dr lisa kane

Lisa Kane Beware of Transport Economist Talk

The only reason I am not completely intimidated by transport economists is because I have been inside the belly of the beast. My first job was as a transport modeller, the people who feed information to transport economists. Then I worked doing cost-benefit analyses, the bread and butter of a transport economist’s work. I tell you, it isn’t pretty in that belly. Almost nothing has changed since then.

This paper by the prolific, comprehensive and well cited Todd Litman summarises what the problem is with transport economics, or rather, what the many problems are. The bottom line is that conventional cost benefit analysis:

“tends to favor economic objectives (because they involve market resources) over social and environmental objectives; industries (which have more financial transactions) over communities (which involve more non-market transactions); wealthier people (because they purchase more market goods) over poorer people; and the current generation over future generations” (Litman, 2009, 1-13).

Strange thing is, if you raise these many concerns about transport economics with mainstream transport planners you get a sort of blank stare; a muffling about economic growth, or outright aggression.

When you drill down, though, as Litman does in his paper then you see that traditional transport economics is based on some pretty dodgy premises. At the very least transport economic analyses demand interrogation.

Don’t be intimated. Drill down.