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Motorization and the provision of roads in countries and cities


  • Ingram, Gregory K.
  • Zhi Liu


Using panel data from 50 countries and 35 urban areas (covering a wide range of country incomes), the authors summarize trends in motorization and the provision of roads, and they examine the ratio of motor vehicles to roads in a production function framework at both national andurban levels. They find regularities very strong across countries and urban areas and over time. Among their sometimes surprising findings: (1) Economic development increases demand for transport, reliance on cars and trucks, and road provision. (2) Motorization expands at the same rate as per capita income, but the auto fleet expands more rapidly, and commercial vehicles less rapidly, than income. At early stages of motorization, commercial vehicles comprise a large share of the motor vehicle fleet. Passenger transport by automobile becomes more prominent as income grows. Both country and urban data show evidence of similar saturation levels for car and total motor vehicle ownership. (3) The presence of railways at the national level reduces commercial vehicle ownership but not car ownership, suggesting that rail is competitive for freight but not for passenger travel as incomes grow. (4) Nationally, road networks expand more slowly than incomes, but paved road networks expand at the same time as incomes. Road provision appears to be quite responsive to demand nationally. (5) For specific urban areas, per capita road length is positively associated with national income level but changes little over time, showing that history or urban endowments matter. The annexation of surrounding developed area appears to play a big role in expanding urban road length. Urban areas average roughly 15 times more road length per unit area, and seven times more vehicles per kilometer of road, than countries -and a saturation level exists for urban road length per unit of area. (6) Vehicles per kilometer of road are positively associated with income, with (proxies for) land prices, and with low gasoline prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Ingram, Gregory K. & Zhi Liu, 1997. "Motorization and the provision of roads in countries and cities," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1842, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1842

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, 1992. "Public-Sector Capital and the Productivity Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 4122, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Duffy-Deno, Kevin T. & Eberts, Randall W., 1991. "Public infrastructure and regional economic development: A simultaneous equations approach," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 329-343, November.
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    6. William C. Wheaton, 1978. "Price-Induced Distortions in Urban Highway Investment," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 9(2), pages 622-632, Autumn.
    7. William C. Wheaton, 1982. "The Long-Run Structure of Transportation and Gasoline Demand," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 439-454, Autumn.
    8. Morrison, Catherine J & Schwartz, Amy Ellen, 1996. "State Infrastructure and Productive Performance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1095-1111, December.
    9. Chin, Anthony & Smith, Peter, 1997. "Automobile ownership and government policy: The economics of Singapore's vehicle quota scheme," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 129-140, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Salon, Deborah, 2008. "Neighborhoods, Cars, and Commuting in New York City: A Discrete Choice Approach," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt1673h3w3, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    2. Acosta Rojas, Gina E. & Calfat, Germán & Flôres Junior, Renato Galvão, 2005. "Trade and infrastructure: evidences from the Andean Community," FGV EPGE Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 580, EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance - FGV EPGE (Brazil).
    3. Ingram, Gregory K. & Zhi Liu, 1998. "Vehicles, roads, and road use - alternative empirical specifications," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2036, The World Bank.
    4. Kempe Ronald Hope & Mogopodi Lekorwe, 1999. "Urbanization and the Environment in Southern Africa: Towards a Managed Framework for the Sustainability of Cities," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(6), pages 837-859.
    5. Kutzbach, Mark J., 2009. "Motorization in developing countries: Causes, consequences, and effectiveness of policy options," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 154-166, March.
    6. Salon, Deborah, 2009. "Neighborhoods, cars, and commuting in New York City: A discrete choice approach," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 180-196, February.
    7. Shaheen, Susan & Kemmerer, Charlene, 2008. "Smart Parking Linked to Transit: Lessons Learned from the Field Test in San Francisco Bay Area of California," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt2bd6m65k, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    8. Yang, Zhenshan & Jia, Peng & Liu, Weidong & Yin, Hongchun, 2017. "Car ownership and urban development in Chinese cities: A panel data analysis," Journal of Transport Geography, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 127-134.
    9. Salon, Deborah, 2006. "Cars and the City: An Investigation of Transportation and Residential Location Choices in New York City," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt1br223vz, University of California Transportation Center.
    10. Ingram, Gregory K. & Zhi Liu, 1999. "Determinants of motorization and road provision," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2042, The World Bank.


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