Obama makes liveability central to transport funding

President Obama’s administration has recently announced progressive new changes to the way future transport projects will be funded.

Obama’s administration is now adding “liveability” to the measures used to evaluate new transport projects. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities, and how it makes our communities better places to live,” said US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on the issue.

In the past, travel time savings for commuters were the primary way of measuring the benefits of new transportation projects. However, the value of time savings has always been weighted in favour of motorists. Obama’s move is likely to see more alternatives to roads get built under the new funding guidelines.

liveable city

New Zealand is still wedded to the value of time savings for measuring the benefits of new transport projects. After pressure from the Greens and some further research from the Ministry of Transport, these time savings values have been recalculated, but they still strongly favour people sitting in cars. Why is their time worth 66% more than people on a train, bus, or bicycle? There’s no sane reason.

>> The time of people who drive to work is valued at $7.80/hour
>> The time of people who bus or train to work is valued at $4.70/hour

Until these discrepancies are fixed, building roads will nearly always add up to be economically more attractive than a more sustainable alternative.

9 Comments Posted

  1. LibertyScott:

    Road User Charges.
    Paid by all heavy transport, including bus companies.

    More expensive than road tax on petrol, thus the attitudes of truckies who really have bought the road they’re driving on….

  2. Worth bearing in mind that public transport users don’t contribute a cent to the National Land Transport Fund. It all comes from road users. On top of that, public transport users on average have lower incomes so have lower values of time if translated into productive earning time. Leisure time should be similar though. Truth is that this factor makes little difference to funding allocations.

    Copenhagen is all very well, but it is flat and dominated by cycling which has a more significant mode share than any rail based transport. Most of the well loved European cities with public transport have people living in far smaller accommodation, and also has low income housing estates that are serious dire. I doubt most New Zealanders want to give up quarter acre sections to meet planners dreams about high density living to make public transport more viable.

    The car isn’t going to disappear, and when most cars are plug in or zero emission the environmental arguments against them will be seriously reduced. The real issue becomes how to ration road space. At the moment it is queuing and subsidising others. You neglect to note that the Obama administration is seriously interested in urban road pricing, which the Bush administration started (not that environmentalists noticed). The first studies to do congestion charging in New York, San Francisco and Seattle were funded by the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration is continuing to support these moves which will do far more for those cities that the tried and largely failed talisman of light rail.

  3. “Of course they do have the advantage of having developed their cities before the suburban sprawl phenomenon generated by the car.”

    Except that the suburban sprawl phenomenon was not generated by the car – it was generated by the steam locomotive and the tram. The car just helped fill in the gaps.

  4. Perhaps a commercial transportation service with a amenities similar to a business class airliner’s, more white collar types would be persuaded to leave their car behind, perhaps something between a carpool van and a private limousine.

  5. Interesting that has come up.

    One of the key arguments ‘for’ the Manners Mall bus lanes has been that it will improve the throughput times in the Golden Mile, and get traffic out to the suburbs quicker, by moving the buses through faster.
    As it only changes the route by about 2 blocks (although does move it from in front of the Mayor’s offices, so maybe that’s a rational reasoning…), I can’t see how their figures can possibly stack up.

    Then they used the same vague ‘2-15 minutes’ improvement in travel times that Transit quoted for the Bypass through Te Aro; given that the bypass opened and traffic immediately got slower, until all the locals started avoiding driving anywhere near the route, I doubt that the bus lanes will make as much of a time difference as stated.

    The benefits are more likely to be in the intanglibles of who gets a property improvement by having the trolley bus wires routed away from them in that area…

    Now, investing in more buses, especially on the bigger routes, would make sense.
    Paying a decent wage so that bus driver retention is achieved, would make sense.
    Even adding light rail between CBD and the airport would make better sense than ripping up a pedestrian mall, for buses which already traverse essentially the same 2-block route.

  6. Copenhagen may have been in the news for the Climate Summit, but it’s far more interesting and relevant as a model for urban commuting. Forget the States, and look at the progress in parts of Europe.
    Of course they do have the advantage of having developed their cities before the suburban sprawl phenomenon generated by the car.

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