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Should Urban Transit Subsidies Be Reduced?

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  • Ian W. H. Parry
  • Kenneth A. Small

Abstract

This paper derives empirically tractable formulas for the welfare effects of fare adjustments in passenger peak and off-peak rail and bus transit, and for optimal pricing of those services. The formulas account for congestion, pollution, accident externalities, scale economies, and agency adjustment of transit service offerings. We apply them using parameter values for Washington (DC), Los Angeles, and London. The results support the efficiency of the large current fare subsidies; even starting with fares at 50 percent of operating costs, incremental fare reductions are welfare improving in almost all cases. These findings are robust to alternative assumptions and parameters. (JEL L92, R41, R42, R48)

Suggested Citation

  • Ian W. H. Parry & Kenneth A. Small, 2009. "Should Urban Transit Subsidies Be Reduced?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 700-724, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:99:y:2009:i:3:p:700-724
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.99.3.700
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Nelson, Peter & Baglino, Andrew & Harrington, Winston & Safirova, Elena & Lipman, Abram, 2007. "Transit in Washington, DC: Current benefits and optimal level of provision," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 231-251, September.
    2. Small, Kenneth A, 2004. "6. Road Pricing And Public Transport," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 133-158, January.
    3. Winston, Clifford & Maheshri, Vikram, 2007. "On the social desirability of urban rail transit systems," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 362-382, September.
    4. Ian W. H. Parry & Kenneth A. Small, 2005. "Does Britain or the United States Have the Right Gasoline Tax?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1276-1289, September.
    5. Mohring, Herbert, 1972. "Optimization and Scale Economies in Urban Bus Transportation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 591-604, September.
    6. Dodgson, J S, 1986. "Benefits of Changes in Urban Public Transport Subsidies in the Major Australian Cities," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 62(177), pages 224-235, June.
    7. Gunnar Lindberg, 2001. "Traffic Insurance and Accident Externality Charges," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, University of Bath, vol. 35(3), pages 399-416, September.
    8. Small, Kenneth A. & Gomez-Ibanez, Jose A., 1999. "Urban transportation," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics,in: P. C. Cheshire & E. S. Mills (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 46, pages 1937-1999 Elsevier.
    9. Glaister, Stephen & Lewis, Davis, 1978. "An integrated fares policy for transport in London," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 341-355, June.
    10. Glaister, Stephen, 1974. "Generalised Consumer Surplus and Public Transport Pricing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 84(336), pages 849-867, December.
    11. Arnott, Richard & de Palma, Andre & Lindsey, Robin, 1993. "A Structural Model of Peak-Period Congestion: A Traffic Bottleneck with Elastic Demand," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 161-179, March.
    12. Proost, Stef & Dender, Kurt Van, 2008. "Optimal urban transport pricing in the presence of congestion, economies of density and costly public funds," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 42(9), pages 1220-1230, November.
    13. Kraus, Marvin, 1991. "Discomfort externalities and marginal cost transit fares," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 249-259, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L92 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Railroads and Other Surface Transportation
    • R41 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Transportation: Demand, Supply, and Congestion; Travel Time; Safety and Accidents; Transportation Noise
    • R42 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Government and Private Investment Analysis; Road Maintenance; Transportation Planning
    • R48 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - Government Pricing and Policy

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