Strategic Plan

TRANSPORTATION ECONOMICS COMMITTEE (ABE20)
2015-2018 COMMITTEE TRIENNIAL STRATEGIC PLAN (TSP)

Committee Chairperson:
Mark Burris, Ph.D., P.E.

TSP Three-Year Period: April 15, 2015 to April 15, 2018
Date Updated: May 1, 2015
Color Code:
Members/Friends working on the item (note most have moved to the Volunteers Page)
Committee Priorities

COMMITTEE FUTURE OUTLOOK STATEMENT

MISSION

The mission of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Transportation Economics Committee is to promote the sound application of economic concepts and methods to problems and decisions in the transportation field.

SCOPE

The Committee’s scope of interest for improving transportation economics includes:

  • investment decisions in technology and infrastructure through the application of benefit-cost analysis and other economic tools. This includes incorporation of risk analysis in those decisions;
  • evaluation of public policy, programs, and plans;
  • design, procurement, operation, and maintenance of transportation facilities and services;
  • methods of funding and financing transportation;
  • measurement of impacts and value of mitigation strategies related to transportation services and their externalities. These include: strategies for addressing symptoms such as congestion, crashes, poor quality of service, poor condition of facilities and equipment, costs and means for defending against security threats, air and other pollution caused by transportation, global warming and carbon emissions from transportation, and unsustainability of energy sources consumed in transportation;
  • research into methods to measure, understand and predict the behavioral economic decisions of individuals and institutions in the transportation markets.

GOALS

Goal 1: To foster and contribute to the research, development, and application of transportation economics concepts and methods and to use economic principles to help address critical and emerging transportation issues.

Goal 2: To improve communications and dissemination of transportation economics research findings and best practices applicable to public and private transportation organizations.

Goal 3: To enhance the understanding and skills of transportation leaders and professionals in the science, methods, and application of transportation economics concepts, analysis and methods.

EXTERNAL FACTORS AND INFLUENCES THAT WILL SHAPE THE WORK OF THE COMMITTEE:
SHORT TERM (2014 – 2017)

The committee’s short term goals mirror the overarching goals of the committee – to foster research in transportation economics and to promote the sound use of transportation economic analysis as part of the decision making process. Therefore, the committee will continue to:

(a) Encourage research in needed areas through research needs statements (RNS), calls for papers, sessions at meetings/conferences and discussions among members, and

(b) Disseminate best transportation economics analyses and practices to the transportation community through presentations at meetings/conferences/workshops and continued enhancements to our website.

As a group of volunteers, exactly how, when and where the above goals are accomplished depends a great deal on the interests of the membership. Fortunately, our members and friends have many interests that align with TRB’s focus areas. Areas currently generating the greatest interest among our members (and therefore the focus of the committee’s efforts) include:

  1. Congestion: Increasingly Congested Facilities Across All Modes
    • Congestion Pricing at Airports
    • Is Congestion Pricing the Solution to Congestion? (Choices of economic agents on parallel tolled and un-tolled routes)
  2. Economic Issues Surrounding Automated and Connected Vehicles
  3. Equity: Burdens on the Disadvantaged
    • Equity Impacts of Alternative financing mechanisms
  4. Finance: Inadequate Revenues
    • Public-Private Partnerships
    • Is Congestion Pricing the Solution to Highway Finance?
  5. The Practical Practice of Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA)
  6. The Contribution of Technical Analysis to Public Decision-making

One aspect of keeping a group of volunteers interested in the committee is to try to incorporate additional fun events into our meetings. We have a working group formed to look for opportunities to get together outside of the formal TRB meeting rooms.

  • Membership Activities – Paula Dowell, Jon Skolnik, Brian Alstadt, Rimon Rafiah, Holly Krambeck and Jonathan Peters.

Current Economic and Budgetary Environment: The uncertainty over federal funding, along with the state and local funding crisis, represents a strategic opportunity for this committee’s agenda. We are likely one of the very few committees that will experience generally positive impacts of the current budgetary environment. This is not to say that individual members may not be negatively impacted. However, the importance of both research into, and the application of, sound transportation economic analysis is increasing with this budgetary crises. One excellent example is the TIGER grant process. The BCAs in the initial round of TIGER applications showed considerable variability and some much needed education in the area of BCA. Subsequent TIGER grant applications have seen improved usage of BCA. Plus, just the fact that grant decisions do rest partially on the BCA analysis is encouraging for this committee.

There is a general heightened awareness of allocating funds to the uses where they are most effective. Therefore, the committee’s commitment to disseminating best transportation economics analysis practices, including BCA, is finding more receptive audiences. As such, we will continue to:

(a) Find events (conferences, meetings, workshops, etc.) where we can interject some transportation economics focused content into the event. We have a working group that focuses on identifying such events and working with the host of the event to accomplish this objective. (a)    Working group members include:

Papers, Sessions, and Conferences – Jim Gillespie, Nadia Gkritza, Katherine Harback, Nancy Bergeron, Adrian Moore and Darren Timothy.

