Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Transportation Policy


A Comment on "Subsidization of Urban Public Transport and the Mohring Effect"

Researcher(s): Ian Savage
Year: 2010

Van Reeven (2008) argues that the Mohring effect is not relevant to the determination of transit subsidies because a profit-maximizing monopolist would supply frequencies that are the same as, or greater than, those that are socially optimal. We find that his results depend on the reduction or elimination of the effect of fares on demand, causing optimal prices to be indeterminate within broad ranges. Consequently, his model is an unsatisfactory tool for discussing subsidies in general, and the optimal combination of fare and frequency in particular.

Read the full publication

A Structural Model of Safety and Safety Regulation in the Truckload Trucking Industry

Researcher(s): Ian Savage
Year: n/a

This research models the effects of various public policies to improve safety within a structural model of the trucking industry.  The structural model describes how trucking firms choose their level of safety by balancing the cost of preventing crashes against the financial consequences of a crash.  This choice occurs within an interregional trade model that sets the market prices and quantities for the commodities that are transported between geographically dispersed markets.  After specifying the first-best, full-information equilibrium, the research models the effects of two common market failures. The first is the myopic underestimation of crash costs by some trucking firms.  The second is a more general problem that some of the external costs of truck crashes (such as congestion at the crash site) cannot be legally recovered from trucking firms.  The research then investigates the choice of policies to protect other road users, and those who live along the highway, from these market failures.  The effects of the imposition of a minimum safety standard are compared with the consequences of either levying post-crash fines, or the charging of an ex-ante tax on the trucking industry.  The different policies are ranked on the basis of both their economic desirability, and the likelihood that they will be selected by voters in a political economy.

Are Property Tax Limitations More Binding over Time?

Researcher(s): Richard F. Dye, Therese J. McGuire, Daniel P. McMillen
Year: 2005

In 1991, a property tax limitation measure was imposed in five Illinois counties. Die and McGuire (1997) studied its short-term impact. With the limit now in effect for over a decade and extended to many more counties, we assess its long-term impact. Because jurisdictions brought under the limitation since 1997 have done so after a county-option referendum, our estimation strategy treats the measure as endogenous. We find that the restraining effect of the limit on the growth of property taxes is stronger in the long run than the short run, and that the growth of school expenditures is slowed by the measure.

Read the full publication

Characterizing Neighborhood Pedestrian Environments with Secondary Data

Researcher(s): James R. Parks, Joseph L. Schofer
Year: 2006

Commonly used measures of the pedestrian environment rely on field data collection and subjective judgments. This study develops objective measures of the pedestrian environment that use secondary data or plans for proposed neighborhoods and still correlate well with accepted subjective measures. Data to estimate these measures, describing network design, sidewalk availability and building accessibility, were collected for a sample of neighborhoods in the Chicago area using both common secondary sources and subjective field surveys. Linear regression was used to estimate judgmental indices with the laboratory data as independent variables. The measures developed can be substituted for subjective field measures to reduce costs with minimal loss in accuracy and to characterize walkability of proposed neighborhood designs.

Read the full publication

The Colorado Revenue Limit: The Economic Effects of TABOR

Researcher(s): Therese J. McGuire, Kim S. Reuben
Year: 2006

In November 2005, Colorado residents voted to suspend for five years the state’s self-imposed revenue caps as outlined in the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR, which was passed as a constitutional amendment in 1992, limits the growth rate of revenue to population growth and inflation. The effects of TABOR on government spending and economic growth have been hotly debated in recent years. Proponents attribute much of Colorado’s economic prosperity in the period immediately following adoption of the law to the limit and its effect on government spending and taxes. Opponents of TABOR argue that TABOR-induced reductions in government spending have led to curtailed government services, including those that voters and businesses care more about.

To understand TABOR’s effect on Colorado’s economic health and growth, we compare Colorado with other states, controlling for prior history and economic and demographic characteristics in order to disentangle the effects of TABOR from other factors influencing Colorado’s economic performance.

We begin with a description of TABOR and Referendum C, the measure enacted in November 2005 that suspended TABOR for five years and modified some of TABOR’s requirements. We compare TABOR to tax and expenditure limits (TELs) in other states. TABOR is by many measures the most binding TEL in the country. We also describe how TABOR interacts with other Colorado budget rules. We then describe the mechanism by which TELs might strengthen local and regional economies, and review the extensive empirical literature on both the effect of TELs on taxes and spending and on the effect of taxes on business location and economic growth. The meat of our analysis compares the growth rate of personal income and employment in Colorado with the growth rates in other states in the periods before and after passage of TABOR. While we find some very limited evidence for short-term increases in growth, those were not sustained in the longer term. The lack of a sustained effect holds up after controlling for economic and demographic characteristics of the states. The results of those analyses show that there is little empirical support for the notion that TABOR had a positive effect on Colorado’s economy.

Read the full publication

Communication Matters: Communicating the Value of Transportation Research

Researcher(s): Johanna P. Zmud, Julie L. Paasche, Mia Zmud, Timothy J. Lomax, Joseph L. Schofer, Judy A. Meyer
Year: 2009

This comprehensive document provides transportation researchers, planners, managers, and others with professional advice on how to design, plan and execute effecting communication campaigns that convey the value of research projects or programs. It covers the elements of good communication practices, the communication process, evaluation and feedback, and targeting specific audiences. This is a practical document, offering quick tips, detailed how-to descriptions, and useful resources and templates. The guidebook is organized into the following four chapters and two appendices: (1) Signs of Good Communication Practices; (2) The Communication Process; (3) Planning and Evaluating Your Research Communication; (4) Putting It All Together: Communicating to Specific Audiences; (Appendix 1) Transportation Case Studies; and (Appendix 2) Non-Transportation Best Practices.

