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The Evolution of Transportation + Economic Development: Ten Takeaways from I-TED 2018

ITED_GW Glen Weisbrod Presenting at I-TED 2018
The I-TED Conference on Transportation and Economic Development has now concluded. Judging by the reaction of all the participants with whom I’ve spoken, it was a tremendous success.  Here are some personal observations. The field of Transportation and Economic Development has really matured.  I’ve been going to this conference series since they started in 1989, and we’ve come a long way since then.  A dominant focus of presentations at the 1989 conference was showing how transportation investment supports jobs.  At this conference, in contrast, we had speakers talking about how economic development is (or should) factor in transportation decision processes for asset management, right sizing, maintenance and repair, finance, operations and programming, prioritization, long term planning and resilience evaluation. The speakers and poster session offered a substantial set of examples of how various transportation agencies are now carrying out such processes. The conference was also organized in a way that...
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Economic Impact Tools and Models: Are they Useful?

industrial park shutterstock 403126069
Infrastructure investment proposals can generate intense public discussion , and when it occurs, there is almost inevitably talk about how the project will (a) hurt the local economy, (b) save the local economy or (c) both. When the latter occurs, it is often because there are two factions – supporters and opponents. Of course, what is often missing is objective information to help guide and control these fears, hopes and allegations. That is where economic models and tools both come in. What is the difference between models and tools? EDR Group has been working in this field for 20 years now, and yet we still see ample confusion on this topic. Here’s a try at answering the question: A TOOL helps people carry out a function, so a “decision support tool” can be any method or process that helps people assess alternatives. In the case of transportation investments, this includes...
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Choosing Economic Analysis Software

How would you rank the following tools –hammer, screwdriver and pliers? Now you might ask: Why would anyone ask such a silly question …for each is appropriate for a different use (even though I could bang a nail with a pliers or screwdriver). Well, it is not very different when someone catalogs all of the various types and brands of “economic” software tools and throws together tools for evaluating user benefits, regional economic impacts, land use impacts and economic development targeting into the same list. Yes, they may all have some common economic element (like putting a $ value on time or access), but each has a different intended use.

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Fear, Black Boxes and Economic Impact Shortcuts

Drivers of Behavior: Needs and Fears. Infrastructure planning and policy calls for decision-making that must be justifiable and stand up to public scrutiny. And that means considering not only impacts on users or customers, but also consideration of other factors such as wider economic benefits. And herein lies a problem, for one of the greatest fears of public agency staff is being caught unable to explain the justification for a decision or the logic process by which the wider benefits and costs were estimated.

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A Balanced Examination of HSR and National Transportation Needs

It’s time for a balanced dialog on infrastructure investment needed to support our nation’s economic vitality for the future. We need to get beyond advocacy arguments where someone first decides the answer and then selectively picks facts to bolster it. Let’s learn from the article on high speed rail by columnist Robert Samuelson that was recently published in Newsweek[1]It is useful because it illustrates all three classic elements of erroneous reasoning that many of us learned in school debate and statistics classes:

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