Linklist: August 22, 2011

Pedicabs want to hit street in rush hour | “A small group of drivers is actually asking to be able to drive during rush hour in Minneapolis. They’re owners and operators of pedicabs, the rickshaw-like vehicles that have become a feature of downtown street life. They’re seeking to amend a city ordinance so they can operate between 4 and 6 p.m., a period during which they’re now banned from toting passengers, eliminating some of their Twins pregame market share.”

Time Use During Recessions: “We use data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), covering both the recent recession and the pre-recessionary period, to explore how foregone market work hours are allocated to other activities over the business cycle. Given the short time series, it is hard to distinguish business cycle effects from low frequency trends by simply comparing time spent on a given category prior to the recession with time spent on that category during the recession. Instead, we identify the business cycle effects on time use using cross state variation with respect to the severity of the recessions. We find that roughly 30% to 40% of the foregone market work hours are allocated to increased home production. Additionally, 30% of the foregone hours are allocated to increased sleep time and increased television watching. Other leisure activities absorb 20% of the foregone market work hours.”

Equity of Evolving Transportation Finance Mechanisms

Equity of Evolving Transportation Finance Mechanisms

TRB Special Report 303: Equity of Evolving Transportation Finance Mechanisms addresses the equity of alternatives to current transportation finance mechanisms, notably mechanisms based on tolling and road use metering (i.e., road pricing). The committee that developed the report concluded that broad generalizations about the fairness of high-occupancy toll lanes, cordon tolls, and other evolving mechanisms oversimplify the reality and are misleading. The fairness of a given type of finance mechanism depends on how it is structured, what transportation alternatives are offered to users, and which aspects of equity are deemed most important.

The committee identified the various dimensions of equity important for public policy debates about evolving finance mechanisms, proposed specific issues for policy makers to consider when evolving mechanisms are proposed, and identified areas where future research is needed for a better understanding of the equity implications of such mechanisms.

To move beyond superficial analysis, the report calls on policy makers to insist on well-designed studies of transportation finance that yield reliable information about the likely distribution of burdens and benefits, and that facilitate comparison of a given finance strategy with alternatives. In addition, public policy makers who wish to promote equity should engage their constituents and other stakeholders early and often when considering the use of new or unfamiliar transportation finance mechanisms.

The report calls on researchers to explore further how people modify their use of the transportation system in response to changes in prices and services and the consequences of these responses. It also recommends the development of a handbook for state and local governments describing procedures for conducting equity analyses of transportation finance policies.

To inform the development of its report, the committee commissioned four papers. Links to the papers are below:
• The Incidence of Public Finance Schemes
• The Empirical Research on the Social Equity of Gas Taxes, Emissions Fees, and Congestion Charges
• Remediating Inequity in Transportation Finance
• Equity, Pricing, and Surface Transportation Politics

I served on the committee that helped TRB draft the report and learned a lot from colleagues and those who presented to us. Online now is the pre-publication version of the report.