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Subways and urban growth: evidence from earth

Listed author(s):
  • Marco Gonzalez-Navarro
  • Matthew A. Turner

We investigate the relationship between the extent of a city’s subway network, its population and its spatial configuration. To accomplish this investigation, for the 632 largest cities in the world, we construct panel data describing the extent of each of the 138 subway systems in these cities, their population, and measures of centralization calculated from lights at night data. These data indicate that large cities are more likely to have subways, but that subways have an economically insignificant effect on urban population growth. Consistent with economic theory and with other studies of the effects of transportation improvements on cities, our data also indicate that subways cause cities to be more decentralized. For a subset of subway cities we also observe panel data describing subway and bus ridership. We find that a 10% increase in subway extent causes about a 6% increase in subway ridership and has no effect on bus ridership. Consistent with the available literature describing the effect of roads on cities, our results are consistent with subways having a larger effect on the configuration of cities than on their sizes, and with subways having a larger effect on discretionary than commute travel.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/66535/
File Function: Open access version.
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 66535.

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Length: 50 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2016
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:66535
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Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/

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  1. Redding, Stephen J. & Turner, Matthew A., 2015. "Transportation Costs and the Spatial Organization of Economic Activity," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
  2. Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt & Stephen J. Redding & Daniel M. Sturm & Nikolaus Wolf, 2015. "The Economics of Density: Evidence From the Berlin Wall," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83, pages 2127-2189, November.
  3. Gilles Duranton & Matthew A. Turner, 2011. "The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2616-2652, October.
  4. Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2010. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262232588, July.
  5. Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. & Wendland, Nicolai, 2011. "Fifty years of urban accessibility: The impact of the urban railway network on the land gradient in Berlin 1890-1936," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 77-88, March.
  6. Marcy Burchfield & Henry G. Overman & Diego Puga & Matthew A. Turner, 2006. "Causes of Sprawl: A Portrait from Space," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 587-633.
  7. Gilles Duranton & Matthew A. Turner, 2012. "Urban Growth and Transportation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(4), pages 1407-1440.
  8. Gibbons, Stephen & Machin, Stephen, 2005. "Valuing rail access using transport innovations," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 148-169, January.
  9. Edwin S. Mills & Jee Peng Tan, 1980. "A Comparison of Urban Population Density Functions in Developed and Developing Countries," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 17(3), pages 313-321, October.
  10. J. Vernon Henderson & Adam Storeygard & David N. Weil, 2012. "Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 994-1028, April.
  11. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2007. "Did Highways Cause Suburbanization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 775-805.
  12. Billings, Stephen B., 2011. "Estimating the value of a new transit option," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 525-536.
  13. Manuel Arellano & Stephen Bond, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 277-297.
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