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Should Urban Transit Subsidies Be Reduced?

  • Parry, Ian W.H.

    ()

    (Resources for the Future)

  • Small, Kenneth

This paper derives intuitive and empirically useful formulas for the optimal pricing of passenger transit and for the welfare effects of adjusting current fare subsidies, for peak and off-peak urban rail and bus systems. The formulas are implemented based on a detailed estimation of parameter values for the metropolitan areas of Washington (D.C.), Los Angeles, and London. Our analysis accounts for congestion, pollution, and accident externalities from automobiles and from transit vehicles; scale economies in transit supply; costs of accessing and waiting for transit service as well as service crowding costs; and agency adjustment of transit frequency, vehicle size, and route network to induced changes in demand for passenger miles. The results support the efficiency case for the large fare subsidies currently applied across mode, period, and city. In almost all cases, fare subsidies of 50 percent or more of operating costs are welfare improving at the margin, and this finding is robust to alternative assumptions and parameters.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-07-38.

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Date of creation: 16 Jul 2007
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-07-38
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Gunnar Lindberg, 2001. "Traffic Insurance and Accident Externality Charges," Journal of Transport Economics and Policy, London School of Economics and University of Bath, vol. 35(3), pages 399-416, September.
  5. Glaister, Stephen, 1974. "Generalised Consumer Surplus and Public Transport Pricing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 84(336), pages 849-67, December.
  6. 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.
  7. Small, K.A. & Gomez-Ibanez, J.A., 1996. "Urban Transportation," Papers 95-96-4, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  8. 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 224-35, June.
  9. 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 161-79, March.
  10. Kraus, Marvin, 1991. "Discomfort externalities and marginal cost transit fares," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 249-259, March.
  11. Mohring, Herbert, 1972. "Optimization and Scale Economies in Urban Bus Transportation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 591-604, September.
  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.
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