Summary: Extensive research and examination of best practices in communication, within and outside of the transportation community, informed NCHRP Report 610, Communicating the Value of Transportation Research – Guidebook. The research assembled practical tips, a model process, case studies, and examples of good communication methods that all transportation researchers can use. The guide is organized into four chapters and two appendixes to explain the process:

Chapter 1: Signed of Good Communication Practices presents seven indicators drawn of best practices inside and outside of the transportation community.

Chapter 2: The Communication Process explores the key steps for planning, talking about, writing, and creating the context, strategy, and content, and choosing the appropriate channels – media and contacts – and style.

Chapter 3: Planning and Evaluating Your Research Communication presents ways to understand how target audiences will hear the message.

Chapter 4: Putting It All Together: Communicating to Specific Audiences provides examples of how to communicate with audiences that matter: research peers, transportation policy and program officials, legislative leaders and staff, the news media, and the public.

Appendix 1: Transportation Case Studies illustrates good communication practices through experiences from seven transportation research projects.

Appendix 2: Nontransportation Best Practices summarizes the approaches of four organizations that have excelled in communicating the value of research.

Read the summary

Read the full publication

Illinois's Individual Income Tax and General Sales Tax: Options for Reform

Researcher(s): Richard F. Dye, Therese J. McGuire
Year: 2005

Richard F. Dye, Lake Forest College, and Therese J. McGuire, Northwestern University, look at Illinois’s individual income and general sales taxes; they suggest changes such as including retirement income in the tax base and ending the exemption for food sales. Illinois should also tax services, the authors suggest.

Information Assets to Support Transportation Decision Making: Report of a Peer Exchange of State Transportation Organizations

Researcher(s): Joseph L. Schofer
Year: 2007

This circular summarizes discussions at a peer exchange of state department of transportation officials and other professionals that focused on data and information uses, management strategies, needs, and gaps in their organizations. The peer exchange examined the role of data and information in transportation decision making; identified information resources, gaps, and opportunities; and explored data, access, and analysis improvements for information resource programs. In addition, participants discusses possible strategies that the transportation community might use to implement such improvements.

Read the full publication

Information System for Infrastructure Deployment in Support of Future Vehicles

Researcher(s): Diego Klabjan
Year: 2010

Mass production electric vehicles (EVs) will be coming on the market en masse during the next few years. Their adoption will depend on the availability of charging stations. A few cities have started deploying such stations and many are in the planning stage. The decision makers, being city governments, utilities, or private entities such as mall and fast-food restaurant operators, are in need of information systems that will assist them in deploying such an infrastructure, including (1) EV demand consideration, (2) the actual location of stations, (3) the implied service time on car owners, and (4) power grid implications. All of these aspects should be addressed through analytical methodologies, such as discrete choice modeling to capture the demand, optimization for actual location recommendations, and comprehensive simulations to estimate the overall impact on the system. While some of these questions have already been addressed at the macro level, thorough research is required to conduct assessments at the micro level, which is required to actually build the infrastructure.

The developed decision support system and service will be subscription based with a broad market spreading from city governments and municipalities (installing charging stations in public parking spaces, curbside charging), utilities, and private entities (retailers, mall operators, fast-food and restaurant chains, garage owners, etc.). While the actual savings of using analytics for deployment vs. more judgmental approaches are hard to estimate, the proposed system will drastically reduce labor needs, and it will open the door to easily conduct what-if analyses.

The initial phase of the project will be focused on developing such a system for the EVs, however the underlying concepts and methodologies are also applicable to deploying the infrastructure of other possible alternative fuel vehicles (compressed natural gas (CNG), hydrogen, biofuel stations).

Multicentered Chicago

Researcher(s): Henry C. Binford
Year: 2005

Chicagoans like to think of their home as “multiethnic,” or as “the city of neighborhoods.” Indeed, the celebration of neighborhood is one of the binding rituals of Chicago culture. The shelves of local bookstores are crammed with neighborhood guides of various sorts, and in the 1990s Mayor Richard M. Daley harnessed neighborhood consciousness to the marketing of tourism, officially defining certain well-known districts with banners, signs, and dramatic arches. When visitors come to the city one of the things they frequently ask to see is “Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods.” Yet every big city in America is a city of neighborhoods—forged by migration, work patterns, race, religion, and other factors in addition to ethnic culture. Boston, San Francisco, and many other cities have their own rich patterns of colorful locales. What, if anything, makes Chicago's multicentered settlement pattern distinctive? Answering that question requires setting aside notions of neighborhood geography and diversity that became widespread in the mid-twentieth century but have been challenged by recent scholarship. It requires looking beyond the notion of “neighborhood” itself, as that term has been commonly and vaguely used, and thinking about Chicago's many spatial subcommunities as changing manifestations of history and human initiative. It requires looking deeper into Chicago's past, recognizing how the city's growth fits into the long history of national urbanization, and defining certain features of Chicago's development that were unusual.

Read the full publication

Strategic Ideas for a Prosperous Africa

Researcher(s): Richard Joseph
Year: 2005

Numerous meeting were convened in many countries to discuss the issues being considered by the Council on Africa sponsored by the British Government. This essay is an expanded version of my responses to questions sent to invited participants in a meeting convened by the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. They are based on my research and published writings, and those of many colleagues, over the past three decades.

Read the full publication

Back to top