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A Comparison of the Social Costs of Air and Highway

  • David Levinson


    (Nexus (Networks, Economics, and Urban Systems) Research Group, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota)

  • David Gillen
  • Adib Kanafani

This paper provides a comprehensive survey of the literature on the measures of social costs, providing an indication of the state of engineering and economic literature. We operationalize the new thinking about which externalities seem appropriate to consider in an analysis of the transportation system. We construct measures of each externality: noise, air pollution, accidents, and congestion for the highway and air transportation modes, where possible as a function of the amount of output or use, rather than as simple unit costs. We find that noise is the dominant cost of air travel, followed by congestion, air pollution and accidents. For highway travel, accidents are the most significant cost, followed by congestion, noise, and air pollution. The social costs of highway travel are about 15 percent of the full cost of a highway trip, while the smaller social costs of air travel are only 5 percent of the full cost of an air trip. A highway trip generates four to five times as much externality as an air trip. .

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Paper provided by University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group in its series Working Papers with number 199801.

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Date of creation: 1998
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Transport Reviews 18:3 215-240.
Handle: RePEc:nex:wpaper:socialcost
Contact details of provider: Postal: Dept. of Civil Engineering, 500 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: +01 (612) 625-6354
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  1. Button, Kenneth J., 1994. "Alternative approaches toward containing transport externalities: An international comparison," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 289-305, July.
  2. Rothengatter, Werner, 1994. "Do external benefits compensate for external costs of transport?," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 321-328, July.
  3. Rietveld, Piet, 1994. "Spatial economic impacts of transport infrastructure supply," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 329-341, July.
  4. Verhoef, Erik, 1994. "External effects and social costs of road transport," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 273-287, July.
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