Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Stmulus Package, Infrastructure, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Research

I was very pleasantly surprised that in today's New York Times, David Leonhardt, in his article, "A Stimulus with Merit, and Misses," writes that "in the current system, the federal government sends money to states without any real effort to evaluate whether it will pay for worthy projects." In regards to the new stimulus project to restart the US economy, he states: "They don't consider whether those new roads will lead to faster traffic or simply more traffic." "In the world of infrastructure, cost-benefit analysis is still a science of the future."

Leonhardt gets how important it is to do system-wide analyses of transportation "improvements" and "investments" a priori in order to ascertain where the funds can be best spent. I would also add to the discussion how can we improve transportation infrastructure so that the environment is at the same time not negatively affected but rather, over time, improved.

We have the results of our major scientific studies, now available, which address the above two issues. Our paper, "A Relative Total Cost Index for the Evaluation of Transportation Network Robustness in the Presence of Degradable Links and Alternative Travel Behavior," published in the first issue of 2009 in the International Transactions in Operational Research, vol. 16, pp. 49-67, provides rigorous, computer-based tools to assess the impact of tranport link degradation on system performance. The paper, "Environmental Impact Assessment of Transportation Networks with Degradable Links in an Era of Climate Change," in press in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation goes further and captures the impact on the environment of the degradation of roads.

Good to see that more and more journalists such as David Leonhardt of the New York Times and Linda Baker (February 2009 Scientific American) get that "building more" does not equate with "building better!"