it is just as possible to have too much transportation as too little, having too much is just as bad as having too little, and having transportation that is too cheap (to the user) is no better than having transportation that is too expensive. Too much transportation means that the resources used to produce the last increment of transportation would have produced more value had they been used for something else.
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