(b) Co-sponsor sessions at TRB events with other committees to reach out to their members.

(c) Foster and encourage our committee liaisons (listed below) to actively seek out opportunities similar to those mentioned in (a) and (b) above.

Committee liaisons

Committee

Committee Name

Liaison(s)

A0030T

Task Force on Data for Decisions and Performance Measures

Nancy Bergeron

ABC30

Performance Measurement

Valentin Vulov

ABC40

Transportation Asset Management

Rimon Rafiah

ABE10

Revenue and Finance

Brian Weatherford

ABE25

Congestion Pricing

Brian Weatherford

ABE30

Transportation Issues in Major US Cities

Rabinder Bains

ABE50

Transportation Demand Management

Sisinnio Concas

ADA50

Transportation Planning, Programming and Systems Evaluation

Shiva K. Shrestha

ADB10

Travel Behavior and Values

Lei Zhang

ADB40

Transportation Demand Forecasting

Lei Zhang

ADC10

Environmental Analysis in Transportation

 

ADD10

Transportation and Economic Development

Brian Weatherford /Nadia Gkritza

ADD20

Social and Economic Factors of Transportation

Rabinder Bains

ADD30

Transportation and Land Development

Kara Kockelman

ADD40

Transportation and Sustainability

 

ADD50

Environmental Justice in Transportation

 

AHB15

Intelligent Transportation Systems

Peter Rafferty

AHB35

HOV, HOT, and MLs

Mark Burris

ANB20

Safety Data, Analysis and Evaluation

Nancy Bergeron

APO50

Bus Transit Systems

 

ATO10

Freight Transportation Economics and Regulation

Victor Aragonés / Nadia Gkritza / Paul Bingham

AHB 10

Regional Transportation Systems Management and Operations

Valentin Vulov

AVO40

Aviation Economics and Forecasting Committee

Katherine Harback

(d) Review and update responsibilities for liaison with related TRB committees and other groups.


Technology Transfer: The committee recently took over the BCA website (formerly on CalTrans servers, now at bca.transportationeconomics.org) and has greatly enhanced the BCA website plus our own committee website (www.transportationeconomics.org). The committee’s internet working group includes:

·         Internet Website/Webmaster – Sabya Mishra with help from Peter Rafferty, Sara Khoeini and Shanjiang Zhu.

 The committee’s communication coordinator (Sabya Mishra) is a member of this working group which helps to keep the website coordinated with all of our other activities.

 The committee’s BCA Task Force (who both help with the BCA website, but also work on BCA research and best practices) includes:

·         Benefit Cost Analysis (http://bca.transportationeconomics.org/) – headed by Chris Williges with help from: Lei Zhang, Glen Weisbrod, Darren Timothy, Dan Brod, Rimon Rafiah, Mike Lawrence, Gui Sherin, Bryan Gibson and others.  Chris Williges has produced a Google doc and Lei Zhang has created a wiki for the BCA website.

Additionally, we post the minutes of each meeting on the committee’s website.  The committee secretary (Rabinder Bains with help from Darren Timothy) is charged with taking the minutes.

 Other technology transfer items are noted above (under budgetary environment).  Finally, we also use the TRB paper publishing process to transfer technology.  The member in charge of the paper review is:

·         Paper Review – Nancy Bergeron.

Rabinder Bains helps with the paper review process. Other volunteers are welcome.

Federal Initiatives on Transportation Economics: Federal efforts to promote economics-based decisions into the statewide and regional transportation planning processes will lead to the need for more guidance, research, and professional capacity building on the Committee strategies, analysis methods, and policy advice for a broader set of stakeholders.

Key Trends: There are some very strong trends, at the Federal, State, and regional levels that are propelling the transportation profession towards an increased need for and use of economic methods and measurements in the short-term of the next few years. These were discussed above, with the example of the TIGER grant process.

EXTERNAL FACTORS AND INFLUENCES THAT WILL SHAPE THE WORK OF THE COMMITTEE:
LONG TERM (2017 – 2021)

The Transportation Economics Committee is well positioned to monitor and at some point support the following longer term external factors that will influence transportation programs in general:

  • Transportation re-authorization,
  • Congestion Pricing, and
  • Benefit-Cost Analysis.

All three of these items are related to one another and rapidly increasing in importance. Congestion pricing will likely play a much larger role in any new facilities and BCA will likely play a larger role in project selection. Both of these items are likely to be key aspects of new transportation legislation.

