Somewhat dated yet strangely timely research

6 11 2009

High speed rail appears to be the costliest of the three modes for the corridor analyzed. But rail’s full costs are close to highway transportation, and social costs are lower. However, highway’s lower per user infrastructure costs compensate for the greater external costs than high speed rail. Users bear many highway costs: accidents and congestion are imposed by one driver on another, and so are internal to the highway transportation system as a whole…The implications of this are clear and far reaching. They suggest that the most cost effective high speed rail configuration in California would be as an alternative to highway, rather than to air transportation: http://rational.ce.umn.edu/Papers/CaliforniaCorridor.pdf

The Heartland Light Rail project represents Kansas City’s biggest infrastructural investment in decades. The ballot initiative for the light rail project was voted down three times until it was finally approved in November 2006. Using best estimates of construction costs, operating expenses and federal funding, I estimate the net present value (NPV) of the project to be negative $343 million. From a standard NPV perspective the Kansas City light rail transit (LRT) system is unlikely to break even. However, if the negative externalities of auto travel and the positive externalities associated with light rail are properly accounted for in a comprehensive social costbenefit framework, investment in the Kansas City LRT system becomes an increasingly feasible option: http://www.nctr.usf.edu/jpt/pdf/JPT11-4Raju.pdf

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