Sunday, April 03, 2011

Competing spreadhseets

Today's LA Times has this story about the soon-to-open LA Expo light-rail line.  Officials expect 27,000 boardings by 2020 and have spent $931 million to date.  There will also be operating costs in the ballpark of what LA's MTA now spends on its existing light-rail lines.  The Expo line does not look promising.

This coincides with the current issue of Public Works Management and Policy which includes the Gordon-Kolesar rail transit cost-benefit analysis that I have blogged about before, along with a competing cost-benefit analysis by Robert Cervero and Erick Guerra and Commentary by Lisa Schweitzer.

For teachers of cost-benefit analysis, the two side-by-side studies provide interesting case-study fodder.  The assumptions differ, the findings are (in my view) broadly similar, but the authors of the two studies emphasize different conclusions and policy recommendations.

Every worthy cost-benefit analysis ends with the caveat that there is more to life than just the costs and benefits that we have accounted for (or can account for).  And so it is here.  But competing spreadsheets, when we can build them, is much better than competing rhetoric.