Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More good news needed

Just below is the abstract of a recent article by Randall Holcombe and DeEdgar Williams, ("Urban Sprawl and Transportation Externalities") published in the Winter 2010 Review of Regional Studies:
One argument in support of minimizing urban sprawl is that sprawl creates transportation externalities. A problem with empirically examining the relationship between sprawl and transportation externalities is that sprawl is a difficult concept to quantify. This paper uses a measure of sprawl designed by Ewing, Pendall, and Chen (2002) to examine the relationship between sprawl and commute times, automobile ownership, miles driven, fatal auto accidents, air pollution, and highway expenditures. An empirical investigation finds that there is no statistically significant relationship between sprawl and any of these transportation externalities.
Holcombe is among the best researchers in urban economics and the two authors utilize the Ewing-Pendall-Chen measure of "sprawl". 

But who cares?  "Sprawl" is auto-oriented development.  And anti-auto-anti-modernity sentiment runs very deep. 

This is how and why we get many of the transportation policies we get. This morning's LA Times includes a report on the latest challenge to the California bullet train plan.  It appears that backers had assumed a cost of ten cents per-passenger mile but the outside study fnds that international experience is much close to to 40-50 cents per passenger-mile.

Today's WSJ includes "An Economic Approach to the Environment ... Resources are limited.  Cost-benefit analysis can inform our decisions" by Bjorn Lomborg.  He mentions that:
In 2004 and 2008, we commissioned panels of more than 50 world-class economists—including several Nobel laureates—to assess responses to global problems based on volumes of new cost-benefit analysis research. In 2004, the project recommended (and thereby helped catalyze) greater spending on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. In 2008, it led to more investment in the delivery of micronutrients to malnourished populations.
So there is some grounds for optimism in public policy.  Good news is always welcome.