Infrastructure and Land Policies

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy recently publishedInfrastructure and Land Policies: Proceedings of the 2012 Land Policy Conference:


The critical importance of infrastructure in global cities – including new strategies in its development, financing, and maintenance – is examined in the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy’s latest publication, Infrastructure and Land Policies.

The volume addresses energy (electricity and natural gas), telecommunications (telephone and Internet), transportation (airports, railways, roads, seaports, and waterways), and water supply and sanitation (drinking water, irrigation, and wastewater treatment).

More than 50 percent of the global population resides in urban areas where land policy and infrastructure interactions facilitate economic opportunities, affect the quality of life, and influence patterns of urban development.

While infrastructure is as old as cities, technological changes and public policies on taxation and regulation produce new issues worthy of analysis, ranging from megaprojects and greenhouse gas emissions to involuntary resettlement.

Infrastructure and Land Policies, edited by Gregory K. Ingram and Karin L. Brandt, is based on the seventh annual Land Policy Conference at the Lincoln Institute held in 2012, where economists, social scientists, urban planners, and engineers convened to discuss how infrastructure issues impact low-, middle-, and high-income countries.

For urban areas, the challenges of balancing economic growth with infrastructure development, funding, and maintenance are reflected in debates about finance, regulation, and location and about the sustainable levels of infrastructure services.

Infrastructure services have technical and economic features such as economies of scale, externalities, and spillovers from users to nonusers that make many of these services difficult to provide as a normal private good. Because of these attributes, much infrastructure is provided either by public entities or privately with regulatory oversight. Infrastructure also delivers economic and poverty-alleviation benefits when it responds to demand and is provided efficiently.

Recent research is finding that inadequate infrastructure is associated with income inequality. This is likely linked to the delivery of infrastructure services to households, such as direct health benefits, improved access to education, and enhanced economic opportunities.

Because so much infrastructure is energy intensive, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other negative impacts need to address services such as electric power and transport. Bringing the management of infrastructure up to levels of good practice has a large economic payoff, and performance levels vary dramatically between and within countries. A necessary, but so far unmet, challenge is to convey to policy makers and voters that large economic returns can be derived from improving infrastructure performance and maintenance.

I have a Commentary on a chapter in this volume:

  • Levinson, David (2013)
    Commentary on “Infrastructure and Urban Development: Evidence from Chinese Cities”
    by Yan Song. Chapter 2 in Infrastructure and Land Policies: Proceedings of the 2012 Land Policy Conference. Editors Gregory K. Ingram and Karin L. Brandt. Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Heads-up


    Prior to the widespread adoption of the internet and the availability of inexpensive screens, passengers occupied themselves by sleeping, listening to music, looking out the window, chatting with neighboring passengers, eating, reading, shopping via catalog, writing, or playing games. On some modes walking around was also permitted. The introduction of airplane in-seat radio channels increased the availability of diversions. The further advance of movies on airplanes (and later buses), first shown to the whole cabin, and later individualized for passengers with their own seat-back screen provided one additional source of diversion for passengers.

    Despite the work environment on modes like airplane or bus, especially in the confined spaces of coach, by the late 1990s, passengers also started bringing their own laptop computers, portable DVD players, and later tablets, on-board as an additional tool to enable personalized work and entertainment.

    One of the major advantages of being a passenger rather than a driver is the ability to do anything other than driving while traveling. That means travel is not necessarily the lost time that transportation professionals have long treated it as (Lyons and Urry 2005). With the rise of the Internet, and especially the mobile phone, people are expecting to have access to electronic devices (and the internet) for work and play wherever they go. One of the last areas of blackout, the airplane during takeoff and landing, may soon see some relaxation of restrictions (Bilton 2013). Airlines have introduced on-board Wi-Fi (at a high charge) to take advantage of this demand.

    If our predictions about the future consisting of the “end of driving”, we then have the “rise of the passenger”. We can model in-vehicle behavior in the future as following the trends of passenger behavior on transit, trains, buses, and planes. People will find a way to divert themselves. We can further envision vehicle makers facilitating this, especially in the interim stages between no-automation and full automation.

    My view is that the windshield becomes a transparent heads-up display suitable for entertainment, but see-through so that should the driver need to retake the wheel, the driver still has visibility. This would extend the technology now widely available in airplanes to the passenger dashboard, and replace all that technical mumbo-jumbo with what people want: transparent cat videos.