Economic Development Research Group Blog

The Case for Forward-Looking Energy Program Evaluations

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We need to make energy program evaluations more relevant for decision-making . Most   existing energy efficiency and renewable energy programs have been concerned with confirming the reasonableness of past investments and impacts on utility ratepayers. But there is also growing interest in evaluations of community programs and state public benefit programs, and they need to focus on learning lessons that we can use to make future choices about spending energy dollars. Looking forward, the questions that we can learn from public program evaluations are: (1) How can we most effectively spend public funds?  (2) How can we best design public programs to achieve desired economic and environmental outcomes?  and (3) How can we best prioritize choices among project and programs to maximize our return on investment?  Program evaluations today often fall short of fully addressing these questions. To make program evaluations most relevant, we need to make them forward-looking.  While...
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Transformational Change and the Future of Public Transportation

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Emerging Changes. At the January 2019 Annual Conference of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the role of technology change and the future of public transportation both received significant attention –in both formal sessions and informal attendee discussions. Three facts seem clear: (1) There is much speculation but little clarity concerning how autonomous vehicle technologies will unfold and affect transportation services; (2) There is growing interest in a widening set of transit and broader transportation mobility datasets, covering everything from service schedules to mobility performance measures, and (3) There are many new entrants and new variations on transportation services emerging, from micro-transit to new on-demand ride services that are cutting into everything from car rentals to ambulance calls, car sales, parking and bus services. These three dimensions of transformational change– vehicle technologies, data services and mobility services – are leading to both experimentation and an inevitable shakeout (that is already starting), though...
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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 enabled...
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Economic Impact Tools and Models: Are they Useful?

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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 benefit-cost...
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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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Dispatches from the Consortium for Scenario Planning 2019 Conference https://t.co/zG6uOehft5
Now available - Economic Impact of San Francisco International Airport 2019 https://t.co/afxtg1KmiP https://t.co/FySWsilNlI
EDR Group, an EBP Company, is proud to announce that Jonathan (Jon) Lee has joined the firm as a Principal.… https://t.co/qOphraaheL
 

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