COMMITTEE PLAN

The Transportation Economics Committee recognizes that there are emerging, critical, and cross-cutting issues within transportation that may influence transportation economics applications over the next three years, especially from the perspective of strategic planning, decision making, and interaction with elected officials. In order to accomplish its goals, given these issues and both the short-term and long-term factors that can influence its mission, the Transportation Economics Committee has the following action plan for the next three years in three major categories: Outreach and Collaboration; Knowledge Transfer and Program Support; and Research and Technical Development. The major action items for these three categories of Transportation Economics Committee activity are outlined as follows.

Outreach and Collaboration

  • Extend and encourage the application of economic concepts, perspectives, and methods on major issues in transportation (including TRB’s Critical Issues) by
    • Preparing new research problem statements based on emerging issues, including joint sponsorship with other committees on crosscutting issues; 
      • Research Coordinator – Lei Zhang
      • Research Needs Statements – Lei Zhang
    • Maintaining a compendium of ongoing research projects and reporting on their status at the annual meeting;
    • The committee chair writing to committee members and friends about three times per year;
    • Marketing and enhancing the committee website (www.transportationeconomics.org) in order for it to be a one-stop site for information pertaining to transportation economics and benefit-cost analysis (bca.transportationeconomics.org) developments, activities, and best practices case examples.
  • Illuminate the many applications of economic analysis to transportation decisions by
    • Identifying potential topics for presentations at committee meetings;
    • Considering opportunities for special events that focus on transportation economics; assigning a task force to plan and carry out each special event (see the working group “Papers, Sessions, and Conferences” above).

Knowledge Transfer and Program Support

  • Work synergistically with related economics committees (ADD10, ABE10, ABE25, ATO10) to reinforce the use of economic concepts and methods, and strengthen and enhance the application of economic concepts and methods in those committees not primarily concerned with economics by
    • Actively seeking out co-sponsoring opportunities with other TRB committees for sessions and events including crosscutting issues;
    • Foster research collaboration with other committees through joint subcommittees. Current joint-subcommittees include:
      • Joint Subcommittee on the Economics of Pricing, Darren Timothy, Chair, in conjunction with ABE25 – Congestion Pricing.
      • Joint Subcommittee on Parking Pricing, Rachel Weinberger, Chair, in conjunction with ABE50 – Transportation Demand Management.
      • Joint Subcommittee on Public-Private Partnerships, Jennifer Mayer, Chair, in conjunction with ABE10 – Revenue and Finance Committee, ALO10 –Transportation Law Committee, and AFH15 – Project Delivery Methods Committee.
      • Joint Subcommittee on Risk and Resilience in Assessment and Planning, Silvana Croope, Chair, in conjunction with ABE40 Critical Transportation Infrastructure Protection.
    • Maintaining a list of co-sponsored research, conferences, and sessions, and make the list available on the Transportation Economics Website.
  • Ensure we maintain a focus on the goals and objectives of the committee. This includes continuous improvement and monitoring of our strategic plan. Valentin Vulov is heading this effort.

Research and Technical Development

  • Improve the quality of TRB papers applying economics in transportation by
    • Developing a one-page call for papers every March.
    • Focus on generating Research Needs Statements and maintaining the RNS database. o   The statements under development are available at http://www.transportationeconomics.org/research.
    • The Committee formed a Task Force on Automated Vehicles in order to facilitate the formulation of RNS as well as outreach to the industry and coordinating research efforts in this area.  The members of this Task Force are Mark Burris, Steven Bert, Hyeonshic Shin, Amy Kim, Rimon Rafiah, Micheal Lawerence, Richard Mudge, Nancy Bergeron, Susan Binder, Adrian Moore, Kara Kockelman, James Gillespie, Yafeng Yin, Jonathan Rubin, Darrnell Grisby, Silvana Croope,  Pierre Vilain, Scott Peterson, Lei Zhang, Rabinder Bains, Cameron Gordon, Adrian Moore, Jon Skolnik, Eirini Kastrouni, and Karen White.
    • Encourage significant involvement of the committee’s diverse and young members thru key appointments to sub-committee chairs and working task groups.

Planning

Near-Term Plan
Additional collaboration between committees is being developed by the Policy and Operations Group. Initial discussions identified the following three consensus research areas and issues within each of direct interest to our committee:

  1. Congestion Issues
    • More experimental economics and behavioral economics research
    • The why behind travel behavior changes
  2. Finance and infrastructure
    • Managing infrastructure investment in a period of financial constraints
    • Asset management
    • Revenue and finance
    • Public-private partnerships
  3. Technology Development, application and evaluation
    • Managing infrastructure investment in a period of financial constraints 
    • Automated and connected vehicles. Formed a task force to determine what role we have to play in understanding the economic implications of this transformative technology.