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The dynamics of fare and frequency choice in urban transit

  • Savage, Ian
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    This paper investigates the choice of fare and service frequency by urban mass transit agencies. A more frequent service is costly to provide but is valued by riders due to shorter waiting times at stops, and faster operating speeds on less crowding vehicles. Empirical analyses in the 1980s found that service frequencies were too high in most of the cities studied. For a given budget constraint, social welfare could be improved by reducing service frequencies and using the money saved to lower fares. The cross-sectional nature of these analyses meant that researchers were unable to address the question of when the oversupply occurred. This paper seeks to answer that question by conducting a time-series analysis of the bus operations of the Chicago Transit Authority from 1953 to 2005. The paper finds that it has always been the case that too much service frequency was provided at too high a fare. The imbalance between fares and service frequency became larger in the 1970s when the introduction of operating subsidies coincided with an increase in the unit cost of service provision.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

    Volume (Year): 44 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 10 (December)
    Pages: 815-829

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:44:y:2010:i:10:p:815-829
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    1. Mohring, Herbert, 1972. "Optimization and Scale Economies in Urban Bus Transportation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 591-604, September.
    2. Sheshinski, Eytan, 1976. "Price, Quality and Quantity Regulation in Monopoly Situations," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 43(17), pages 127-37, May.
    3. 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.
    4. John M. Quigley & Katherine M. O'Regan, 1998. "Accessibility and Economic Opportunity," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm100, Yale School of Management.
    5. Ian Savage & Kenneth A. Small, 2010. "A Comment on 'Subsidisation of Urban Public Transport and the Mohring Effect'," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, London School of Economics and University of Bath, vol. 44(3), pages 373-380, September.
    6. Hensher, David A. & Goodwin, Phil, 2004. "Using values of travel time savings for toll roads: avoiding some common errors," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 171-181, April.
    7. Mogens Fosgerau, 2005. "Unit income elasticity of the value of travel time savings," Urban/Regional 0508007, EconWPA.
    8. Crawford, Gregory S & Shum, Matthew, 2007. "Monopoly Quality Degradation and Regulation in Cable Television," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(1), pages 181-219, February.
    9. Iseki, Hiroyuki, 2008. "Economies of scale in bus transit service in the USA: How does cost efficiency vary by agency size and level of contracting?," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 42(8), pages 1086-1097, October.
    10. Panzar, John C, 1979. "Equilibrium and Welfare in Unregulated Airline Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 92-95, May.
    11. Wardman, Mark, 2004. "Public transport values of time," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 363-377, October.
    12. Savage, Ian, 2004. "Management objectives and the causes of mass transit deficits," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 181-199, March.
    13. A. Michael Spence, 1975. "Monopoly, Quality, and Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 6(2), pages 417-429, Autumn.
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